For Part 1, please visit www.everydaymormonwriter.com.
Part of Justin Hartley's mind focused on shaving the cleft in his chin without nicking it while the other part of his mind wondered why his home smelled like work. He rinsed his razor, and narrowed the smell down to the breakroom. Home smelled like the breakroom in the morning when he put his lunch in the fridge. Sometimes he would make himself a cup of hot chocolate before heading to his cubicle. Work stocked packets of hot chocolate for the Mormons next to the coffeepot for the non-Mormons.
The coffeepot! Justin was so surprised he forgot to close his eyes when he splashed his face. Blinking away the sting, he went to find out why his home smelled like a coffeepot. Justin strode into the kitchen demanding, "What smells like coffee? The whole house smells like Starbucks."
Angie sat at the table, sipping from a mug and looking at a magazine. "Probably it's the coffee that smells like coffee."
Justin gaped at her. "What are you doing?"
"Drinking coffee." Angie turned a page in her magazine.
"Why?" It was Monday. He wanted to go to work, get his job over with, and get back home and relax in front of the computer. Why did Angie have to complicate his home life so much? All he wanted was a happy, predictable wife, and instead he had Angie.
"I'm tired of you telling everyone how great I am. Here, I poured you a mug too."
"I don't drink coffee!"
"Woo! You're more righteous than I am! I'll get up and bear my testimony about your
superiority next fast Sunday."
"This is about what I said in my testimony yesterday?" Justin ran his hands through his hair in confusion.
"You always say that I'm better than you are. I'm tired of it. I want less praise, and more genuine support from you!"
Justin sat down. He knew if he didn't say anything, Angie would fill in the silence and maybe he could figure out what was going on.
Angie's tone switched to pleading. "I just want you to be more involved with our family. You're always on the computer, and we miss you. Don't you remember when we were first married and we did everything together? We were so happy. And then the kids were born, and then you graduated and got a job."
Angie rattled on about her feelings, which were disappointment in him, disappointment in their relationship, and disappointment about family life in general.
Justin did remember the first few years of their marriage, but he didn't remember them being happy. He remembered the pressure of trying to meet Angie's expectations, and the frustration that she always had another expectation waiting for him. His job was okay, but what he really liked about it was that he could finish it and do something else. There was no finish line to being a husband and father. It sucked up all your time and energy. Even when you were wrung dry, you didn't get a vacation; you got the promise that you could do this for eternity. Church didn't understand how to incentivize people.
Angie was winding down. She stopped and waited.
"You want me to do more?" Justin clarified.
"Well, yes," and Angie was off again, listing all the ways he could be better and do more and essentially take over the home.
Justin started to get angry. Angie was home all day with nothing else to do but nurture children and keep house. Why shouldn't she plan Family Home Evening and do the dishes?
"I don't ask you to run inventory reports," Justin interrupted.
"Inventory reports. They're boring, and I have to run an inventory report every week. I never ask you to help with them," Justin repeated.
"Why would I?"
"Of course, why would you? It isn't your job. I have boring stuff at work. I do it because it's my job. I wish I had help too. But I'm not management; I don't get a secretary to do the boring stuff. I get that housework isn't fun, Angie, but inventory reports aren't that much fun either."
Angie's eyes filled up with tears and she set down her coffee mug. Great, he was the bad guy for trying to explain his point of view. He'd like a little more love and support too. Maybe someday she could notice all the things he did rather than obsessing about the things he wasn't doing. Justin hated that feeling of inadequacy. He was so afraid it was accurate; he could never be enough or do enough or have enough. There was never, ever enough. And Angie was always waiting to rub his face in his inadequacies.
He exploded. "And I don't need you pulling some cheap, manipulative stunt like drinking coffee! What's next? You'll buy a sixpack to make me do the dishes? You'll do drugs if you think I'm not spending enough time with the kids? Come on, what's wrong with you? Is it really so bad that you're the one to suggest family prayer every evening?"
At that point Angie started to cry. Justin went cold. She was right about him. He was right about himself. He wasn't good enough and never would be.
"I'm sorry," he said.
She kept crying.
She drives me crazy, Justin thought. I love her, but she drives me crazy. Church drives me crazy. They all talk about how my family should be the biggest joy in my life, when really it's the most overwhelming job that never gets done. I don't even want to try anymore. Somehow I'm all wrong for Church and family life. I don't feel the way they say I should feel.
Still. He'd be lost without Angie, the kids, and Church. They gave him his definition as well as his limits. Justin dragged his chair over to Angie and pulled her head onto his shoulder. "I'm sorry. I'll try to do better." He left it vague because he didn't really see how he could pile on one more responsibility.
Angie sniffed and calmed down. "I really do love you."
"I love you too. Can we get rid of the coffee before the kids wake up?"
He poured out the coffeepot while Angie washed the mugs. He kissed her good-bye and left for work. Nothing would change, but Angie was usually happier and apologetic after she'd had one of these outbursts. He would weather the next one too.