Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Tuesday
Mar282006

You Can't Take It Back

When I was young, silly arguments were a regular occurrance between girlfriends and family members alike. I didn't discriminate. I was nine. It's just the way it was. Many of these disputes would transpire in the following fashion:
You're a big (insert insult du jour here)!
Yeah, well you're just a stupid (insert insult du jour here)!
That's not truuuue! Take it back!
No, you take it back!
You first!
Okay. I take it back.
Me too. Let's go jump on the trampoline.
Okay!

It's not that easy anymore, is it? The insults intensify with age, with marriage. Spending significant amounts of time with someone affords you the Superman-like ability to read their mind. You know their faults. You know their weaknesses. You know how to pour lemon juice in the cut with such precision not a drop misses the mark.

Speaking of liquid, ever pour liquor on a fire? In the heat of battle, when the showdown is at hand and your opponent reaches for his gun first, you have a choice. Stand there and take it and likely end up seriously wounded. Or follow your instinct, draw your own gun and fire at will.

Sometimes I manage to dodge the bullet and keep my own weapon holstered. Those are good days. Other times, particularly with the assistance of alcohol, I stoke the fire like a professional camper. Fucking alcohol. It's an accelerant of the worst kind. Or best kind, if you're stuck in the wilds of Alaska with only matches and Vodka at your disposal. Although I'd opt for drinking the Vodka as opposed to lighting a fire. But that's me.

Thing is, fighting as an adult, although it's almost always childish, has morphed into something unrecognizable from those carefree days of youth. Your spouse knows how to hit where it hurts. These ain't no generic insults flung about willy nilly. And unlike those days, when fights were forgotten in moments, like your virginity, You Can't Take It Back. I don't care what those born agains say... Oh, you can say you take it back. You can say you didn't mean it. You can blame the alcohol and you can make nice and say you're forgiving and forgetting.

Which words carry more weight? The good ones or the bad ones? The bad ones do, don't they? So you can forgive and attempt to forget, but those words are engraved in your brain, tattooed on your heart. And will likely be ammunition in the next battle.

Reader Comments (21)

It's so true - In the first few months of dating my now husband, he made a certain remark on me having a social cigarette. It was "If you take up smoking full time, I am going to leave you in the lobby". He got in shit for it, and still to this day will get in shit if we're in the need of dregging up old war wounds.

Take that!

Although, I do have to say that he is pretty good at not bringing up the shitty things I have done in the past. He is obviously the better person and the better fighter.

Either that or I'm perfect. . . .
March 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPhoe
There are soooo many things I've said that I wish I could take back. Also I am the kind of person who brushes compliments off, but the bad stuff sticks around for weeks. I have a friend who is the exact opposite. Somebody compliments her, even if they're just being nice and she takes it to heart. She'll wear the ugly shirt or the stupid hairstyle time and again. Wish I was more like that.
March 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
They all hurt, even the words left unsaid.

And you can't get over it until the hindsight is in full view. Sometimes you never do.

But sometimes it's better than keeping it all inside.
March 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Id Girl
Are we all so insecure that mere words can derail us?

I've beem thinking about this since the "I'm 29" journal. Actually,...probably since I've been 29, so many years ago.

Is our life a constant battle of "I'm righteous" vs "I'm a stupid, idiot fool?"

What kind of life is that, really?

Good days, bad days...play out the string...hope to get lucky and find illumination?

It doesn't get any easier folks. The older you get, the more you question your own belief system, and your ability to function courageously in this world.

It's what the Surge does every night on his "job." His mission is clear. He does it. It's black n' white to me...and maybe to him? Take what you know to be true and make others' believe it.

It's what Monica struggles to deal with here. She has stumbled upon (not really) a pot of creative stew that is so hot and tasty, we all want our taste. Only the problem is...her insecurity still fuel's her pen.

Are we (the collective) ever going to be able to feel secure enough to let our inner selves' out? Fuck the consequences! And if we do, can we consistently live with who we are?

I'd love to be one of those people that "get's it," all the time. Maybe I'd open a studio where people listened to hard funk and fucked each other just cos' they could.

Maybe those Cali hippies knew what what was what?

Anyway the point is; Try and be yourself as often as possible.

It's less confusing.


I try to be myself but often end up lying to myself in the process, even though deep down I know I'm lying to myself. but when a trusted one calls you on your faults it hurts. Then that person isn't so trusted anymore.
March 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
Ahhhhh....grown up fighting. It is like fighting with the US military as your arsenal. We know bigger words as grown ups and we know exactly how to use them - even though we know that the UN says it is a very bad idea. Taking it back is impossible because it goes down in the history books and Social Studies teachers all over the world tell their students about it until the end of time.
March 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
Well said, my Canadian friend.

March 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
hm. Put on real gloves and go sparring.
March 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Armstrong
I hate that old arguments will eventually get rehashed with new arguments once things get going. Whatever happened to forgive and <i>forget</i>.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSerena
I've been thinking about this. I don't think it's better to say the hurtful stuff than to keep it inside. I wish I could take it all back and keep it inside. The things I've said and have been said to me...no one deserves to hear any of that. My husband is a loving, sweet man who've i've damaged by my words. I've said things to him I would never ever say to my child (or so I say now). I have truly deeply hurt him and i can never make that up. I wish he had never ever said some tings to me (and so does he) because I can't fully let them go.

I do try not to bring them up. I try to let the past be the past, and figure out what I'm really so angry about and be honest. I'm getting better. But i could still sit down and cry about the hurtful things - said and heard.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
My husband and I are both only children and we tend to be EXTREMELY stubborn and will fight to the death to be declared right if we really believe in something.

EDW I agree that there have been some things said in our 7 years that I would love to take back but I do really believe that it is important to express how you are feeling. Holding feelings in tends to manifest them as larger, uglier outbursts that just come tearing out of you later. Discussing your feelings in the moment I think is very important...it is resisting the urge to digress into our child like behaviours and call each other names that is key. I can respect how my husband feels - even if he is furious at me - and we can talk about it to try to make it better...but if he starts calling me names the argument becomes about that...his feelings don't get discussed...and then a few weeks later the fight gets rehashed because his feelings weren't resolved. I have been through this nasty cycle a few times - together we are trying to cut it off at the knees. It is hard not to push the large flashing red button in the heat of discussion that you know will get you the instant impact that you are looking for though.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
As you point out, there's a differnce between feelings and the angry words we say. And it's true that the minute we start saying the nasty stuff our feelings don't get heard anymore.

I think the really hurtful words aren't my feelings. They are just things I say to be mean. Honestly. Holding that in isn't disenfranchising my feelings. It's giving my feelings more value and validation.

I also personally feel we have been raised to "let it all out" which is great when you tell the truth about your life, but awful when it means you just say whatever you feel like and not think about if it hurts another person.

Not that anyone here ever does that. Except me. I do all too often. My problem is not letting it all boil inside. My problem is keeping my damn mouth shut and picking my battles. I think about my friend Nancy, whose husband is dying as I type this, and she's said that there's some stuff she wishes she had just let go, because it wasn't important in the long run. It was just another day spoiled that they could have enjoyed together.

But that's just my opinion. I respect all of yours.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
i've always kind of been an "actions speak louder than words" guy, but that could be because i tend to be a complete shitbag in any argumentative situation, so i'm hoping that the words aren't as important.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkasey
Sometimes the hurtful words I say are really my feelings. But some things are better left unsaid.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJib
The longer you are together the less sense it makes to fight the ugly fight. You know how he feels and what he'll say if you say this, and he knows how you feel and what you'll say if he says that. So you retreat to your corners for a bit, take your mind to another place, then come back together, have some sex, and everyone feels better. Forget the boiling/churning gotta let it out stuff. No, you don't. Suck it up and move on, together. Knowing someone's got my back through whatever happens in a crazy world like this is a lot more important than most any argument-breeding situation I can think of.

At least that's how I've done it, mostly, for almost 27 years.

j
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
Amen, sister. Amen.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
EDW - 'My problem is keeping my damn mouth shut and picking my battles.'

You are soooo right. This is the key. In the long run what do most of these arguments matter? Three days later, two months later, six months later, twenty five years later who even remembers what we were arguing about? I can't imagine what your girlfriend is going through...knowing that she is losing her husband.

You are just sooo right. Well said my friend!
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
This post reminded me of the concept of the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." They listen to all of the horrible things they said about each other, yet they still forgive each other and pursue the relationship once more. If you have some self-awareness, you will be able to forgive the person. Besides, MOST of the time barbs tossed in relationships is like the pot calling the kettle black.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmy K
I am terrible at fighting.....I can take it but I can't dish it....I can make fun of you pretty well....but fighting not for me....I just never could yall at someone.....but I wish I could....I think it would help me in the long run.....
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
Can I insult you for leaving myspace like that? No?
Well, dang it, now I have to actually get off of mycrack to read this.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlex aka A
Alex! You came all the way over here for lil' ol' me? I am humbled.
March 29, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko

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