I've been having that.
Except I don't have a wife.
I have someone who is persistently and mercilessly mean. Think "passive aggressive" with the passive part worn off.
I start each day thinking "this is the day I will let it all roll off!" I sometimes last an hour. But before long, she says something that makes me want to take a swing at her with my coffee mug. I don't because 1) I love my handmade coffee mugs, 2) I make good coffee and 3) It's not a nice thing to do.
In that order.
I would also be charged with assault, but trust me, no jury would convict.
It takes everything I've got to not meet meanness with meanness.* If I did, I would feel sick about it all day and she would remember neither the offense nor the retort. What's the point of that? She doesn't remember the things she says because they're not the point. There is no target. She's angry and scared and maybe by spewing vitriol she thinks the vitriol will leave her system. (It doesn't, so don't try this at home.)
There's a great quote from (someone on the internet who is probably not actually) Buddha: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
I've been holding onto a lot of anger. Like the man in the joke, my response to a question like "did anyone make coffee" is "I hate you." I can't remember the last time I actually said "I hate you" out loud to someone. Except maybe that time my friend fit into her regular jeans the day after she delivered a baby.
Obviously, I don't hate my friend (although I still think she's a jerk and should at least be showing some signs of age or something). And I don't hate the person who says vile things to me. I hate that she's unable to get all the crap out of her system without flinging it at me.
This morning I realized hate is like a usb charger. It doesn't do anything unless it gets connected to something. But once you plug it in - usually to something you wish would go away - it sucks the life out of you. And it makes the hated thing an even bigger deal. It takes over your day because you can't stop thinking about it and arguing with it. It can't do that on its own.
The flip side of that quote is also true. If someone drinks poison, it will not kill you - no matter how loudly they yell the specifics of that poison's properties at you.
I think I can practice this for a full ten minutes at a time. I don't know why this has to be part of my life, but if there's a lesson in it, I'd like to learn it and get it over with.
Today, I will not drink the poison.
*Shut up, I can too be mean.
(My friend Jennifer sent me this, ducking before I could swing anything at her.)