Sandi picked me up at the airport as I returned from another exhausting concert trip, and it was happening again. As we drove down the freeway, our conversation escalated into an argument, which soon became an ugly shouting match. We were fighting about, well, everything—anything. It was a different subject every time, but the catalyst for the friction was still the same: we both had needs that weren't being met by the other.
I'd come home from basking in the warm glow of applause and affirmation and I'd want that heady experience to be fulfilled by romantic, verbal and spiritual intimacy with Sandi. But I was insensitive to the fact that her experience had been radically different from mine. She'd been anonymously doing dishes, paying bills and looking after our baby daughter, Heather, alone. She wasn't in the mood to rush breathlessly into my arms to greet the returning hero. She needed to tell me about her world. She needed a back rub. She needed me to go to the grocery store.
The angry exchange would typically be followed by a chilling silence. Then, when the dust had settled, we'd side-step the whole business and pretend that nothing had happened. We plowed ahead, trying to deal with the nuts and bolts of daily living. It was part cowardice, not wanting to face another explosion by revisiting the mine field of the particular argument. And it was part confused intentions, just trying to let it go and give each other a measure of grace. In any event, that course of nonaction produced a deadly reaction. We gradually stopped talking to one another about our needs and feelings. Slowly but surely, we were becoming strangers living under the same roof.1