I got mad at my husband last night over the election. Not because we were on opposing sides — quite the opposite. We both volunteered and raised money for Hillary Clinton, so we were both tense when it first became apparent that the night was not going to go the way we had hoped — and frankly, expected.
“She’s going to lose,” my husband declared, but I chalked this up to his weird election obsession. Much the way my dad likes to call a baseball, basketball or football game over before it’s actually over, I figured my husband was doing the same, trying to out-CNN CNN.
I told him to shush, but he got back to it when it looked like the Democrats would not take back the House or Senate. “We don’t know that,” I said. “Yes. We do,” he said. Both his news and the way he delivered it bothered me so I went upstairs to watch The Crown and check in on Pantsuit Nation for hopeful news.
Then my husband came upstairs and delivered the deathblow — that Donald Trump was going to win the election. I refused to believe this, and got mad at my him for being alarmist. “It’s just — HE’S GOING TO BE PRESIDENT AND THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN DO” he shouted. We’re not shouters, so this was a big deal. “Stop making this about you!” I said in return.
My husband then went out in the backyard to kick a ball against a fence in the cold. We went to bed in separate beds, ostensibly because he had to get up for a 6 a.m. appointment, but also, I really couldn’t deal with him. He wanted to talk and vent and I didn’t. I wanted to pretend like this wasn’t happening.
This morning, like many women in America, I have found comfort in my like-minded female friends as we share stories from last night and check in on each other. Something surprising is that I learned I wasn’t alone last night in terms of my marital strife — many women I know had tense nights with their spouses.
“I was so mad at my husband for giving up so early and then infecting our kids with pessimism,” said my friend M.
“My husband wanted to cuddle for comfort. I found his touch not comforting in the least,” one friend, R., told me.
“My white husband is not acknowledging how this will affect his wife and children of color,” says J. “It makes me tired.”
E. told me she texted her husband this morning, “If you get any messages or hear any comments whatsoever from your rich white male ‘friends’ who voted for [Trump] gloating about this, you better grow a fucking backbone and speak up.”
So, why are we so angry with our male partners? I found two women’s stories particularly revealing. “In times of crisis and sadness, I freeze up and go inside my head,” says my friend E.J. “I can’t comfort anyone and I’m not terribly warm or empathetic. My husband was visibly distraught and looking for comfort and I just could not be that for him.” I totally identified. Last night, my husband came to me saying he wanted to talk it out, have a hug, something, and I was just not in the mood to provide. This is a fight we have repeatedly — he seeks comfort, but I’m just not a big comforter and I resent having to fake it. And being asked to fake it — being asked to comfort a man last night? Therein lies the other explanation for so many wives’ election night frustration. My friend J. summed it up to me in a text: “I finally told my husband that as a man he can’t possibly understand how I feel. Case closed.”
Of course, maybe the simpler answer is we all were just tired and on edge last night. Or who knows? Maybe for many of us, our partners were secretly avatars of our opponents. Something was not held back from them the way it was for us. And so we raged at the nearest, most convenient man.
Around 1:30 this morning, I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. Despite my promises to myself not to do so, I checked my phone and saw The New York Times’ headline “Trump on Verge of Major Upset.” I went back to bed and tossed and turned. Finally, I crept upstairs to the guest bedroom where my husband was sleeping.
“You up?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think I want that hug now.” I got in bed with him and he held me. I tried to sleep, failed, went downstairs and watched Friends at 3 a.m. He came down and got in bed with me. I held him. Neither of us slept. But it was good to have someone to not sleep with, even if it was a white American man.