Thursday, November 01, 2007

Relationship Lightbulb

As many of you know, I often comment (mostly lament) the struggles of my young marriage. This is one of those. I know some people do not believe that I should comment about such things, but I get the most hits with this kind of post, so you guys (you know who you are) are all hypocrites. ;)

Last night, my wife and I had a mild tiff. It was mild at the surface, but this morning it dawned on me why it is sticking in me after a night's sleep. It reveals a bigger issue for me: I cannot trust my wife.

Oh, it is not that I think she would cheat on me. I highly doubt that would happen. I just can't trust her with my feelings - to look after me in the emotional and nurturing way. She said something to me last night that surprised me and hurt my feelings. (Ready, everyone together, "Ahhhhh") As a result, I sat quietly in the recliner trying to process it and get over it. She noticed that I was "quiet" and asked me what was wrong. I made a mistake by telling her the truth - that she said something that hurt my feelings.

Quiz time!!! Guess how she reacted to my answer.
a. She came to me, put her hand on my shoulder and apologized for hurting me.
b. She completely ignored the answer as if she didn't hear me.
c. She got mad at me for being hurt.
d. She walked out the door.

If you answered, "c", you are right. This has happened before and I think I even wrote about it. I am stating that to make this point: What did I expect to happen? One definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. I am officially insane - or was insane. I think I have finally wised up.

So, I am taking responsibility for this now. I am not going to say any more to her about it, but I am holding myself responsible. If she is incapable of responding in a way that meets my expectations then in is on me to change my expectations. Consider them changed.

The big lesson here is that one cannot control what others do; he can only control how he receives or reacts to it.

Lesson learned - finally.

15 comments:

Sayre said...

Tough lesson, Jeff... I hope you get to unlearn it in the future and that you and your wife will learn to trust each other with your feelings, your decisions, your lives. If you can't, it's gonna be a long haul.

Jod{i} said...

Well..not that I am an expert or should even offer out any words...but NOT saying anything will just hurt you more down the road. Maybe just getting the communication thing down and discussed can help when these moments arise in the first place.

Learning to listen and hear and what to focus on is what most people miss.
They hear the content not the message and then internalize it.
Is it she is truly mad AT you, or that she just doesnt know how to deal with that statement.

okay I will hush and go to the corner now.
Hang in there...

Loz said...

Jeff - as a failed communicator I ca only agree with Sayre and Jodi. Things fester even with the best of intentions so they need to be on the table.

Anne said...

Ya know, I found myself starting to write "Yea, I gotta agree with the majority here, Jeff. Communication...yadda yadda yadda" but you DID communicate, or it least you TRIED really hard to. You opened your soul to her and said "You hurt me", and she got angry. I don't know what else you could have done in that situation. Guys aren't generally good at the whole "baring of emotions" thing, and that you even tried is great.
But, well ok out on a limb here Annie....maybe she was angry because she thought SHE was the one who was hurt, that you had somehow hurt HER, and that you weren't "entitled" to have her feelings at that moment.

Just a wild guess, but I've known a lot of women who've gotten angry because of that - because their partner is harboring the same sense of hurt and neglect they are, and they don't think it fair.
I dunno if that makes sense in this particular situation, I just thought I'd put it out there.

I agree with the control thing though. We can't control other people. We can't make them into who we want them to be. But, nobody's perfect sweetie, you know that, I know. There are 3 sides to every story. Your side, their side, and the truth. Now OK maybe you've been doing this for a long time and are sick of it, but just as we can't control other people, they can't control us either. Do you want some sort of "separate peace" with her - some kind of "you go your way, I'll go mine" arrangement? Or do you want to love her and understand her and be with her and of her? Because I don't think you can do both things. If you want the former, well that's kinda easy to solve. If you want the latter, though, you both will need to do some serious work, and it won't involve sitting alone, nursing your hurts.
Be HAPPY, ok? There's no excuse not to.

HoosierGirl5 said...

Well...you know MY solution to this problem: you should marry me! (laugh)

Oh wait, you're already married.
Just teasing you.

I hope it gets better.

J.

Shan said...

Buddy, I think this is something you need to address sooner than later. If you are feeling this so early in your relationship, the fault may not necessarily lie with you..

Look into it and kill the budding seeds of doubt or you will get more pain later on I think...

Michelle said...

I'm with everyone else hjere.. Jeff, bottling it in is always disatrous. Plus you're not allowing your wife the chance to grow.. or grow up.

If you keep stepping back every time she gets upset she will never learn any other way to be except being upset. It's not fair on you and it's not fair on her. You're treating her like a baby and in the long term you may end up with a great parent-child relationship, but you'll never have a great marriage.

If she gets angry.. wait till she's calm and then ask her why your being hurt made her angry. Maybe she felt guilty and so tried to hide it behind being defensive. So maybe she needs to know she's safe too? That you can be hurt and still love her, but you still need her to know that she has no right in getting angry about you wanting a fair relationship.

Sorry Jeff, but that's how I feel. My husband doesn't let me get away with running away from who I am. There have been times that has made me screaming angry, but he is right. You cannot run and hide because life has a way of throwing you back out of hiding and right into the c-r-a-p, sooner or later.

Jeff said...

Interesting feedback. I am wondering about it, though. Let me get to these:

Sayre: I am not sure that unlearning it is wise. I mean no one can control the actions of another - now or ever.

Jodi: I agree that communication is key. I communicate. My wife - not so much. I can't make her. Lord knows that I have tried.

Anne: Your theory is sound, but I am not sure it applies to her this time. I think her reaction stems from her insecurity. I when I told her she hurt me, she hears, "You are a mean person because you are actively doing things that hurt me." I don't think she can take this and sees it as a reminder of her "failure" at being a good person. I could be wrong; after all, she won't tell me.

The trick is for me to learn how to respond to her question.

Jeff said...

Hoosiergirl: Sorry, but my wife is ruining the chance of me marrying ANYONE if this thing doesn't last. lol

Shan: What is there to deal with really? The only thing I can deal with is how I react to her "ways". No manner of talk will change the way she communicates. I am learning to take away the power her ways have over my feelings.

Michelle: You and the rest are right in principle. I don't want to enable her to be this way. However, right now, for whatever reason, this is all she can be. I have exhausted all manner of attempts to get her to react differently. Right now, she can't. She is who she is and that is the person I married.

To the Group:

My question is: What can I do differently? Please be specific. I think the only thing I can do is what I am doing, but if I am wrong, help me out.

Jod{i} said...

Its not what you are doing...You may be doing it all right.
Her communication is where it lacks. And just being able to 'deal" with her own internalization of what was said to her. I am sure, that it is just not in this part of her life. It could affect her in everything she does.
My idea? When you say something to her, share your feelings...disclaim it first. "Babe, I am saying this xxxxx, not to hurt you or to stir up any anger. You asked what was on my mind and I am trying to explain it."
Stop BEFORE it goes on. Clarify. Verify.
When she begins to get angry with you or react in a way that wasnt intended, stop there so she can "see" it. "Honey, this is what I am talking about. You get all mad at me when you ask."
Kinda like it just keeps repeating itself? Same question, different day, different circumstances...same result. WHat did Einstein say?
Have to point it out right when it happens. Even if it means getting off the track of the conversation that began it. It will go nowhere, if one can not get past that point.
It would be of no use except to create unneeded turmoil.
THere are plenty of books. Plenty of sites. And it is a simple manner of changing our behavior. How we talk. How we process what is being said. It is, trust me. Needing to cue each other. "See that, that right there, what you just said"...even a "I am done talking right now, you are not hearing me."
Adding phrases as such help a conversation move forward. Stops people from becoming too emotional. Getting wrapped up in it, and not truly working towards a goal.
It is a start anyway.
Does this make sense?

*back to my corner

Jimmy said...

I think I can relate. It sort of brings to mind the phrase "double standard" sometimes. It's not necessarily a gender-specific issue, but I have seen and experienced (way too often) women who expect their feelings and emotions to be paramount, and yet, cannot understand or even tolerate the fact that someone else's feelings have been hurt. In my life, I've experienced too many narcissistic personalities for my liking.
I don't know what would constitute good advice here, other than to say that you can't allow a reaction like that to cause you to stifle your own existence for the sake of "peace". That's when you really and truly will experience "losing yourself".

Charles said...

I'm definitely no expert, but I can honestly say that if you keep things bottled up, they have a way of exploding on you. At least you were able to say what you felt. Maybe your wife will realize that she hurt you when she is calm and have a clear head. Maybe she has already as this post is dated the first. I hope so.

Jeff said...

Jodi: Thanks. That is sound advice. I will have to keep that in mind. Usually, by the time she starts to get angry, it is too late to do anything else. The preface deal has a lot of merit, too. Thanks for your input.

Jimmy: I am not going to stifle myself or lose myself, just temper my expectations. I do think you have something there about double standards.

Charles: I don't keep bottled up. It is like a dog. You can't expect a dog to fix your dinner - even if you want him to very badly. He is just not capable and neither is my wife capable of having these kind of conversations. I just have to change my expectations and things won't bottle up.

Jod{i} said...

Awww you give me kind words, here and at my place.
I only say what I know. To be honest Jeff? She was me.
Took me a long time to get through it, and WOW, what a difference...
I was lucky enough to have a man in my life, who got it...and stood by while I struggled. Was it easy? Nope.
Is it feasible? Yes.
There is hope. As long as people want to change that behavior. It is not about changing WHO we are, not at all. Or our personality, its just fine tuning...and truly learning how to talk again...
You will get through, just dont NOT say anything.

Peace

BaLQiz said...

Jeff, if I haven't said this before I'm going to say it now, I really understand what you're going through. Your marriage I mean. Somehow or another, we got ourselves a partner that is so complex that Chemistry 101 in high school seems like a breeze now. I'm not a good advisor for this kind of thing as I myself am struggling now but for the record, me and my partner is filling for divorce. I think it's for the best... coz somewhere out there, something good awaits me and hell, maybe I'll find myself someone who really can give me what I want... (check out my other blog)

Cheers mate!