These conversations between my wife and I are still awkward, but they are making a difference. Last night we started off easy about stuff that went well and progressed into talking about our kids. Always a joy for us both.
After a while I turned toward my notes from counseling. I had a really good session. Earlier in the week I was actually wondering if I was getting anything from the counseling, and then I had a really good session. Last night I pulled up my notes and started with the first of many points. We never made it past the first point because it brought out so many things for both of us.
My first note was that we need to figure out a communication plan that works for us. That term is just something I struggle with. It sounds so fake to me. As if we are going to learn inauthentic ways of dealing with each other that will make the other person think we understand them. Either way my wife liked the idea. She started bringing up examples of where it could help.
Then she told about how she was so happy she had covered for me last week when I had a work outing. She was able to get the kids and put them to bed. She dropped the line “I was even able to take them to the grocery store and do grocery shopping!” And my panic buzzer went off. She hadn’t told me that before. I stopped her because I wanted to let her know how that made me feel, and apparently it didn’t come across very well. I told her that when she does those extra things when I’m depending on her, that is when things go wrong and it ends up backfiring on me. I told her I was glad it didn’t, but when she mentioned it I started to panic. She became very upset because she thought it was just a positive story, but she couldn’t see it from my perspective.
Later in our conversation that led us to talk about how she reacts to the things I say. She will often get upset with me for the way that I say things. I do not always have the luxury of coming up with the perfect wife approved statement, and I said she needs to cut me some slack. Then I told her how I often feel that she puts me in the “jerk” box unfairly. Which makes her perceive that everything I say is from a jerk when it couldn’t be further from the truth. She has read The Rosie Project and I said “if instead you put me in the Don box I don’t think you’d have such a reaction to what I say.”
She got very contemplative and had to really consider. She admitted that I am not a jerk; she does often box me in as a jerk when she is stressed. She doesn’t know why, and she’s never thought about it before. We talked about when we were younger and we would joke about me being the kindest sweetest most loving jerk she knows. But it was only a joke. She has somehow made it part of her view of me. I told her that we can’t treat each other based on who we were in 2003. We are not those people. That was something else that came up during my counseling. She knows she struggles with bringing up the past as if nothing has changed. Everything comes from the past for her. She doesn’t let go.
Later she brought up that she often feels that I’m selfish. That I make everything about me. That was interesting for me to hear, but I listened. She said I often turn conversations around in a way that she becomes the bad guy, and make her do more of the work around the house. We talked about it, and I don’t turn the conversation to me but I do change the conversations quite often to a level she is either uncomfortable with or doesn’t understand. We think differently. She even had to admit most of the time I’m putting her needs first, but it’s hard for her to see it when it’s happening. As to the work, I readily admitted I’m lazy, but I never make or expect her to do more. She just never sits down and does it anyway. I said I’ve been working for 18 years on being a better person to live with but it is not easy.
Then I reminded her of all the times I asked her NOT to do something until I could get to it and she didn’t wait. She never does. Last night before our talk she actually took time out to watch a cooking YouTube video while I was putting the kids to bed. She knew it was garbage night and there was work to do, but she finally realized that if she didn’t wait for me to help, and just did it while I was busy with the kids, then it wasn’t fair to me that she feels overburdened. And she also resents that I take time out for myself – like watching a video of something that interests me – and she won’t until every last thing is done. That’s her issue to deal with not mine. She admitted as such last night. She saw that everything went very smoothly once I came downstairs, and we started doing the garbage together. No resentment. I even asked her about the video she watched.
Things got a little emotional too when we started talking about all I’ve done for her over the years. We went into detail on how I was always there to support her career. Even the little things. Both pushing her and pulling her when needed. Showing her how to stand up to a horrible boss, and giving her the courage to take a giant leap for her career at my own expense. She knows all this.
Then we talked about friendships and all I’ve done for her to be able to maintain friendships. She even brought up how I stood up for her against her horrible off-campus roommates when we were in college. All the way up till now I’m still helping her setup times to see her friends so they stay close friends. She was extremely appreciative and realized that I do all these things for her quietly and in between chores getting done. One thing we didn’t talk about is that she does none of it for me.
Next we talked about the way we tell stories and how different we are personality-wise. She likes to tell every little detail from A to B to C to D. It’s too much. When I tell stories I jump around and highlight areas. I focus on what would be interesting to my audience. Those styles are completely opposed, and we often are angry at each other for it. I’m constantly telling her to summarize and skip to the point while she is flustered that I skipped points, and tries to insert them while I’m talking. It was just one very clear example of where we are very very different personalities in a way that angers both of us.
Overall my wife is trying through. She even brought up that yesterday when we were discussing some area of our house we needed to address she thought about how to approach it with me. Instead of whatever she would have said, which most likely wouldn’t have worked, she said “ok, what do we do next?” The planning side of my brain took off and I launched into our possible options. She was floored at how well it worked because she had just wanted to give me her opinion which would’ve probably led to an argument. Instead she got a complete analysis and an animated husband. It was an eye opener for her. She was finally using and relying on my intuition and planning skills instead of fighting them.
Finally she wanted to bring up how thankful she was that I am a great dad and the time I spend with the kids. She knows it’s important to me and she feels very lucky to have such an involved husband. She even mentioned that she listened to me and makes more of an effort herself to spend time with the kids over work and cleaning. It was an acknowledgment that I really do know what l doing and she learned from me. For some reason I think that is hard for her. She’s too proud to admit that I can teach her things. She says it makes her feel dumb. The only dumb people I know are those who stop trying to learn.
Anyway that was our talk. It was good.