A Co-Post. (Is there such a thing?) For "His Perspective" hop on over to Pete's blog.
Typically the hard conversations for us go something like this:
Spouse A brings up a sensitive issue. "It bothers me when you do _________."
Spouse B gets defensive. "Well, that's only because __________ and you aren't giving me any credit for all the times I don't do ____________."
We hash it out, place blame, get totally side-tracked on other issues and grievances and storm away.
A few minutes, hours, days pass and we reconcile. We apologize for the ways we blamed, got distracted from the point, or lost our tempers. But there is little resolution. Sometimes we each make a conscious effort to do better at whatever was the root of the problem, but mostly we are so overcome with emotion we completely forget where we began.
The other morning we tackled a deep dark corner of Pete's recovery. It was hard, excruciating for both of us. Hard for him to say, hard for me to hear. But at the end it was all okay. So I'm just going to share what made it work for me.
The conversation took a different direction than I originally anticipated, but I was prepared. I came into it with a personal confidence and security that gave me ground to stand on. Our perspectives are so different that when he starts to say how he sees it, and I know I see it totally differently, it's hard not to get defensive. Let me give an example, not related to our most recent discussion but certainly one we've had before:
"We never have sex."
I'm thinking, or usually shouting:
"That is SO NOT true" and I'm feeling resentful that he doens't appreciate the times we DO have sex.
But the point I'm trying to make here is that when he says that, I can get in touch with reality, and think to myself
"Okay, that's not exactly true. But hear him out. It's not necessary to argue that point right now."
So I tap back into my place of confidence and security, knowing that not everything he says is fact, and I don't have to let it make me angry or defensive. Nor do I have to prove anything to him in that moment, especially if it means I have to interrupt him. (CROSS-TALK IS PROHIBITED. Haha.)
When I can actually listen to what he's saying, instead of building evidence in my head, to present my case to him the second he stops for air, I try to consider the truth of what he's saying, rather than the lies. I try to be honest with myself, and take what I need to and leave the rest.
In that same spirit, I do not let myself become the victim. I am so sensitive. But the conversation becomes totally unproductive when I burst into tears and become a pathetic heap on the floor. I am strong, I am capable of change, and even though what he is saying might hurt, I can listen and process it.
In my last post I talked about how sometimes guys aren't really thinking anything. But what I learned the other day is that sometimes Pete is thinking something, something he feels so horrible about that he can't bear to tell me. The other day he finally found the courage to share with me a resentment that has festered in his soul for years. I was shocked, and hurt. I would say that I wish I'd sucked it out of him sooner, but the timing was never right and I probably couldn't have listened with an open heart like I was able to this time.
I'm so glad it happened, as painful as it was. I could visibly see a burden lifted from him, and released. This is where I would insert a good analogy if I had one. But I'll just say that we are all a work in progress, so are our relationships with each other. I'm so glad we finally had one successful hard conversation. Here's to hoping there is one for you too.