Thought of the Week: Them’s Fightin’ Words

I sort of need to make it abundantly clear from the outset tonight that I love my wife very much. Just so you know, sweetie.

My wife and I have known each other for almost ten years. It’s the longest either of us have been in a relationship, which is either very encouraging, or incredibly depressing (depending on how you look at it). There’s a lot we’ve learned together, not the least of which was how to raise a child. I’ll boast a little here and say I’ve probably done most of the learning: I’ve learned to cook (badly), I’ve learned to clean (badly), I’ve learned not to leave the toilet seat up (mostly), and I’ve learned it’s not okay to steal the covers back in the middle of the night, even in February.

My wife has learned that I can be a real jerk (too often).

I’ve learned that my wife should matter more than myself (she already knew that). I’ve also learned that shoulds aren’t necessarily dos, and that there’s a lot more learning to go. I should wipe the stove; I should turn the lights out when I leave the room; I should massage her feet every night.

I should.

And hey – there are times I do these things. Usually I don’t do them very well (except for the light thing, that’s kind of black and white (ha!)), but I do try to do them. Now trying, of course, just isn’t good enough, as my wife knows, so I’ll keep trying harder. Some day I may actually succeed!

Yet…I feel there is one thing I have not learned, and – sorry for this, sweetie – I don’t think she’s learned either, which is this: to not take each other’s frustrations personally. We fight, we do. We fight a lot. I kind of don’t have much of a reference for this, but I hear that most people don’t quite fight so much. And I start wondering why.

I am usually exceptionally good at understanding other people, establishing empathy and predicting their behavior. I am, by my trade, an excellent listener and verbal communicator. I can express concepts simply and clearly, and I can make people feel good about bad situations.

So why do my words fail me with my wife? Why do I end up screaming at the top of my lungs at the person I should love above all others, about…freakin’ blinds?

(Why, for that matter, do my powers of self-analysis equally fail me when I try to figure these things out?)

All I can think is this: when my wife says something critical of me, I feel hurt; I feel devastated. When someone at work says the same thing, I am able to take it at face value, respond in kind, and learn from the experience. With my wife…I either imitate a hedgehog or the Incredible Hulk.

The irony is that I believe she gets frustrated just as equally, but at something entirely different: my lack of ability to listen to, and act upon, her critiques. Can anyone see the cycle here yet? It is a personal affront to her – an insult, even – for me to forget to take out the garbage when I told you to last night! If you see what I mean.

So where to go? What to do? I love her; she (should) know that. She loves me, and I (should) know that, also. But when I piss her off, her response pisses me off, and that response pisses her off, and before you know it we’re in a free-for-all piss-fight and I explode out of my shirt and leap through the roof (in actuality, I can be quite scary).

I suppose ultimately, I just want to feel listened to. Uh…I guess she probably feels the same.

So when can we talk?

16 thoughts on “Thought of the Week: Them’s Fightin’ Words

      • A pleasure!
        I read all your post, laughed at the image of a big green you, but was so encouraged by what you wrote.
        I send wishes of strength and understanding, and quiet times to chat and be heard, to both you and your wife.
        It sounds like you both love each other very much, and that’s something only to be treasured. E

  1. I guess actually voicing your frustrations is better than keeping it all inside and dying of cancer because you didn’t let it out? Yeah, constructive comment there. I’m totally passive aggressive and tend to do the whole “No, there’s NOTHING WRONG” thing which I think is equally as irritating and non-constructive (I will die of a stroke from bottling it all up).

    • I have a cellar of mason jars for my feelings, and it’s starting to get full. As it happens, it was an interaction with a fellow blogger that prompted me to suddenly reconsider my thoughts, and my actions. Without realizing it, I had been telling other people the things I really should have been telling my wife. Because I cherish our relationship, and I don’t want it to get any worse (I really hope she reads this comment!).

      So yes – writing is helpful. Sometimes it feels like the only way I can express to her what I’m feeling, without exploding and damaging her own emotions instead.

  2. First off I am going to share a pic a friend of mine put out there on fabcebook about the 2 of us and I think you might get a little chuckle if I can get it to post in my reply that is, well it looks like I cant paste a pic in a reply damn and it was right up alley on your situation ok moving on, Welcome to married life, fights happen, and what I said there was as generic as white bread, so dont listen to it each marriage is different. But have you heard this one, we hurt the ones we love the most because they are our safe place that allows us to be venerable and scared and to show emotions we wouldn’t nessecarily show others, And I am going to post that pic on my blog and dedicate it to you, this to shall pass, you learn you grow and you love in a relationship. Dont know if I made any sense but I try.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Clearly, your wife affects you so because you care what she thinks of you, which should be sweet in a way. My wife and I are starting to learn not to take things personally. She can really bite with her words, and I can really piss her off with the way I don’t give a mouse turd about the color of the living room walls or whether there are food boogers stuck to the wall behind the trash can.
    Blessings on you and yours.

    • Wow…it’s like couple twins! I totally relate to the food boogers. How is it that people’s words can hurt so? But you’re right – the very fact that we’re so affected by each other’s frustrations does show a deep connection. The time to be really worried is when you just don’t care anymore.

  4. I don’t know if this would help…but I’ve started a new habit when having serious “talks” with XBF. We both have issues with interrupting and for two people with memory issues, it’s no bueno. I have resolved to keep a note card or notebook with me so I can write down my thoughts as I’m listening. I even have a 4 x 6 notecard with nothing but “fuck me” repeated over and over again, as well as a few others with not-so-nice stuff I don’t ever plan on sharing. Surprisingly, it did help with my feelings of frustration and anger…

    • *Sigh* It’s a difficult thing, keeping your head in these situations. One of the greatest difficulties in our relationship is that we never seem to have ‘serious’ talks. It’s also a difficulty because only one of us has a problem with communication (apparently).

      We’re looking at couple therapy; I think we need it. Not to prevent us splitting up – that won’t happen – but to help us appreciate each other again.

      I will definitely bear in mind the note-taking concept, though – thank you!

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