“There!”, Bill said, obviously upset as he threw the ties on the bed. “You decide!” He was angry because I wanted the final say on which ties he kept and which he tossed or gave away. He was cleaning out his closet due to the upcoming move. Was I out of bounds? In his mind I was trying to assert control over him, which was clearly not a good thing, not if I want to stay married.
I knew instantly that I needed to fix the situation. “It’s okay. Throw away what you want. I’ll back off,” I said, hoping to restore the peace. I heard him say under his breath, “No you won’t.” I left the room, leaving him alone, hoping he would get passed it. I resigned myself to not only accept whatever he threw away but to not even look into the bag he was putting together. No more was said.
When I came home that afternoon from the barn, he greeted me with “The ties on the right side of the bed are the ones I want to keep. Those on the left I’d like to throw away. Go ahead and look them over and pick out any from the throw away pile that you want me to keep.” This was said nicely and calmly, by the way. “Okay,” I said, surprised at his change of heart. I subsequently found three I liked that he was planning to get rid of. He told me to put them with the others that he was keeping.
Taking advantage of his sweeter mood I explained to him that if I were going to throw away a blouse or a dress that he really liked, I would keep it. He understood. Crisis averted.
Relationships are hard. Communication between two people, especially of the opposite sex, makes it that much more challenging. Bill has buttons. We all do. I think I know most of them by now after fifteen years together but sometimes his mood can cause a reaction that I wasn’t expecting. The tie scenario is a case in point. You try to glean the mood of the other person before tempting fate. This doesn’t always work. I have misread his moods many times, sometimes to the good and other times to my detriment.
Now when he is irritated I try to look beyond my needs to see what might be the root cause. Maybe he didn’t sleep well the night before or he’s stressing over work issues. He’s worried about our future (a common one of late). All of these have proven to be the source of his irritability in the past.
Listen before reacting. Knee-jerk reactions can get you into big trouble and end up escalating the situation beyond your control. I can honestly say that recently my non-reaction has produced zero arguments and lots of happy moments. This because I chose to keep my mouth shut when all I really wanted to do was bitch! And that makes me a bitch, too, doesn’t it?
Certainly there are times when you must speak up. But determine those times carefully, before the accusations fly. Think it through. There’s a reason for the saying, “first count to ten.” The connotation of words, although seemingly universal, isn’t. This is especially true if you are dealing with the opposite sex. I remember years ago getting into an argument with my first husband over the word “upset.” His understanding of what it meant was clearly different from mine. The fact that he was German simply added to the confusion.
Here is my advice when you are faced with a potentially volatile situation with a spouse, partner, child, friend, etc. 1. Listen, don’t just hear. 2. Try to understand where the other person is coming from. 3. Empathize. 4. Now you can talk but don’t use accusatory language. Watch it turn into a peaceful conversation instead of a heated argument.
In last week’s sermon, our pastor said this, “To avoid a vengeful heart remember hurt people hurt people.” Think about that.
Good luck! :))