The One Hardest Issue In Our Marriage to Get Right… But We Did.
I’m just going to get into this, because this is a short, simple post. My wife and I both have multiple decades in recovery. We’re almost sixty years between us, so the one thing you’d think we could get right would be communication. Our lives literally hang on being able to communicate unflinchingly with other people about our thoughts, emotions, fears, regrets, faults and flaws. We have to master this or we relapse. Well, so I thought, at least.
In our marriage, however, we had years of misunderstanding the other on a regular basis which led to building up of what I understood as being protective walls for our emotions. For me, they allowed me an impenetrable zone of what I understood to be “being okay”. And I was okay. My wife and I built a “fair” marriage around that. It was good, but not exactly great. We were relatively content, with the occasional donnybrook that could last as long as a week or two before we forgot what we were angry about and made up. Well, I forgot what we were angry about. My wife seemed to be able to remember that stuff for a millennia. Every now and again, say four or five times a year, I’d run into a silent treatment that would last a week or two but I could usually weather those.
We’d been to marriage counseling where I was told in private sessions that I really didn’t have much to work on, that I was a generally good guy and that I simply wasn’t perfect. I don’t know if I had the counselor snowed (doubtful), that he was setting me up for the big reveal that I had a truckload of $#!+ that I was hauling behind me (plausible) but he passed away before he could get to the good stuff, or that my wife and I simply had a major communications problem.
Whatever the case, I “came to” almost a year ago, now, and realized there was a lot I could do better. My wife joined in with the changes a short while after me and we crafted something together that we could both love. I’d say we worked hardest on learning how to communicate effectively, nicely and safely. I haven’t seen a silent treatment in almost a year, and I’m here to tell you, I don’t miss them a bit. I’ve had to change how I communicated with my wife entirely… and truth be told, I’m still learning.
For my part, I used to think there were too many rules and those rules were routinely thrown on the table to make things difficult enough to say what I had to say so that I’d simply give up out of frustration. That wasn’t so; the problem was I had to change three things – and this is the important part:
- I had to listen.
- I learned to assume that my wife was simply trying to help me move through the world a little less stupidly, that she didn’t want to hurt me or shut me down.
- I had to let go of the fear that my wife would win. Neither wins if one wins. The only way one can win an argument is if we both win.
Once I got those two things down, I could calmly communicate what I had to. And I could listen to my wife calmly enough to understand.
With no fear to get in the way, I could see my part better and change. My wife felt that safety that I found so difficult to share with her, and our marriage flourished. And it is awesome.