September 18th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I got home yesterday and my wife says, “I read your post. It was confusing … didn’t really make sense.” So, I read it. Yeah, it was a bit hard to follow. Can I take another shot at it? Maybe if I give a real example.
On a Saturday morning, early in our marriage, I went for a surf. When I left, I gave her a general time frame: “I don’t know. Not too long. Late morning?” Look, I’m trying to get out. I’m not going to say, “It’ll be four hours.” We’re different that way. My wife likes set times, clear expectations. I like options – last minute options. To her, “Late morning” meant 10; to me, “Late morning” had in it room for interpretation. Sure enough, surf was “firing” (Good). So I pushed “late morning” to as late as possible. Driving home at 11:30, I thought my interpretation is going from liberal to wrong. I walked in sheepishly, to find the apartment empty. A note on the kitchen counter read, “Took kids to swim at ‘so and so’s’ pool.” Cold, flat. Yup, I was in trouble.
That feeling of walking into the empty apartment and then being in trouble got me angry. Okay, right here, if you’re a woman you’re probably thinking, “What?! What are you angry about? You were wrong. She was justified and you deserved it.” Yes. Agree. But the point isn’t what is justified and who deserves what. Many a marriage have dissolved over words like justified and deserve. I rushed over to the pool. My kids, two of them at the time were thrilled to see me. My wife? Not so much. At that point, I was done. I did not want to wade through it. I did what I did best back then; I checked out. “You’re going to punish me with your vibe, okay. I’ll hit you right back with withdrawal, with rejection.”
I wrote yesterday that I believe our communication struggles are representative of a general pattern. Then I offered my guess as to why women seem to tend toward an indirect route, and why men have the tendency to withdraw, to run from the challenges of intimacy.
After about ten years of failures, we’ve experienced in the last few years some real breakthroughs. And an important step was our agreement that my wife would try to be more direct. And I would try to stay engaged, not run.
Today, we might handle that morning this way. My wife would still get pissed. But she’ll think, “Picking up and leaving. ‘Coming home to an empty apartment will show him'” approach isn’t going to help. She’ll sacrifice her plans and wait. When I walk in, she might tell me, “You’re later than ‘late morning’. When you do this, it puts us all on hold, and being on hold with two kids 3 and 2 is hard.” Hopefully, my response to that would be, “Yeah, I’m sorry. I knew I was pushing it. Sorry.” Then she would have to forgive me. There’s no justice in the person wronged bearing the burden of reconciliation. But we’ve decided that for the sake of our marriage, we’ll suffer injustices. Having forgiven me, she’ll release me. And I’ll look over at her as we head over to the pool late thinking, my wife is cool.