99% of the time, our anger is merely a symptom of the hurt that’s going on inside. Angry at your spouse? Is it an ongoing anger that seems to hover over you all day long? If I were to coach you through it, I’d skip over the angry parts and look for the places you’re feeling hurt. And I’d bet there would be a mountain of them.
I’d also bet that during your arguments you’re not getting listened to.
One of the deepest ways we hurt each other is to refuse to give our spouses/friends/kids/parents/significant others a voice. When we ignore their point of view, we send a subtle, very powerful message that we don’t give a rat’s ass about them. We don’t just send the message that their opinion sucks, we send the message that they suck.
We don’t intend to send that message, and we certainly don’t feel that way about them, but that’s how we come across when we refuse to listen, especially in the sensitive, deeply personal, emotionally heated moments that characterize most arguments.
I’ve started trying to listen more, not just because my wife is super smart and usually has something I need to listen to, but because she needs to know how much I care. She needs to have a voice in these arguments and I’m the only one that can give it to her.
I’ve also begun to learn the art of tabling my opinion for later. At times I can muster the maturity to listen, repeat back what she’s said to make sure I’ve understood her, then think about things for a bit. I ask myself – do I need to push my agenda? Do I need to talk to some people about this first; get some other perspectives?
There’s nothing forcing me to push my point of view in the heated moments. I can honor my own perspective while tabling it for a bit. But for so many of our married years I saw it as a grave injustice if I didn’t voice my concerns as quickly as possible.
Our emotions get under control, real quick, when my wife feels listened to, and vice versa. Our fights don’t last nearly as long as they used to, mainly because we’re not hurting each other during our fights like we used to.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad / Roughing It
I just left some social gatherings on the Internet, and some people. There was a lot of love but little empathy.
I don’t think any more reasons are needed.
“The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature. Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves. The sense of belonging is the natural balance of our lives. Mostly, we do not need to make an issue of belonging. When we belong, we take it for granted. There is some innocent childlike side to the human heart that is always deeply hurt when we are excluded. Belonging suggests warmth, understanding, and embrace. No one was created for isolation. When we become isolated, we are prone to being damaged; our minds lose their flexibility and natural kindness; we become vulnerable to fear and negativity. The sense of belonging keeps you in balance amidst the inner and outer immensities. The ancient and eternal values of human life—truth, unity, goodness, justice, beauty, and love are all statements of true belonging; they are the also the secret intention and dream of human longing.”
– John O’Donohue
Aside from peace, only this counts – for the foreseeable future:
– My relationship, or salvaging what I can (without sounding overly dramatic)
– The Lines (more on this later)
– Earning Money
I shall think of nothing else and do nothing else, but these three things. Except when it is necessary.
Like taking care of Jay. Going to work. Doing dishes.
Not social media. Not random surfing. Not loafing around. Not anything remotely like that.
These are the July Days and they shall last.
We love each other. We want to find solutions. Even if it seems dim – through the fog of anger.
But what is important to both of us, I have no doubt, is that we must also find solutions for Jay’s sake.
We simply can’t bear that he should have parted parents, much less that he should have parents who bicker and argue most of the time. It makes him feel unsafe and it hurts him. Obviously.
And we want the best for him.
So we have to find a way back to the best in ourselves, even if it has been seriously challenged this past year.
But we have to. There is not other way.
You can use the shared joy and responsibility to get a feeling of a bond – again and again. And a very strong one indeed. One that was lacking.
But other bonds have to be strengthened again.
Or it will be like a single rope, or perhaps two ropes, being pulled at all the time.
That will not do.
So: This summer it is time to rebuild.
I want 20 summers more together. Or more.
And I know she wants it as well.
But we have to make begin now.
Our propensity to become angry with each other has been and is still strong, over all sorts of things. Mostly irrelevant things.
So this will be the topic for the summer: How to heal.
Because we are not split yet – obviously. But we are hurt. In more ways than one.
I suspect we could ride it out on routine, love for Jay and dedication to him and to making at least every day work.
But why settle with that? Why not use the summer to really think about this – how we can get back on track, and with more – lots more – love for each other than we have been able to show and give in the recent year?
There is every reason to take this very seriously.
I think this could be the most important summer yet.
“Whenever Char and I get angry at each other, and start again with the first thing: Remembering why we love each other.” – affirmation.
Q: Why haven’t you at the age of 44 a steady job yet?
A: Why haven’t you at age 44 a steady relationship yet?
Sometimes you just have to do another makeshift solution if it is what works.
And I can say it just like it is: If you cum while masturbating to porn or with someone you hardly know there is a sure-fire void after that, right there in the middle of your chest where your heart is supposed to be. It’s not a sin. It is not a disaster. And your hands definitely won’t fall off.
But if you cum while having sex with someone you love – in a way you both love – then that orgasm can go all the way to the heart. And even if it doesn’t, you feel your heart more than you did before you had sex. Not less.
Banal, I suppose? And yet it can be excruciatingly difficult to remember.
Even if I worked all I could and stressed about it – especially the marketing part – there would be no earnings guarantee. The money lost from my insistence on ‘contributing’ by buying half the food, more or less, is penalized with 14.5 per cent interest on my credit account. Better to take that money from Char’s savings and inheritance, obviously. I mean, do we have a joint economy or what? Maybe I am not contributing much, economically, but it is still joint.
Let’s make some rational choices, then …
I wonder why it took me so long to see this. I guess it was a mixture of interference from life-stress (like the stuff with my mother’s cancer) and habit and an idea that Char wanted me to pay my part and that I should because I am … what? … the man of the house.
But Char also want’s help when she can only use one hand more or less. And she wants less stress at home. And more quality time and some sweet time, too. With me.
So that is my contribution.
So we should see to it in the new year that we take more time off together – maybe go to another city and just loaf, go more to cafes and a bit on restaurants. We have to dig into Char’s inheritance and maternity leave insurance, unless I make more money soon. But I think it is necessary.
And yes, these are sweet activities we can do with Jay – i.e. without a sitter. He is still very young and it would be a lot to leave him for a night with someone else. It would not work yet.
But go a bit more out together (and with Jay) that would work. Maybe going to another city and playing tourists. Just that.
It will be enough. For now.
But we have to do it!