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.
While I am not a stay-at-home dad, I suppose, I’m a semi-stay-at-home-dad.
I have a small webdesign business which I supplement with temp work, but Char is the one who earns the money. So I bring and pick up and take care of Jay, many an evening, morning and in-between.
It is tiresome and I do feel trapped at times, but for a lot of reasons that’s how things came to be. At this point in our lives. In some years, they might be different.
And while I feel bad often enough about not being able to go 100 percent in work-mode, or sometimes at all … I also love the damn job. At home …
It is a chore and a privilege at the same time. I wonder if it can ever be different to be a parent?
Having children changes a lot to put it mildly.
On the downside you get to have to earn more money and less time to yourself. On the upside … well, everything good about having children – and then this perspective that you want something better for them. Including bettering yourself.
Char and I have had some rather exhausting discussions about money over the summer and I have had worries to go with that, but I often get back to that perspective:
“This is not Somalia. Our problems are solvable. I want to be a better example for my son.”
I.e. focusing more on solutions than arguing and throwing guilt around.
That is the only way.
I genuinely feel this course is tremendous value for money – almost too much value.
But I also feel there is something deeper that rubs me the wrong way – deeper than my inability to participate live very much. So what is that?
Perhaps worth exploring, even if there is a monkey somewhere in my mind screaming that I am a failure for even thinking this way.
I mean, if you don’t get with the program to create abundance in your life now – or at least later – then isn’t it your own fault, all of it?
Perhaps. Or perhaps there are more abundant perspectives on reality than this one course in “abundance” can give.
And I mean to explore them all.
Jay is visiting grandma with Char and is having trouble sleeping. It’s heatwave time. He doesn’t like that.
It’s a strange house and a different bed. And so on.
I have trouble sleeping, but I suppose for different reasons.
I stay here in the City and work and do the house and do a few things, like drawing. In fact, I do a lot on the ‘house’ – a lot of repair work and washing that we don’t have time for when Jay is here. Or rarely.
And even so I feel a bit guilty not being down there and being able to relieve Char when she has not slept, because Jay has not slept.
I suppose grandma, and other visiting family, can do a bit here, but even so …
It is a strange feeling … Not sure if it is worry about Jay, who – as said – is really having trouble adjusting to the heat.
Or if it is a feeling of obligation to share the burdens with Char, which somehow is still there even though I certainly do my part at home, at this moment.
Not sure about any of that, really.
But it is a relatively mild problem, and they will soon be home and everything will be back to its chaotic normal. And with 0.5 percent time again for chores like the ones I am doing now. And work. And a lot of other things.
So maybe I should just try to … appreciate the experience. Not in a lala-way. But just try to set my mind in two places at once, instead of just on the worry and faint guilt.
Stay in that damn feeling and feel all of it, including that which is worth appreciating:
Like the fact that I do miss my son even though he is taking every bit of time from me and then some.
And that I want to help Char take care of him, on as equal terms as possible in this day and age.
Aren’t those worthwhile feelings? Too?
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.
It would really be a great help, and steady a lot of things, if one of us got a steady, high-paid job – after years of uncertainty here. And now with Jay along.
So of course there is fear it won’t come anyway. Or ever.
But … perhaps that fear just has to be accepted. Lived with.
I mean, I can write all sorts of good things about how we are just going to press on if things don’t turn out as we hope.
But before that … how about just accepting the fear instead of fighting it?
It is not easy. But I will try. I think it actually helps.
“Whenever Char and I get angry at each other, and start again with the first thing: Remembering why we love each other.” – affirmation.
Tomorrow it’ll be Jay’s 1st birthday and thus almost a year ago that we had a really hard experience getting him here.
But I am heartened that despite the lingering pain of that memory, everyday new wonderful memories are added in the other stack – of his life, what it is, what it can be, what it will be.
I guess that is called healing.
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!
Sometimes it is good to sum up your strengths before you head back into the ring. In fact, it is always good. Also in the breaks.
I can think of worse storms than becoming a father. Because this is a storm that leaves something valuable behind, after all the things are uprooted.