It happens to the best of us. Communication is such a fickle thing, and the lines of communication can become blurred every so often, especially when love and feelings are involved. Even those who think that they are immune to the confusion of conflict can find themselves drawn into a communication breakdown when they least expect it, and chaos ensue.
Even those of us who are better equipped than many others are not immune. This happened to Sally on the weekend, and to be quite honest, it took her by surprise. Her husband told her something that really hurt her feelings, and she automatically lashed back in defense.
It was a silly argument, over something as simple as a misplaced bottle of perfume. But to her, it represented something much deeper that had been simmering away for a couple of weeks. She gets frustrated at having to search for something when it is not where she expects it to be, worse still when her partner has shifted it and she has no clue where to begin searching.
Perfume, needles and thread, car keys, a Tupperware container to store her baking soda in, covers for outdoor chairs, all were examples of instances where she had to turn the house upside-down. A simple answer from her husband when these things were shifted would have saved her a lot of time and frustration. And the answer she got? “You need to open your eyes and organize yourself better”
She was gutted. When she comes home from work she exercises the dog and cook dinner so that it is on the table by the time her partner gets home. The house is always spotless and warm, as she is very conscious of coming home to a tidy environment.
She sees this as a fundamental part of her role in coming home first, and it takes a lot of her time. To imply that she has the time to “organize yourself better” really hurt.
She doesn’t expect praise, but she hoped that her efforts were recognized. She got told that “I don’t expect you to cook my dinner every night.” That was interpreted by her as ingratitude, and hurt her even more.
So where to from here? Sally’s husband felt guilty at coming home every night to the perfect household, where she felt guilty if it wasn’t perfect. It was never about her trying to make her spouse feel guilty, but it seems it did. And this is where the communication fell down. He misinterpreted her efforts, and she misinterpreted his response.
Communication, communication, communication. Sally needed her partner to keep her informed of where things move to. She needs to be informed. She needs to voice her frustration before it gets to a boiling point. They both need to talk about their feelings more, and how each of their contributions to their home and their relationship make them feel, and how they interpret each other’s contributions.
Just because something isn’t spoken about, doesn’t mean it’s not important. A relationship or marriage is not a competition, but for many couples it feels like it is.
When people feel guilt or stress, it leads them to act in funny ways. Often stress and guilt are barriers to communication. The key to overcoming them is to recognize what it is, and have the courage to talk about it. You might be able to do it as a couple, or you might want the help of a friend who can listen to the way you are communicating with each other and offer insights and advice.
They got it sorted out, and kissed and hugged. It wouldn’t hurt so much if she didn’t feel such love at the same time. But it served as a good reminder to her. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in your own emotions that you forget to think of the other person. You also need to entertain the possibility that you are misinterpreting each other. Talking about it is the way to expose the miscommunication and let the healing begin.
A good lesson to learn, even for the experts.
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