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I’m in Chicago teaching so I’m sending a newsletter I wrote earlier this year about a fight I had with my husband, Michael. Please note that Michael read this blog before it went out and gave his permission to share it with you. I hope it touches you in some helpful way.
How a fight with my husband
taught me how to get my needs met.
Michael and I had a fight this week and it wasn’t pretty.
We were enjoying dinner on Wednesday night when he brought up an idea for a new house project that we’ve been talking about for the last few months. Before he could get the final sentence out of his mouth, I pushed his words aside by blurting out, “That’s a foolish idea!”
It didn’t go over very well.
Our date night turned nasty in seconds.
More angry words.
Abrupt end to dinner.
Chilly, quiet ride home.
No talking for three days.
As much as I can’t stand the stress of unspoken anger, three days of silence is growth for me. In the past I would do everything in my power to resolve the conflict so we could return to peace in the Queendom.
But not anymore.
Like Michael, I’ve learned to sit with uncomfortable feelings, to soothe myself during an emotional crisis, and to take the time and space I need to process the experience. That way I can get clear about my part in creating the mess and about what needs to change to make our marriage stronger.
But boy do I hate fighting.
There are few things that drill an anxious hole in my stomach and fighting with Michael is at the top of the list.
I have to be honest and admit that, these days, the fights are often instigated by me. In my menopausal years, I’ve come into my own in a surprising new way and it seems I’ve lost a filter or two. As a result, the pent-up anger of unspoken needs often comes rushing out before I have a chance to slam my mouth shut. Hence the ensuing mess.
Nastiness is not good for a relationship. It only invites defensiveness. And when there’s defensiveness there’s no communication. None.
Someone needs to write a new owner’s manual for the 21st century woman. A treatise that includes how to ask for what you want when you want it, not ten years after the fact when it comes out concealed in a sarcastic tone that lands you in relationship hell.
When I said to Michael, “That’s a foolish idea,” I did so with a dismissive, frustrated attitude. That’s what happens when you sit on a pile of unexpressed needs because you want to keep the peace; because you want to avoid the hurtful arguing that goes nowhere; or because you’re afraid you’ll have to work too damn hard to get your needs met so you just give up and do everything yourself.
What I really wanted to scream (at the top of my lungs in the middle of the restaurant) was:
Sure, it’s easy for you to have new ideas, you don’t have to get shit done!
I don’t want another house project to manage because I’m sick of all I do to manage things already!
I’m tired of being the one in charge of everything!
I don’t want to carry this heavy weight of resentment anymore. I want to drop it, right here, right now in the middle of this damn restaurant!
Oh, and by the way, I’d like a little acknowledgment and appreciation for all that I do!
And have done!
And while I sound like I’m really pissed at you, the truth is I’m really pissed at me because I sound like a martyr and a victim and I know it’s my own damn fault. I suck at getting my needs met.
God I hate to admit this.
I teach this stuff for crying out loud.
And the truth is, I know better.
I know I need to speak up.
I know I need to say what I need when I need it.
And I know that I have to be willing to do what it takes to make sure my needs get met.
But I’m a woman and it’s times like this when I try to remember that, as gals, we haven’t had the right to vote for very long and for centuries we’ve had to imprison ourselves with silence in order to stay safe.
But that’s not the world we live in anymore and the very thing we want most – true partnerships that are balanced and loving and sexy and supportive and romantic and fun, require us to speak up.
When the three days had passed and Michael and I finally talked about the fight, we agreed that it was time to put an end to the pattern of relating that dishonors our relationship.
I need to stop holding everything inside.
And he needs to listen and respond to my needs.
Yes, before we schedule “date nights” we’d need to schedule “house nights” where we meet on a level playing field every week with an open heart and mind to negotiate together.
And we need to send our inner little kids out to play so they don’t make a mess.
So, while I’d rather not fight, the truth is it’s unavoidable when you share a home with someone.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to love #x2665;.
This Week’s Video
A friend sent me this week’s video and it’s an amazing (and I mean amazing) timelapse painting of a woman’s life. You can watch it here. Thanks, Jacalyn!