When I’m Wrong, I Say I’m Wrong.

April 25, 2012 at 7:59 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), My life | 7 Comments

(I admit it. One of my top 5 movies of ALL time is Dirty Dancing. I mean, come on. I grew up in New Jersey and was in middle school when it came out.)

The Running Issue between Charlie and I has made me realize a couple of things.

I am an abysmal listener.

No, seriously.

For all my self-analysis I’ve done over the past year, for all the progress I’ve made understanding my own patterns and becoming happier, when it comes to my husband, it’s been about me and how I feel and what I need to be happier.

And so we had a vicious fight about my running last week, where I essentially shut down on him. It’s not fair to take away my coping mechanism, I thought, just because you don’t have one yourself. And even worse, you believe that you shouldn’t HAVE to have a coping mechanism. You’re that screwed up.

This is our pattern, you understand. He’ll say something, and I get angry at him and defend myself.

And I’ll say something, and he’ll react as if I’m criticizing him and defend himself.

Either way, neither one of us actually LISTENS to what the other person has to say.

So I did that on Friday, when I asked him to talk about it. I told him that I was in a place where if he wanted to talk about what he was thinking, I’d listen.

And I FORCED MYSELF TO LISTEN. I asked questions, got clarification, kept my own opinion out of it.

And you know something?

There’s something to be said for really listening to your spouse.

Enough that last night, when I mentioned something that bothered me during dinner, and he immediately jumped into his defense, I got mad and asked him to just listen to me for a second.

And all of a sudden it was clear to me. I get mad at Charlie because I don’t feel like he’s listening to me. Not because the issue we argue about is THAT big a deal.

It’s really only when I feel like my feelings are shrugged off that I get angry. And then yell. And argue. And fight. Etc etc.

So at the end of the night, we decided on 5 full minutes of REAL listening whenever each of us has something to say. And by real listening, I mean that each one of us needs to try and get INTO the other person’s viewpoint, to really understand what they’re feeling and why.

And maybe then we’ll be able to compromise. Maybe Charlie can actually see that I AM compromising by not running the weekend we were in NYC, and by not trying for a marathon until fall 2013. Maybe I can see that he’s trying to let go of his task list and spend time the three of us as a family.

Maybe communication isn’t really about TALKING as much as it’s about listening.

So yeah. I have been doing it all wrong all these years.


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  1. I love Dirty Dancing too. I went to the stage show with my sisters a couple of years ago, and the entire audience was filled with women in their late twenties and early thirties who all knew all the lines off by heart.

    I am really impressed that you and Charlie were able to talk about this and actually agree to the five minutes of real listening. Q. and I are terrible fighters in that he shuts down and avoids immediately, and that causes me to back down immediately because I can’t handle having someone mad at me (shades of the child of divorce that I still am). So we don’t fight, but I always worry about what will happen one day if there is a BIG issue, since we don’t know how to fight in a sensible fashion. Glad to hear that you and Charlie are more mature.


  2. I needed to read this…

  3. I’m a terrible listener, too. I always think I’m very easy going and agreeable, but I get very defensive and interrupt like mad in any given conversation (years of my parents not teaching us to take turns and not override each other), happy or not, and then I shut down and leave the room in an actual argument (years of my parents letting my brothers get away with telling me to shut up), and apparently I rarely apologize. And D. can really beat a dead horse and be condescending (years of his parents belittling one another). So we don’t fight often at all, but when we do, it’s a nasty half hour.

    I’m working on it, and so is D. Recently I read The Five Love Languages, and it was really helpful in that I learned that D.’s love language is words of affirmation, mine is quality time, and I think N.’s is touching and I.’s may be gift giving. So being flippant and sarcastic or taking him for granted is far more hurtful to D. than it is to me, and I definitely shouldn’t be flippant about that!

  4. Something I learned early on in my career as a manager and then executive was to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. It is one of the cornerstones to any successful relationship. Glad you guys had an “a-ha” moment and I hope the active listening helps.

  5. I feel like a lot of bloggers never write about their marriages because their husbands read their blogs, but personally I find it is soooo helpful to get it out and hear others say they’ve had the same issue.
    For me, I think the marriage issue is that I feel so much better when I’m yelling and getting it all out, and I ignore the fact that it’s actually hurting K. When you’re in a fight, it’s all about you, not about what the other person wants at all. But I think that agreeing to spend some time understanding the other’s point of view will probably be really helpful. It’s great that you figured that out.

  6. I really struggle with this! I know communication – and not reaction – is what is really important in marriages but I get all worked up and emotional. Then yeah it just devolves into defensiveness on both sides. I like to think we’re pretty good at sorting things out, but sometimes (like when I’m all hormonal) I get very weepy and I definitely don’t listen. It really is good that you have figured that out and are able to actually use it!

  7. Really hearing someone is a skill that needs to be honed. It’s important in a marriage AND with kids. People used to give me weird looks when I actually listened to my kids when they were blathering on and on about bulldozers, Barney and bubbles. Know what? They still talk to me all the time, but now it’s about life, love and happiness. Keep honing your skills…..it will help you and Charlie…and Lucky will always have a sounding board in mom.
    (and remember…..nobody puts Baby in a corner).

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