Trouble Connecting

Taking it personally

Quite often, I like to write articles that are packed with emotion, ones that are from the heart. No, not all of these articles are about house and home, but what we as women can do — even within ourselves — to improve happiness in the home. A happy home is absolutely not negotiable when it comes to good ol’ fashioned homemaking. So, let us jump right in.

Taking it Personally

Taking it personally

Have you ever taken personally your husband’s attitude and made things much worse, only to later find out that he was never mad at you in the first place? Chances are, you have. Hear me out.

Women make problems personal when they are not. It can affect the wellbeing and the balance of house and home. This may still be a bit confusing, so I present you with my real life example. It can cause a lot of trouble connecting with your spouse.

My Example

When my husband came home from Iraq, a self proclaimed broken man, he was bitter. I tried everything to bring a smile, everything to connect. I would try to converse with him to find short answers. I would try to engage him, only to find that when feelings got brought up he became vulnerable and angry. When I would help him with things he could no longer do (because of his several injuries), I was again met by anger. I tried and tried. All I wanted was for him to “love me again.”

I became angry, I locked myself away in a shell because his depression, his anger, his regrets kept him from being close to me. I felt rejected. I questioned whether or not he even loved me anymore. We were having trouble connecting.

Perception vs Reality

In reality, his fear of losing me and the pain it would bring him kept him from being too close to feel that pain ever again after what he experienced losing his brothers in arms. He loved me more than anything. The truth was, he was afraid he was too much of a wreck to be close to me again.

Back then, I took it as he didn’t love me anymore. I couldn’t wrap my mind around his suffering. I was tired of being cold, feeling his icy reception, because I knew deep down, no matter how many times he pushed me away, I would never give up on him. I knew in those once bright eyes, there was the man I married. I knew it because every once in a while there was a glimmer of a smile, or a touch of his hand….or a song he would listen to that he mentioned reminded him of us.  However, the reality was…he was too lost in his pain and flashbacks of what he saw to feel very much but anger and biterness.

Do you see the difference in his perception, my perception, and actual reality?????

Head on a platter

Do you see the cycle of coldness that happens? Nothing is changed if the cycle is not broken. This is where self preservation wants to kick in to protect yourself, but you must not give in. This is an “us” thing, not a “you” thing.

This is a rather large scale example of what we as women sometimes do when our men come home angry or they are acting “peculiar lately”, maybe short fused, etc. We as women, nurturers of civilization, feel the need to console, to take on the suffering of a man as our own, and take the blame. I thought he didn’t love me anymore. Men have broad shoulders for a reason, those burdens are not meant for us.

Example 2

Here is a example from my imagination that may relate to many of my readers a little bit better.

John: I had a deadline at work- 3 weeks to turn in blueprints for one of the most state of the art skyscrapers in modern history, and now there are 4 days left. I admit, I am irritable with the children who are at times too loud, a reminder that I need money to put nto  their college fund. I guess maybe I am not not very conversational. I spend all my free time at my draft table. I need this raise as well to be able to put the addition on the house that Linda has asked for, so her kitchen can be bigger, you know the one she dreams of…with the double oven.

Linda: I am so over it. For the last three weeks,nearly, John had been out of touch, out of the mood, and short. He didn’t talk about it, so I dont know if its stress. I figure he will come to me if he wants to talk. I tried to cheer him up, to no avail. Finally, yeah, okay, I started getting short back with him, because he was just so rude! Not to mention, last Friday he sat and watched an entire baseball game on the couch and didn’t say a word to me. He even fell asleep for half hour! I wonder if we are growing apart. I just can’t connect.

Reality: John didn’t tell Linda about the deadline and the bonus money for the addition because he wanted to surprise her if he got the money. He didn’t want to lose the bid and disappoint his wife. He didn’t even realize he was being short tempered and not paying any attention to her. And on Friday, when he watched the game, he needed to clear his head. It was nothing personal.

This example has several ways of being resolved but the point here is that Linda’s view and John’s view were totally different from reality. Sure, communication wasn’t great for John and Linda, but that is not the focus here.

The focus here is that we as good natured wives internlize and personalize the problems of our men. Often times, our men, who aren’t mind readers, won’t know we are hurt unless we speak up.

From the heart ladies, I know that it is the ones close to us that are able to hurt us the most. But if you don’t let them in, you won’t know that closeness.

Find Your Way

With my husband, I tried and tried to create conversation, to get him to talk to me…about anything! If he couldn’t find his way to me…come hell or high water, I would find my way to him. One day, he started playing a new video game, Halo 2 or 3 maybe.

Xbox

So I began to play with him. I began to talk smack at him, and I had now cracked the ice. Let me tell you folks, we still game together, and I am BAD at video games. My Call of Duty skills are mostly horrendous. Even though I am bad at video games, it is something we do together, and I enjoy it because of the simple togetherness.

When we moved after he was retired, once out of the wheel chair, he took up trying to play pool, to keep moving. I tried that. I learned that I enjoyed pool. We began doing partner tournaments, and working together. He even bought me a nice pool cue as a gift. Now, I’m not bad at it, and it opened the door to conversation.

He got back to enjoying my company. It was then, he asked me, a nerdy asthmatic to play Wounded Warrior Project softball with him, and I did…and yes, I am BAD at that. No, I didn’t enjoy it. At all. I face planted in front of God and everybody…for no reason….running from 3rd to home. Yep, nerd. You know what I did enjoy? Spending time with him, and him opening up a bit more.

I’m not saying here that you need to conform to the hobbies, whims and wishes of your man at all times. This is not about who is right or wrong….this is not about whose needs are not getting met. This is not about the “glorious sacrifices” you are making to throw in his face when, down the road, he won’t take you to see a musical or something.

This is about breaking a cycle. This is much more powerful than self preservation, this is a win for the couple, not just one person. Couple preservation.

Men find it comforting when we take interest in what THEY are doing. Funny enough, I found some things I enjoy. In moments where he finds joy in what he is doing, it may open simple conversation.

Mariners logo

I mean hell, I learned about the Seattle Mariners and baseball in general so that I could open the door on discussion with him. It was something he felt comfortable discussing. Because of that, I enjoyed countless hours of conversation with him, even if it was about baseball. Naturally, conversation began to flow, even about other things.

The practice of finding a way to break the cycle is very helpful if you are finding him often stressed or maybe are taking some of his rash behavior personally. Some men don’t share too much in the way of emotion, leaving us to guess and make up our own, probably untrue, narrative.

Break the Cycle

Sit down next to him while he is watching a sporting event. Yes, you may hate it, but your warmth must never burn out. (If for some reason, he doesn’t do sports, find something he enjoys, some sort of opening.)

In that moment you sit down with him (instead of contemplating your contempt for his inability to care about you in another room), you are fostering a happy environment with no expectations. He will take notice of your warmth. This may even open the door to conversation like “You seem stressed, is there anything I can do to make your life easier?” But, let that come naturally. Do not nag or pressure him.

I cannot stress this enough. It is not about who wins the cold sholder of the year. The “I will show him” attitude doesn’t work here. If one of you doesn’t change the situation, it won’t change. Can I tell you I know this from personal experience? For a time, years ago, I embraced the bitter resentment. I held on to the hurt. Nothing was gained or changed.

In truth, navigating this properly is what makes the essence of a woman. We can navigate troubled waters and come out, family in tact. We can bring warmth to our marriage and family. Isn’t that the importnt thing, a win for the marriage, not for one’s self?

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