Please read Part 1 of this story.
So here’s the scene: I’m full-on, 100% ticked off at Darrel for his real and imagined transgressions. I decide we need to have a Serious Talk.
That’s code for “I need to let Darrel know, in no uncertain terms, exactly how he’s ticked me off and what he needs to do to fix this.”
Fortunately, I’m not 16 years old any more, and I have acquired some tact and wisdom in the intervening years.
Also, I love Darrel. As mad as I was, at my core, I know we make a great team and have tons of love and respect for each other.
It was just…really hard to tap in to that at the moment.
So I prayed. I prayed that God would take over this conversation and help me say the right things.
Most importantly, I prayed God would STOP me from saying the wrong things.
What’s that old saying? “You have one mouth, but two ears for a reason.” Or something like that.
So I started the Serious Talk with a question instead of an accusation. “What’s going on with you?”
And he answered.
Oh, did he answer.
I won’t lie. He said some fairly hurtful things. He said some things I disagreed with 100%. He said some things that instantly – if I hadn’t prayed and handed control of the conversation over to God – would have made me jump out of my chair screaming “Bulls***!”
But I didn’t do or say anything. I waited. I listened.
Y’all…it was hard.
When he was done, I spoke my piece. I told him how I saw things. How HE had done wrong. And I called BS on some things – though in a fairly tactful manner.
We went back and forth for a while, never seeming to get any closer, but at least not getting further apart.
Then, suddenly, the epiphany.
Do you want to know our big problem that caused the Serious Talk?
From my point of view, it was his tendency to not help out more around the house. I’m overwhelmed! Cooking non-stop, preserving foods, doing food research, raising the kids, nursing 3-5 hours a day, plus having to drop everything and go to work (for which I bring in a decent paycheck, thankyouverymuch – no “well, you don’t work for pay” argument here)…it’s a little much at times.
So when he comes home from work and barely engages in the housework at all, benefiting from my hard work while not contributing more than his paycheck, well, it started off just being irritating, but by the time we had our Serious Talk…it was infuriating!
So I’m leaning forward, holding his hand, trying to explain that I need more help. He interrupts me to defend himself. “I DO things around the house!” He listed off all the things he does.
The whole time I’m thinking in my head, “Yeah, but…” and suddenly the epiphany hit.
He DOES do stuff at home. He really isn’t a total slacker in the housework department.
He just does stuff I DON’T CARE ABOUT.
“Honey, have I ever told you the things I actually want you to do to help around the house?” I asked him.
“Not really. Well, no. Not at all.” he replied.
DING DING DING DING
Ladies and gentlemen! We have a “eureka” moment!
It takes two to tango. In disagreements it is exceedingly rare for one party to be completely innocent and the other party to be 100% wrong.
Even knowing that, though, I had not been able to discern where *I* had been at fault in our particular rough patch.
Here was my answer.
Darrel, like ALL men, is not a mind reader.
How can he properly help me around the house when he has no idea of my personal priorities for home upkeep?
He can’t. Simple as that.
So I’ll sit and stew over his “lack of help” – even if he’s doing “stuff” around the house, and he’ll work up resentment over my lack of appreciation for all that he’s doing. (Well, until he just stops doing anything at all, because, as Darrel put it, “why bother?”)
And we’ll layer resentment upon resentment until we no longer can stand the sight of each other…and for what?
For a lack of clear communication.
Now, some may argue that a man should just KNOW what to do around the house. That’s pretty much the thought I had been operating under.
The problem with that is easy to see, if you step back for a moment.
What if this particular man was not raised to know how to keep a house? Lots of mothers don’t properly impress upon their sons true housekeeping skills, so they grow to be men who don’t know how to keep a house.
However, even if your mother-in-law did an excellent job teaching her son housekeeping, what are the odds that her priorities and your priorities are exactly the same?
Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.
Now, you may be reading this and rolling your eyes, writing me off as a drama queen. “Pshaw…her marriage didn’t need saving! This is piddly stuff! Not at all like what *I* have to deal with!”
Don’t be so hasty!
Did I mention I’ve been through a divorce? As a consequence, I’ve talked to a lot of experts about marriage over the years (my criteria? 30+ years of marriage and still happy to be married!) and read a library worth of marriage books, and do you know what I learned from all of that research?
Unmet expectations can break a marriage faster than anything else.
If your expectations aren’t met, you build resentment. If you build resentment, you stop building open lines of communication. If you stop communicating, you stop feeling connected. If you don’t feel connected, you stop caring.
You stop caring, and your marriage is, well, not necessarily over, but certainly in a really bad place.
And you get unmet expectations from a lack of clear communication.
So this may sound like Darrel and I were having a minor disagreement about division of labor, but it cut more to the core than that.
It had made me cry. It had made me feel completely alone. It had made me wonder with utter despair if this was to be my life for the next 50 years. We had stopped seeing eye-to-eye on many things.
That’s a lot more than just a minor disagreement over division of labor, right?
You can imagine how stunned I was to discover that Darrel had felt all those things, too! (Well, I don’t know if he’d cried about it. Probably not. I cry more than he does.)
Our “eureka” moment had revealed two people who desperately loved each other, and were both drowning in resentment and sorrow. Two people who badly wanted to “be” like we had been in the beginning, but had lost our way and didn’t know how to get back.
So we made a plan.
We gave ourselves some homework assignments.
Since this is already pretty long, check back to find out what our homework assignments were, and how it worked out!
Have you ever struggled with a lack of clear communication in your marriage? How did you overcome it?