I (Nathaniel) came to my own realization these past couple of years. Part of it can be due to this streak and my increasing depth because I had to work harder and faster emotionally to stay connected to my wife and allow her to feel connected in return. I had to work through my resentments towards both Christina and myself faster if we were to be willing to be together at the end of every day. I thank God for this streak and the personal realizations He has shown me through this and many other avenues. Realization here is I didn’t fight fair since I held on to resentments and didn’t make changes in a more mature internal manner. It was everyone’s fault but my own that I was reacting and they need to fix their stuff or I’m going to ensure they know why I’m reacting and it’s not my fault.
My wife’s words are one. At times I am sure they were tactless because we were angry at each other, but if I quit reacting to the tone of her voice and listen, really listen then I can hear some things that she is emotionally in need of. I start to notice that in my ignorance I am causing a larger problem blaming her in the situation rather than making a small change based on her feelings or needs. I can hear her through our frustrations and realize that I can do better for her and for me.
Two, the friends and family I have been surrounded with have helped. I have had opportunity to verbalize some of my frustrations of a situation so I could get to the root of pain I was causing my wife at times.
I did not and still do not like to complain about my wife, I am usually trying to process something so that I can be less reactive and more positive to my wife and children.
These people also shared their life experiences back with me and the two way friendships were useful in building me up and giving me insight into my own internal issues. I was able to soak up things they were saying about their relationships and hear my own personal errors in their stories. I could hear what they or their spouse may have done and I could say “oh no, I just did that to Christina last week, I’m a moron!” Without honest, deepening and transparent friendships I could not learn faster about the error of my ways.
A third way is my Bible. I could not find any steps that worked exactly perfectly for me in an order of A, B and C, whether it came from a motivational speaker or a book of some sort, I could not connect the dots and make it easy for me to stop being so passive aggressive. I know I am made differently than some of you and I am made differently than my lovely wife. The steps I could best describe that I followed were steps A, then Q and perhaps Y and Z. My Bible and my twelve step program gave me a ton of steps and options to choose from in an order that worked for my life.
I did not have an ‘aha’ moment where my brain was awoken by one particular step to take in getting better besides stopping my coping mechanism.
Mine was a slow developing bit of realizations over the course of several years after finally learning to allow my emotions to come forth and then to process them. These last few years are the first I can claim this unfortunate fact, perhaps you can relate to it. For the first time in my life when I hear a great sermon or Bible verse I hear something applicable for me. Does this sound familiar to you? “That verse or sermon would be so great for my wife, wow, she should hear this or I should tell her.”
I spent years previously hearing verses and sermons only to hold them over some other person’s head and not holding myself up to the same standard.
I’d previously gloss right over the fact that I should be listening to change myself internally instead of trying to change everyone outside of myself for my personal contentment. These are not my words but I’ll repeat them, “Inside out, not outside in.”
I’ve had to stop correcting everyone else to feel content, I’ve had to become content and loving and set the example for those around me through my actions. Especially this applies to those in my own home first and foremost.
Fourth, tone of voice. One of the worst things I can recall was to react to my wife’s tone of voice no matter who may have started the defensiveness. I could turn it on her. If she was frustrated when I walked in from work and I heard it in her voice I’d react and raise my voice right back, getting defensive and blaming her for causing it. Also in the same vain, if I came home bitter already from a rough tiring day and I walked in with an angry or snappy tone she’d react and again I’d blame her for starting it. I would completely ignore my part and live in denial of my tone of voice, angry look or scowl I was carrying on my face. I needed to learn to be a calm example by not comparing who was having a worse day. I needed to display empathy instead of self-centeredness.
Fifth, is a tactic I used when arguing, the proverbial “kitchen sink theory”. Throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the other person and with so many angles to defend they’ll eventually give up and walk away or become so angry and defensive I would win by default. By this tactic she could not keep track of where the argument started or get worn out by my criticisms. Eventually she would give up while feeling crazy and all over the place because I had driven her there personally. This was a tactic, I feel, to help me avoid digging deeper emotionally and processing my fault or pain from an argument. I have a great memory so I could bring up criticisms about her I’d been passively holding onto for days or weeks. I could spout them randomly during any argument to make her defend multiple angles at a time. It is no wonder I’ve made her so defensive at times with my selfish tactics only focused on making me the winner in a game where there can be no winner. Truth is for me there isn’t winning during an argument, but that didn’t stop me from suffering from that illusion for a long time.
I have become better, not perfect, at sticking to the topic that may have caused the initial hurt and this has been extremely healthy for us both to speed up the processing of emotions and moving beyond forgiveness at a faster and healthier pace.
One last tactic I remember is saying something really insensitive or over the top that I knew would insinuate I wasn’t going to respect her. She would get so angry she’d walk away. Argument over, I can watch the game. I thought I’d won, but really was only severing the connections that could have brought us closer together.
I’ve had to stop focusing on the negatives in my day and move on from them to get and be healthier and focus on what is positive and healthy and will lift me up instead of drag me down.
8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.
I pray even one of my realizations can also help you change to healthier tactics too.