About two weeks ago, my wife and I got into a discussion about how her expectations of how our son should be cleaning his dirty ass bathroom. He’s 7 and his bathroom looks like that of a seven year old - filthy. He wanted help with the daunting task ahead of him and was in tears that we expected him to do it alone since he got it dirty alone. When I started instructing our son on how and which parts of his bathroom to tackle first, my wife responded by muttering something about her not knowing why I’m even speaking to him while he’s balling out tears. Our son can be a drama queen at times and our usual method of responding is to simply let him cry it out until he regains enough composure to have a coherent conversation. Long story extremely short, this led to her and I exchanging questions in front of our kids with a tone they’re not accustomed to hearing mom and dad use. While we were yelling at one another or blatantly disrespectful to each other, the conversation wasn’t productive. I know my feelings were hurt afterwards and it seemed hers were as well, but I’m never sure about that. None of my comments were intended to hurt her.
I on the other hand was extremely butt hurt.
We didn’t have a full conversation for over a week. Truth be told, I didn’t want to speak with her. I was too busy feeling alone in this struggle for our marriage. More accurately, I felt alone in the struggle to be understood and heard. I knew I wasn’t and am not alone in this struggle, but what you know and what you feel are often times very different.
Reading these words back, I can already hear my wife’s voice - “Feelings aren’t facts!”
And I’m in 100% agreement with her. My week plus of silence had more to do with me getting my head around where I was at emotionally, and then trying to come up with the right words to explain to her why I felt the way I did, and how I was hurt.
The silence led turned into frustration about why was it so difficult to communicate my feelings to the one person I’m supposed to be able to tell these things to? I had no answers. I still don’t have an answer - just expectations.
Expectations on how she’ll respond. Expectations of another discussion devolving into an argument about how neither of us truly understands the other. Expectations of another week or more of silence. Expectations of her simply not giving a fuck about how I felt. Similar to how I don’t give a fuck about many of the things she genuinely gets upset about. We call those person problems. Expectations of faking the funk around the kids so they won’t notice - but they always do. I didn’t want to deal with any of that shit.
I drive my son to school every morning. Some mornings we listen to the radio. Others we talk about random shit, or about the plan to have a successful day of school. A few mornings after our discussion about his bathroom, during our silent treatment week, my son asked if mom and I weren’t doing well because of his bathroom.
It really broke my heart.
I explained to him how his bathroom had nothing to do with mom and dad’s lack of communication. I explained it’s our job to learn how to relate to one another at our level, and how lately we haven’t been doing a great job at it, nor were we making much effort. I told him we would do better, but I honestly didn’t know how.
Sometimes being married for a while hinders the communication barrier, because your saddle your spouse with the baggage of their past behavior. Most times rightfully so, and other times not so fairly. We’re afraid to be disappointed by their behaviors, and we anticipate conflict. So we remain silent caught in our world of inner turmoil. Alone surrounded by people.
After 13 years of marriage, I’m finding I can’t communicate effectively with my wife.
The crazy thing is there are so many things we get right in our marriage, which makes it even more frustrating. Because I know without communication, every relationship is doomed to die. My feelings today tell me we’ll get through this. But I honestly am unsure of the path forward.
Feelings aren’t facts however.