Last week if you read my blog, I complained a lot. Especially about packing up my kids for overnight camp. The funny thing is that dozens of women wrote me, and others approached me personally to say, I read that piece WHILE I, too, was packing my kids for summer camp, and OMG! I felt exactly the same way. I had to laugh when I read the comment in GIRLilla Warfare from a male reader who said he does 100 percent NO Packing, but has to listen to 100 percent bitching about it from his wife.
Which leads me to The Morning Conversation I had with my husband, and then to a dinner party (which comes later). First, I will backtrack.
Several days ago I took my daughters for all the odds and ends they needed to finish up the packing. It was gorgeous out, and I was shlepping from store-to-store, hunting and fishing, to meet the teenage demands, and I felt ready to explode. All I wanted to do was to be outside, and ride my bike. Three o’ clock struck, and I was finally done. I hopped on my bike and rode the streets like a bat-out-of-hell. A squirrel or something furry ran in front of me, and I slammed on the front brakes and went flying over the top of my handlebars. I was fine-ish (not really), scraped up my ankle, and tried to hold back the tears as a bystander helped me up and collected my bike. I immediately called my husband for some TLC, and what I got on the other end of the receiver was, let’s just say, “less than sympathetic.”
You are a tornado! he scolded. You do everything too fast, and you don’t think. You just go. In other words: The accident was somehow my fault. Instead of the expected Babe, Are you okay? my groom was now the anti-David. No warmth, just “You are an idiot who never slows down” reflecting in his voice. I was bleeding down my leg, but that hurt did not compare to the one in my heart. Everyone, no matter the age, wants sympathy when they fall off their bicycle.
What was going on?
Back to The Morning Conversation.
“I need to talk to you,” David said, setting down his granola topped yogurt. (When he stops eating, it’s serious.)
Here it comes.
“You’re going to be mad at me,” he added.
Oh, great. Here it REALLY comes.
“You have not been YOU,” he said. “You have been complaining about the packing all week, the blog demands, the book, the kids — everything. In fact, that is ALL you’ve been doing — full-on bitching, and I can’t listen to it. That’s why when you fell off your bike,” he threw in for good measure, “I know I was not sympathetic, because I was frustrated.”
Pause. The Blinking Game. He waited for my reaction.
Pause right back at Him. Screw the Blinking Game. A dagger had entered my stomach, as I reflected on my week-long behavior. Okay, he was right, damn it. But how to respond?
I thought of all the things that ticked me off about HIM the entire week — and they were on the tip of my tongue to fight back, to protect and to defend my honor.
I packed; he didn’t. I do laundry; he gets clean clothes. I go grocery shopping; he eats. I drive and drive and drive; he parks with the clicker on the couch. I pick up the cleaning; he takes it off the hanger. He NEVER puts his stuff in the hamper. Oh, I could go on …
But this time, I held back.
Don’t. Go. There. I warned myself. He rarely gets mad at you for anything. He is the calm to your crazy. He is the rock when you are rolling. He is the arm that wraps around you when you need something bigger, stronger than you are to sink into at the end of an insane day.
In other words: The best defense in this case is NO OFFENSE. Just take it.
Take Accountability. But … not too much.
“Well … I have a bunch of things I’m frustrated at YOU about,” I countered. “BUT I’m not going to go there (got it in without actually getting it in …It’s a female art form). “You’re right. I’ve just been stressed and working ’til all hours and I didn’t know where to put it. I have been complaining. A lot. And it’s not me. I’m …
I’m …. LET IT OUT … YOU CAN DO IT ... “I’m VERY sorry, honey.”
Big hand on top of my small one. “Okay,” he said. “What else do you want to talk about?”
I was speechless, wounded, criticized, and I had (in my mind) just groveled. I stared at him. The anger was now setting in. I don’t like you right now. You’re mean. You didn’t have to pack teenagers and deal with all the drama. YOU… YOU… YOU…
But I swallowed it again.
Our first reaction is to lash back when criticized. Sometimes the best reaction is to simply take a deep breath, and just listen. Because then your partner feels heard.
We then left The Conversation. I headed off to do errands. He knew I was upset from being criticized for having had a crappy week and letting it all out. He went on his own volition into Free People (I would have paid to see that one), and bought me a funky necklace. I know I hurt you with the truth, the necklace said, but I love you anyway.
I’m a girl. A little jewelry, like a kiss and a Band Aid, makes everything all better.
PS. So we went to a dinner party a few nights later. We entered the patio and joined three other couples sitting outside with wine glasses and an array of gourmet appetizers. The first thing they started talking about was the “I $%&$ Hate Camp Packing” blog. The women began bitching up an orchestra of complaints, topping even my own — their husbands just sat there throwing up their hands. I looked at David, at his wide-open eyes, his fallen jaw — but mostly, his So-It’s-Not-Just-MY-Wife reaction.
And I didn’t even have to say a single word … It was beautiful.
LB: Got any stories that forced you to “cough up” an apology? Bring it on, Girlfriends. GW would love to hear. And remember, the beauty of this blog is anonymity!