I’m Posting on Friday Because … (inside one of our arguments)

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“The aim of an argument, or of a discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” Joseph Joubert

I’ve seldom let anyone inside one of our arguments. They are too painful even if we say it’s about hair, which this one was. Of course, hair is not what escalates the argument and it’s not what causes the pain. The argument and the pain escalate because of the never-ending cycle of being unheard, which is how I feel, and misunderstood, which is how John feels.

I’ve listened to enough friends talk about arguments with their spouses to know we’re having some of the same ones and with the same undercurrents. Dissecting one of ours may help all of us improve how we deal with conflict.

Background Information

For a decade, I’ve cut my own hair. I shaved the back and sides with clippers and used scissors to style the front. In the fall, I decided I wanted a little length on my hair since it’s graying. I reconnected with my hairdresser from 10 years back. It took until two months ago to settle on a style I really love. She shaves the back and sides and blends in the longer hair on top. It grows fast, so it only takes days for it to look shaped instead of shaved.

What Happened At Home

 John and I planned to go to dinner the same evening as my perfect haircut. I showered, styled my hair, and was ready to go when he came through the backdoor. Instead of saying what I hoped for, “You look great. I love your hair,” he just stared at me, then put down his keys and wallet.

“Why aren’t you saying anything about my hair? Don’t you like it?” I said.

“Oh, I like it, but …” and here’s where it usually turns out that he’s misunderstood and I’m not heard.

Here is what he said, “Oh, I like it, but did you want it that short? I thought you were growing it out.”

I thought, All these years I’ve worn my hair much shorter and he’s calling this short? I guess he really hated it back then.

What He Said

Instead of offering reassurance that he liked my hair, which is what I wanted, he argued …

“I didn’t want to come home to this.”

“And I didn’t want to talk about your hair. I wanted to go to dinner and have a good time. I think your hair looks fine.”

“Anyhow, why are you making a big deal over your hair now? You’ve worn it a lot shorter and I didn’t care, so why would I say anything now?”

What I Heard

“I don’t care about you or your hair. I wish you’d shut up about all of it.”

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The Undercurrent

Since John prefers to ignore conversations that are unpleasant and I prefer to let him have his way, we both contributed to where we ended up this week.

Sometimes it seems less painful to halt communication. It doesn’t fix anything to ignore what’s seething below the surface, but it does keep us from having to talk about what hurts.

So, instead of healing, we’ve lived for two months with thoughts like I hope she doesn’t bring up her hair again and He hates my hair.

 

 

How To Fix It

First, let me tell you what won’t fix it. I used to tell John what he did wrong, instead of telling him how I felt. Every sentence out of my mouth started with “you.” I had no intention of telling the “enemy,” which is how I’ve labeled him when we’ve fought, anything as intimate as my emotions.

What does fix it is talking about my feelings. The more I share about how I feel, the easier it is to share and even show some emotion. That’s a lot of progress for me since I used to hate crying in front of anyone, especially John.

John concedes he wants to stop his habit since childhood of arguing and defending himself. He wants to get in touch with how he genuinely feels instead of giving into feeling sorry for himself because he thinks it’s unfair that I heard something he didn’t say. He said, “I want to learn to listen to why your feelings are hurt even if I didn’t mean to hurt them. And then I want to talk about how I feel.”

As uncomfortable as it is sometimes, when we talk about our own feelings instead of telling how the other person hurt us, we end up seeing the pain we’re causing each other. These conversations help move us toward what we pray for each night – that we are saner and softer.

What This Has To Do With A Friday Blog Post

I was in bed all day on Thursday, the day I usually post.

I got my hair cut this week. Since we had not resolved “what he said, what I heard” from two months ago, I made myself sick. Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, includes a chart of physical ailments along with their emotional counterparts. I’ve lived by this book for 15 years to keep from getting sick or to figure out why I am. I suffered for 24 hours with a fever (she says it indicates anger), chills (a desire to retreat), aches (longing to be held), and a cough (barking “listen to me”). Yep, every symptom I had fit every emotion I felt.

My day in bed was the culmination of our marriage-long pattern …

I think if John doesn’t want to hear what I have to say, I don’t have the right to say it.

This pattern has nearly ended our relationship. It’s made me sick more times than I’ve realized until now. It’s kept us from feeling emotionally safe and emotionally free. And this week, it’s ruined my Fitbit placement. In other words, this argument was a big deal. And it had nothing to do with my hair.

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I hope untangling our latest argument helps some of you since the first step to changing lifelong patterns is understanding them. The second step is sharing what’s going on with safe people who can help. (Thank you, Jenine, for being safe, loving, and supportive. Thank you to my readers for offering the same. I hope you’ll feel free to share here if you need a place to tell what’s going on.) The third is actually making the changes.

John apologized yesterday afternoon for being hard to talk to and I apologized for not talking anyway. To make up for it, he’s taking my Fitbit to work with him and racking up some steps.

 

In This Together,
Kim

On the side: Joel Carter, I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to use your photography and for brightening Facebook daily with your talent.

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9 responses »

  1. Thank you Kim. It seems you touch our everday lives with the basics of relationship issues. You are boldly going…where few have dared…And we thank you, for as you face those life changing everyday struggles and share in writing it helps not only you, but us too.

  2. I have always said that communication is the.most important part of a relationship, but I don’t think many of us really know how to communicate on that deeper level. It’s something I never truly had before Kevin with anybody ever and I always had that feeling of protecting myself by not letting anyone truly get too close.

    • Sandi, I totally agree. Without communication, there is no relationship. It’s wonderful that you and Kevin can talk without you feeling guarded. That’s how a marriage should be.

      I used to tell the wrong people everything because I needed to talk. I’ve learned it’s best to be quiet and take it slow. Sharing a little bit with the right friends is a lot more valuable than sharing a lot with the wrong friends. I’ve learned a LOT about communication in the last 10 years.

  3. From Facebook ~

    Summer Turner, Jeanie Johnson and 20 others

    Sybil Lee Thank you for revealing yourself
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 26 at 9:01am

    Kim Henson I appreciate the encouragement, Sybil Lee. Each post gets easier to write … I think. smile emoticon
    Like · Reply · Yesterday at 12:58am

    Christy Young I feel like I need to start sending you a check for your counseling services. I know you don’t intend your blog to be that, but they sure do make me think Kim.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 26 at 10:51am

    Kim Henson Hahahaha, Christy Young. They’re actually counseling sessions for ME! So, I should probably send you money. Thank you! heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 1:00am · Edited

    Danielle Lynn Wright This is one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read! Love it
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 26 at 11:14am

    Kim Henson You’re sweet, Danielle Lynn Wright. I so appreciate your comment and your friendship. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · Yesterday at 1:00am

    Donna Feddick Fagerstrom Thank you for being genuine, real & transparent!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · March 27 at 8:38am

    Kim Henson Thank you, Donna Feddick Fagerstrom! It’s easier to write when I have friends like you reading it. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 1:01am · Edited

    Summer Turner You have a knack for authentic sharing.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 1:07am

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Summer Turner. You have a knack for bringing that out in people. heart emoticon I’ve gotten a little behind between being sick and going out of town. I hope to catch up before the teleconference. smile emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 1:24am

  4. From Facebook ~

    Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, Pamela Patterson and 3 others

    Mandy Pate It’s not about the hair…so true! Arguments are rarely about the surface issues. When you think back on them, you wonder why you argued about something that later seemed like such a small thing. It really is about the feelings. Thank you for sharing this perspective.
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · March 26 at 8:01am

    S. Kim Henson Thanks so much, Mandy Pate. heart emoticon I forget it’s about the feelings sometimes and we argue in circles. I do this because feelings can be so painful, but unless I get to the bottom of them, nothing ever gets resolved.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 15 hrs

    Rebecca Barnes-Hogg Great post, Kim. Oh, that Fitbit – staying on top is hard to do. smile emoticon
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · March 26 at 8:14am

    S. Kim Henson Thanks, Rebecca Barnes-Hogg. I sure is. smile emoticon
    Like · Reply · 15 hrs

    Mary McKerihan Wilson Kim, again, I admire your honesty and the way you put yourself out there as you describe your reactions and emotions. One question I have: does John read your posts and how does he react to them? I ask because I’ve been reluctant to write about some ongoing things in my own relationship because I’m sure Rich would not be happy about the honesty, nor would his family.
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · 21 hrs

    S. Kim Henson As always, thanks for reading and commenting, Mary McKerihan Wilson. heart emoticon John reads everything I put online before I post it. He’s my editor. We decided a couple of years ago (long before I was brave enough to write any of this) that if our brokeness co…See More
    Like · Reply · 1 · 15 hrs · Edited

  5. Pingback: Listening to Understand | S. Kim Henson ~ Getting Your Own Life while Loving the People in It.

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