I needed to let it go until morning. Jon lay next to me in bed as daylight dissipated from the window panes. I felt my pulse quicken as he became defensive in his responses to my questions and prodding. Just let it go, I told myself. We can talk about this tomorrow. That would be what a calm, easy-going person would have done.
Of course I couldn’t. It was on. I was ready for battle. The game of who can outwit who with words. The game where we both walk away defeated and unconnected.
I throw out “never” and “always.” Oh no, the words slip out of my mouth. Jon catches them and points out how I am now making a case with exaggeration. I fire back in rebellion with lots of “you” phrases. I even use my finger to point at him while I say “you never leave on time!”
We end our fight in silence. He looks at his phone. I look at mine too. I open my email and write about him in the most obscene language I can muster. I end my note with something about wanting to punch him somewhere. I delete it and roll over in bed.
After feeling angry for a bit, the layers break down and I am sad. So sad for not feeling heard. I force myself to roll over (which I could not do for years) and snuggle into Jon. Not talking of course, because who knows what part of my email might blurt out! He wraps an arm around me. I think we are finally beginning to make amends when his nose snores on my face. I let out a grunt and roll over.
What was our fight about? My blog post “The Conflict of Moving Days” turned into “The Conflict of Talking About the Conflict of Moving Days!” I couldn’t help but notice Jon and I had still not worked that stupid conflict out. We were obviously not to the core of the issue yet.
The day after the fight, Jon and I were able to apologize and talk about it all. It seems Moving Day has a spiral of emotions attached to it that goes far beyond the present day. That day brings up stuff from our childhoods, stuff we haven’t healed in ourselves, and stuff from our early marriage. It is tangled together like two fishing lines. For years we had no idea where to begin unraveling it, so we just cut the line every once in a while and threw it in the garbage until another tangle came along.
We have tried for years to find the source, unravel the mystery a bit before tossing it away. As our awareness has grown, so has our ability to see beyond the mess. Some reoccurring conflicts take more time to heal. I am not sure if we have found all of the sources yet, but at least we have a bit more clarity.
Why We Fight on Moving Day
- Jon sees time as fluid and flexible. I see time as rigid and predictable.
- Jon feels anxious to move somewhere new so he feels comfortable at a slower pace . I feel excited to go somewhere new and pack with gusto.
- Jon feels unappreciated for his efforts. I feel unappreciated for my efforts.
- I distrust Jon’s word when we agree on a time to leave and it becomes past that time.
- I feel trapped, or out of control when we don’t leave at our agreed upon time and I am waiting for Jon to be ready.
- Jon is a night owl and I am a morning person. I forget his brain takes awhile to kick into action and it would be like me packing up to leave at 11pm.
With reflection we could see where some of our frustrations were coming from. I want to be more flexible with time, trust Jon to be a leader, and allow our preparations to be peaceful. We agreed that if Jon sets a time for us to leave then he is going to be true to his word, otherwise the expectation will be to leave when we are organically ready. Oh my, I can already feel myself stretching.
Here are some tools I left in my toolbox the other day while conversing with Jon. Maybe you will be better at remembering to pull them out instead of spewing.
Tools To Use For a Loving Conversation
- Use “I” and feeling words. “I feel frustrated. I feel concerned. I feel angry and unheard.”
- Leave out the accusing “you” and probably the pointy finger too.
- Repeat what your spouse or partner shares. “I hear that you are feeling angry that I..”
- Let them know they are heard by replying “I understand what you are saying”
Progress not perfection.