Yesterday I woke at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for a business trip into New York City. I was on the bus by 7:30. I skipped both breakfast and my morning coffee, not managing to eat or get a caffeine dose until noon.
By the time I rode the bus back home that afternoon, I was cooked. Fatigue coursed through my body and a migraine turned the right side of my head into a cauldron of pain.
When I walked into the house around 5 pm, the first thing I noticed was the kitchen, and particularly the dirty dishes still on the counter from the night before. I opened the fridge. It was still bare. This had been my husband’s day off from work, yet he’d somehow not found the time to clean up the kitchen nor go to the grocery store.
It was right around this time when my husband informed me that he would be leaving to meet a friend for a nighttime bike ride followed by a beer.
“She still has some homework to do,” he said of our 8 year old.
I felt that familiar anger and resentment brewing. My husband is selling his business. Soon he will be home to be a full-time dad. If you’ve read my memoir Project: Happily Ever After then you know that we’ve tried this before, twice. One time I encouraged my husband to quit a soul-sucking, dead end job. Another time he got laid off and spent roughly two years deciding what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Long story short: me being the sole money earner and him taking care of the house hadn’t quite worked out. Both ventures had resulted in him riding his bike a lot, him going out with his buddies a lot, and him sleeping in a lot.
And you might say I was resentful a lot.
As I stared at those dirty dishes still on the counter, I couldn’t help but think: “Here comes round number 3.”
“Is this your second bike ride of the day?” I asked, trying to sound as if I was just making conversation but not quite masking the anger in my voice.
“No,” he said, sounding both surprised and quite innocent.
“What did you do today?” I asked, again trying to sound as if I was just making conversion, but failing miserably at the task.
“I spent the day getting my car inspected,” he said.
Oh. Now, this wasn’t what I had assumed, was it?
We only have one car right now. The engine blew up on my car a while back. For many weeks, we’ve been sharing his car, which is a very old and persnickety BMW. By persnickety, I mean this: It’s the type of car that is fairly reliable if you ignore the fact that the check engine light is constantly lit, the car doesn’t like to shift into second gear when it’s cold outside, the trunk is either stuck closed or stuck open, the driver’s seat belt sometimes won’t fully recoil or extend, other seat belts don’t work at all, and the battery is constantly being drained by some other issue that I don’t understand, causing my husband to plug his car into an electric outlet every single evening and occasionally causing someone, usually him, to ask people to push his car while he attempts a rolling start.
Getting this car to pass inspection was no minor feat.
You might say I was humbled.
I’d jumped to conclusions, and I’d been wrong.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Can you change some of the details and come up with the same end result—anger or resentment that surfaced over a misunderstanding? When I look back over my marriage, I sure can. Here are three steps that can stop such misplaced resentment from turning into a fight:
- Remind yourself that your past is not your present. People change. They grow. They learn. They adapt. You change, and so does your spouse. Just because your spouse behaved a certain way in the past doesn’t mean your spouse is behaving that way now.
- Seek to understand. Pretend you are a detective or a journalist. Before you cast judgment, gather all the facts. Don’t assume you know why your spouse did or did not do something. Ask.
- Commit your new understanding to memory. I could have beat myself up over jumping to conclusions. I could have felt guilty and allowed myself to stew in all sorts of emotional self-abuse. Instead, however, I decided to learn from the encounter. I told myself, “This is evidence that he’s not the goof-off that you assume him to be. Remember this next time you are tempted to jump to such a conclusion.”
What causes you to jump to conclusions? How do you stop yourself? What advice can you share with others?
About November’s Reader of the Month Sponsor: Maggie Reyes believes living the life you love with the love of your life is possible when you learn to ask powerful questions that shift your thinking and transform your experiences with your spouse. She is a Blogger and Life Coach at Modern Married and posts daily on Facebook here. For strategies on how to kick the holiday overwhelm habit download her free Teleclass “The Gift of Peace” here.
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.