My poor, poor husband.
As I was marching indignantly towards him, hackles raised, ready to hurl my self-righteous accusation that he had imposed such a harsh punishment on my LIFE by forgetting that we had TWO garbage bags to put out after Christmas and not just the ONE that he put out, I had a sudden realization.
I was being a complete jerk.
What was I going to accomplish, exactly, by telling him? Especially in the tone I was planning to use, which was harsh enough to express my displeasure and probably scare the dogs.
I thought - if I tell him this, can he fix it? Well, no. The garbage truck has already gone by. Will this make him remember for next time? Maybe, but at what cost?
If I accuse him of being forgetful, negligent, or not caring, (which were my automatic, unfair assumptions as to why this happened) what would that do? Well, if he has a trusting, open relationship with me, he will feel ashamed and hurt.
If he has a bad relationship with me, it will simply make him more closed off because no one wants to consistently be shamed or belittled by another person.
So as I'm marching towards him like your average mom-that-wants-to-speak-to-the-manager, this was all in my head. I knew exactly what I was about to do and yet I couldn't (or didn't want to) control it. In that moment, I wanted to throw something. I wanted to lash out and belittle him for complicating my life. In retrospect, it was completely illogical! What a silly thing to get upset about!
And I actually did it! I leaned in the doorway where he was doing housework, and said in a dry, accusatory tone, "you know there were TWO garbage bags to put out and you missed one."
I looked at him. He looked me. I looked at him. He looked at me.
"I lifted the other can and it seemed too light to have a bag in it."
*My head basically explodes*
Afterwards, I apologized and I owned what I did. In that moment, because of what I was feeling internally, I made the following mistakes:
-Jumped to conclusions
-Assumed malicious intent
-Took it personally
-Chose to react based on my assumptions, rather than understanding his side
-Sought punishment rather than a solution
-Chose to put my need for revenge above the health of the relationship
-Made a mountain out of a molehill
This is something that happens often in relationships. Many of us tend to lash out to express how badly we're feeling rather than seeking a solution with the help of our partners. Maybe it's because we haven't always been in relationships where our needs are heard and acknowledged. Maybe it's because we have been treated poorly by others, shamed and belittled for innocuous mistakes and made to feel less-than because of normal human errors.
So while that's understandable, it's not very productive, is it?
A primary principle of emotional intelligence is this:
To build healthy relationships, you must never assume malicious intent.
If you assume that they did it to hurt you, not only will that influence you to hurt them back, it'll make it more likely that they actually WILL do other things to make you angry in the future. (If you're being punished for something you didn't do, how long does it take before you're willing to earn that punishment?)
Another lesson here is that self-awareness is vital to a healthy relationship.
A healthy body nurtures a healthy mind, and if you miss out on adequate sleep, nutrition, exercise, and sunlight, you are more likely to be in an irritable, reactive mood. You may perceive minor problems as overwhelming and insulting. You may overreact, and then suffer the consequences of that reaction while adding guilt and shame to the mix.
I could have avoided this whole scenario if I had been aware of how tired I was, and how long it had been since I'd even gone outside. (Maybe I should have been putting the garbage out?)
But hey, I'm glad this happened because it gave me a real moment of insight. That even a person as well-versed in emotional intelligence as I am can see the do-not-go signs and do it anyway, knowing very well how silly the whole thing was.
The moral of the story?
Check yourself before you wreck (your relationship).
Seek solutions rather than punishment.
Go get those naps that you earned.
Take care of yourself so that you have the capacity to be kinder to everyone around you!
Check here periodically for updates from Kelly Mental Health staff.
Check out kellymagazine.ca for recent mental health articles and blog posts.
This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide personal support as an alternative to psychotherapy services. Please note that replies are viewable by the public, and we may take a few days to respond. If you require immediate assistance, please call us during business hours.