The other night, my husband Russ and I were driving home from a dinner party and I was furious at him. You know that feeling when your spouse frustrates you so bad you just want to wring their neck? Yeah, this was one of those times. He had ignored me most of the evening and it felt like I was at the party by myself.
Now, early on in our marriage, this drive home would have been about how Russ messed up, how he ignored me, and I would have expected an apology. Today, I can still be furious, but I take a different approach. One that takes more reflection on what is making me so angry. Yes, this requires more restraint, but Russ has modeled this so well for me I’m motivated to return the favor. Plus, it has helped me become more self-aware of my triggers.
Let me explain this thought process. We now know that the more intense our negative emotion is, like being hurt, frustrated, or angry, it’s more about us versus what our spouse has done or not done. Mr. and Mrs. Mug met right after college and like many people when they saw each other, he was like, “Whoa”, and she was like, “Ooh”. He had a degree and a future and she was, well, look at her, she’s a knockout. When they first started dating and hanging out, they were so careful. Because he’s trying to win her heart and she’s trying to win his affection. They had a few little problems along the way, a couple of bumps in the relationship, but they were just so careful.
And then they got married. About a month into their marriage, they had a problem. They had a bump and stuff came out. And he looked at her and said, “Whoa, where did all that come from?” And she looked at him and said, “I didn’t know you had anger issues.” And he said, “Well, I didn’t have anger issues until you bumped me.” And then they had another problem and another. So she went to see her sister and said, “I didn’t know he was like that.” And he sat around thinking, “Wow, she makes me so mad.” “And if she would just quit bumping me like that maybe I wouldn’t be so mad.” “My wife, she has issues.” And so he says to her, “You know, when we were dating, I didn’t see all this.” “Where’s this coming from?” She says, “Well, every time we get in an argument, you make me act that way.”
Now, here’s what I want you to see. Mr. Mug thinks the reason the blue beads come out of him is because they keep having conflict and she keeps bumping him. Mrs. Mug thinks the reason the pink beads keep coming out of her is because they are having a problem and he keeps bumping her. Here’s the truth. The reason the blue beads come out of Mr. Mug is because that’s what’s in there. And the reason the pink beads come out of Mrs. Mug is because that’s what’s in there. So if we can learn to tie the intensity of our negative emotion to our emotional wounds, fears, or subconscious expectations, instead of our spouse’s actions, we’ll be much happier.
Here’s an example. So as soon as I get really frustrated, the first thing I do is get really mad at him. But the second thing I do is I ask myself why I’m so frustrated. I’m trying to figure out what emotional wound, fear, subconscious expectations he bumped into. I’ve spent time learning one of my biggest triggers is being ignored. It doesn’t take long for me to see the intensity of my reaction is more about me than anything Russ did or didn’t do. Someone else in my position may not even be triggered by the little interaction of the evening because they were enjoying the company. Because I have a soft spot with this emotional wound, it doesn’t take much for Russ to trigger me. Do you see how powerful it is when we recognize the intensity of our own emotions is more about us than something our spouse has done?
As we get better at this it takes a lot of pressure off our spouse. Now, just because I can tie it back to an emotional wound, doesn’t make it go away. It still hurts. But the difference is I’m not blaming Russ anymore. Instead, I’m sharing my hurt, which draws him in to help. He asks how he can make things better and easier next time. Very different output than me demanding an apology from him.
So if you’re frustrated with your spouse, your three days of unhappiness is really not your spouse’s fault. The three days of shutting down is more about what’s inside of you. Your happiness cannot be dependent on another person. You will cause your spouse to end up walking on eggshells so they don’t bump into your wound. Yes, this takes a lot of work and a good bit of self-awareness.
So ladies, if you’re like, “I want to understand this better and practice this concept,” why not join me inside of my Wives Who Thrive Workshop? Simply schedule a call and I’ll explain all the details to you. Remember, to have an extraordinary marriage, be intentional.