Mucking Around

July 26, 2002

My wife and I had a very difficult and important discussion last night. The past 2 months have been extremely stressful for both of us. The cause of my stress is visible and easy to point out, my job situation. The cause of hers is less open and visible. It is nonetheless just as important. The gist of our talk was about the one-sided approach we had been taking during this crisis. Most of the effort was focus on my issues and me. Far less time was devoted to her issues, feelings and needs.

She had the courage to point this out last night. It was done in a way that I could hear, a way that wasn't accusatory, but that was honest and direct. The truth of the situation is that I had let her down in terms of being there for her. She was there for me; even though her fears were running strong and high. It wasn't fair that I wasn't being there for her. What was key to this discussion was her ability to present her side without attacking me, with out trying to make me feel bad about what had happened. What had happened was just the truth. It wasn't pleasant, it didn't feel good to either of us in the light of hindsight, but it also wasn't something I needed to be beat up with, by her or by myself.

The other key to success here was my ability to hear the truth about myself, even when that truth wasn't pretty. I have worked long and hard to be in a place where I can hear the truth about myself without needing to defend it or justify it. The truth isn't good or bad, it just is the truth. I wasn't being there for her, and I was asking her to deal with more and more of my stress by not dealing with it openly and honestly.

Before you think this was a one-sided exposure of the truth, she owned that she hadn't been as forthcoming in expressing her needs and fears during the recent ordeal. She took responsibility for the actions and inaction she brought to the situation.

Because we each have the trust in the other to be supportive of our process and the knowledge that it is okay to be frail humans in their eyes, we are able to expose our deeper feelings openly and without reservation. It has taken a long time to build this level of trust, and it takes continuing work to keep that trust in place. Exposing your deepest self is at once liberating and terrifying. It takes a leap of faith to jump into that breach, faith in yourself to be true and honest no matter how hard it is in the moment. It takes belief in your partner that they are going to be supportive.

It takes passion about your self, as much to match the passion you have for your partner. If you fight for yourself and listen to your true needs, and if you express those needs openly and honestly then you can expect your partner to do the same. If you don't do for yourself then you have no right to expect them to do for you. A true healthy relationship has balance. Not just between the two people involved, but within each of them.

When I first met my wife I didn't listen to myself, and consequently I couldn't hear others either. Now I actively listen to myself, and I am more able to hear others. I am passionate about my wife and about my relationship with her. I am also passionate about myself and my relationship with myself.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.