Wife and I got into it a little bit the other night when I made an offhanded comment about something I misconstrued regarding breast pumping. I instinctively (and foolishly) attempted to justify and downplay the comment, but the words were already spoken and could not be taken back…the wound was exposed. Turns out it wasn’t the only thing I’d said in recent memory that had left a bad impression. While my instinct was to externalize the fault, I had to fight off the voice in the back of my mind that wanted me to blurt out something like, “postpartum, postpartum, it’s the change in hormones leading to increased sensitivity.” AKA: it’s not my fault you’re so sensitive. I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut on that one (especially since I was more than likely wrong even if I was right. ya dig?). She is entitled to her feelings regardless and I owe it to her to listen and validate.
One of the many traits I admire so much about my wife is that she is always willing to challenge me and speaks her mind. That’s not to say that I enjoy being shamed or reprimanded, but I do appreciate that nothing ever is bottled up and we never have explosive hostile arguments. Since the wound was already exposed, we continued. The conversation intensified as she reminded me of some other comments I had made lately in the presence of other people that cast her (and our family) in a negative light: Thing 1’s deficiencies, my lack of dude-time, jealousy over other couples’ labor distribution ratios (some of the guys I know get away with SO much!), etc… It was hard to hear it all, but I knew that I had erred but I tried to stage a contextual defense for some of my behaviors.
There was some back and forth as I sought to clarify my reasoning but in the end, I was humbled. The wound was disinfected and clean and we could both heal and move on. Something about behind every great man, there’s usually a great woman?
So what exactly did I learn from this conversation?
1. A reminder: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.” It holds up. Sometimes it’s just better to STFU. What I say and do matter just as much as what I don’t say or do.
2. Sensationalism has consequences. Complaining is easy. Complimenting and praising takes a more mindful approach. Much like the news media’s focus on the most attention-grabbing headlines instead of the less exciting good news…it’s the low hanging fruit. I need to remember that on the whole there’s a lot more positives in my life than low points and not to fall into the negativity trap. Calling attention to the lows, even if making what I think is a humorous observation, isn’t doing anyone any favors.
I’m typically a pretty positive and upbeat person, even when sleep deprived. I’ve had a lot to celebrate lately: a loving and supportive wife who keeps me on my toes and shares in all of these wacky life adventures with a bounce in her step and sharp wit, a charming, inquisitive, playful and vibrant three-year-old, a new daughter who is as peaceful and sweet as anyone could hope, and a stable job doing meaningful work with the flexibility to prioritize family while providing plenty of opportunities to grow professionally. Not to mention the friends and family who are making this journey with us.
Anyway, it was just a reality check. Sarcasm and sensationalism are cheap shots and fade quickly from memory. A waste of verbal space, really. It was a good reminder, if painful to hear at the time, to be truer to my own perspective and positive outlook. Thanks, wifey, for taking me to task. You make me a better husband, father, friend and man.
Up next, a book review: Duct Tape Parenting. Wait, book review? You mean, I have time to read?