Over the years since I first read “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love,” I have often used this week’s strategy, jumping forward mentally in order to look back and determine whether an issue is really a major one in the long run. Unfortunately, I’ve found that even when I take the time to recognize that what I am upset about isn’t a big deal in the long run, that’s not always enough to convince me to let go of the irritation. Sometimes I just want to fight.
Becoming a parent has provided me with many chances to practice putting the present into perspective while dealing with my husband. We have twice, three times, four times the number of decisions to try to degree on. We are both under a large amount of stress from sleepless nights and diaper blowouts and baby crying fits. I often end up having this conversation with myself:
Better self: “You know, this really isn’t that big of a deal in the long run.”
Stressed self: “I don’t care! I’m upset!”
As I consider this internal conflict, I suspect that one of the best ways to deal with this resistance is to simply acknowledge it to myself and my husband, and then disengage from the situation until I cool off and am able to return to being my better self. I’ve done this a few times, and it sounds something like this, “Dear, I know this isn’t really a big deal, but I’m feeling stressed and tempted to blow it out of proportion, so I’m going to take a little time to get back in a healthy mindset. I’d be happy to talk about it more once I’m feeling more positive.” On occasion, I also find myself saying a variation of this about my husband when I sense that he is responding dramatically due to stress. If said with gentleness and compassion, it can be quite helpful.
Obviously, I don’t always respond that calmly, but that’s what I’m working toward. It is extremely difficult to deal with an issue in a healthy way when you are feeling so emotional that shifting perspective isn’t working, and that is the time to take as long as you need, calm down, and regroup. There is no point in going into or continuing a discussion when one or both of you is upset enough that nothing positive is going to come out of the discussion.