I’d like to say that I’m a pretty considerate communicator. I’m sure I occasionally tell my husband that he never does a certain thing or that he always does something else, but I would say it is pretty rare. Using these terms in my own mind, however, is much more common. I say things to my husband in my mind that I would never say out loud, and in a way I think that is almost as harmful.
We talked on Tuesday about the dangers of using absolute terms when talking with your partner: always, never, etc. And it’s certainly true that using these words when talking with your partner brings nothing but bad things to your relationship. As I looked this week at how I use absolute terms, though, I realized that absolute terms can be just as hurtful when I use them inside of my own mind. I’m very careful about what I say to my husband when I’m frustrated with him. I know that words can be powerful, and that you can’t take them back once they are said. Still, I’m not always as good at controlling the words that go through my own mind.
Using absolutes in my mind when I think about my husband has some really negative effects. For one thing, it gives me a dramatic and exaggerated view of my husband’s faults. I start to imagine his faults as massive and pervasive, when really he is an excellent husband. My view also becomes more simplistic when I think in this way, and I find myself actually believing that my husband is just some jerk out to make my life miserable and avoid putting in any work on himself or our relationship.
As tempting as these simplistic notions are, they don’t represent real life. My husband is a caring, thoughtful man who does everything he can to make our relationship and our life together as good as possible. He also has faults, just like everyone else does, some of which he knows about and is working on, and some that are in his blind spot.
Now when I find myself thinking in simplistic, absolute terms about my husband, I try to question them. For example, if I catch myself thinking, “He NEVER does the dishes!” I ask myself, “Never?” Usually I can think pretty quickly of examples that counteract the simplistic viewpoint I’ve taken in anger. It’s hard sometimes because it’s just so much easier when I’m angry to view him as a thoughtless jerk and myself as an innocent victim than to look at the reality of the situation, which is much more complex.
I’m nowhere near perfect at catching myself yet. I still villainize my husband in my mind when I’m angry. The beautiful thing about marriage, though, is that I have as long as I need to fully develop this skill. For now, I’m going to keep working toward staying in a more realistic perspective when I get angry, apologize when I slip up and my perspective causes my husband pain, and get right back to trying to do better.