The first part was easy—John and I agreed we needed a new car. But which car? Again we agreed—this part was not going to be so easy! We have “different perspectives” on this subject, as I am always coaching my clients to say. Given that, not only do you want a good decision, you want a good decision-making process. No leftover scars, no tendrils of resentment creeping into the future, please!
Did your last apology go sideways? Maybe even cause more damage? Soooo frustrating, right? Especially when you feel like your heart’s in the right place and you put yourself out there to try and make things right. Before you decide your partner just wants to punish you and there’s no way to please her (or him), first do an “audit” and see if your apology might suffer from any of these flaws.
I’ve had the coolest mom ever since I was in kindergarten. Kids would stare at her and whisper, “Is THAT your MOM?” Why? For one thing, she was always what used to be called a clotheshorse and what is now called a fashionista. When I was in grade school, she dressed like Goldie Hawn. When I was in junior high, I’m sure I was the only girl trying to convince her mother her hems needed to be lower.
Yesterday I asked some clients how long we say “Happy New Year!” They said probably til the end of January, or almost. That’s a good answer. Another answer is as long as that feeling of shiny new possibilities lasts. You know, that feeling of turning the page. Getting a fresh start. A chance for do-overs. Why not catch the moment before it fades? Decide on one thing about your relationship to let go of for 2015? Just toss it out along with the 2014 calendar! But wait Claire, aren’t you always saying that resentments have to be worked through? And if you try to ignore them they’ll build up and fester? I’m not talking about core relationship issues that you do need to work on together. I’m talking about
“I wanted to tell you I understand now,” said Kristina. “I get all those things you used to say. ‘Hang up your coat! Don’t leave your shoes in the middle of the floor!’” “You mean you understand why I used to nag you all the time?” “Yes. Oh my goodness!” She threw her head back and rolled her eyes. Turns out her boyfriend is giving her some payback. He’s getting on her nerves the way she used to get on mine. Hmmm, maybe I’ll have to admit boyfriends have their uses after all. “There's a shoe rack by the door. It's RIGHT THERE. It's just as easy to put the shoes there. But no-o-o-o, he drops them two feet away, so the hall looks messy. And then after he takes dishes out of the kitchen cupboards, he leaves the doors wide open. WHY?” Kristina was down from school for the weekend and we were chatting at the kitchen table.
It was nice to be home early for a change. Instead of the nightly fire drill, Carolyn felt quite relaxed as she looked through the mail while Tom got dinner started. “What’s this?” she asked. Tom came over to look. “I don’t know,” he said. There was a $15.00 charge on the Bank of America credit card from a merchant neither of them recognized. “I’ll call the 800 number here tomorrow,” said Carolyn, making a note. “And what’s THIS? $360.26?” Her relaxation was slipping away and thoughts of fraud were starting to dance in her head. It was so common these days. Once they had had a $700 charge from Charlie’s Liquor Emporium in the Philippines. Quickly resolved, thank goodness.
A half-hour ago she had presented him with her high school graduation party plans. Everyone, apparently, was going to an after-party that would last til dawn, and then out to breakfast. What Sam almost said was, "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?" What he really said was, "Well, Honey, let's talk about this a little bit." They came up with a compromise that both could live with. Alicia would skip the breakfast and be home by 3:00. She and her best friend would stick together at all times. She also promised to call him if anything at all went wrong, and he in turn promised not to give her a hard time if she did.
“Why is this happening to us?” Kristina moaned, as only a teenager can. “We’re good people. We haven’t done anything wrong!” We’d all been carpooling together for a week while our other car was in the shop getting a couple thousand dollars worth of rehab. Then we found out that this car was also needed work and it was going to cost the same if not more. I laughed. “It doesn’t have anything to do with being good people, Honey. Cars need repairs every so often. Sometimes big repairs.” “I know,” she said, “I was really just joking.” I was trying to take a parent-with-broad-shoulders tone.
I remember when I was young and single, and I listened to older people at work talk about their weekends. It was all about chores! I felt badly for them. I thought they were B-O-R-I-N-G. I was too naïve (or in denial?) to realize they were just in a different life stage—a life stage that lay in store for me, too. And I certainly had no idea what effect that life stage has on sex and romance. But now I know! Workloads, stress, sick kids, unresolved relationship issues—none of these are sexy.
“It’s such a downer,” sighed Donna. “When I pictured being married, I didn’t picture arguing with Kyle about chores all the time.” Donna’s disillusionment is far from unusual. The historian Stephanie Coontz, who has written several books on marriage and the family, says that a husband’s willingness to share housework and child care is the second most important factor in how happily married she is. (The first is being tuned into her emotionally.) But your average couple is still not splitting the housework fairly. According to a recent study at Ohio State University, today’s young men are not doing more much more housework than their fathers did. Given that 47% of women are now working outside the home, what we have is a recipe for resentful, unhappy wives. No wonder so many couples argue about chores.