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.
An article I was reading the other day said: “Forgiving is not the same as forgetting.” True enough, but I wanted to know what the author thought forgiveness WAS. I never really did get a clear definition. This is not uncommon, actually. A lot of writers find it easier to say what forgiveness is not. Then I asked myself: What about me? Did I have a crystal-clear definition of forgiveness? In fact, No, not nearly clear enough for someone who spends so much time helping people with it!
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.
Jack was getting pans out of the cupboard when Trish walked in. She set the groceries down on the counter, and then turned to give him a kiss. "How was your day?" "Good," said Jack, hugging her. "Nothing too exceptional. The meeting went well. We came up with some good ideas for how we can speed things up with the web project." "Sounds like progress." Then Jack leaned back and looked at Trish. "I'll bet someone else had a REALLY good day," he said, his eyes sparkling.
Does your spouse feel like a "bad kid" because you're overdoing the criticism? Draw on your own parenting wisdom and soften the blow when you need to raise an issue. Yes, it's possible to complain and make your spouse feel loved and accepted at the same time.
Years ago I read about a great way to figure out what your values really are. It's to ask yourself: "What would I tell my kids?" That'll clear up any confusion you have about what you think really fast. It can also show how you may be falling short of your own standards. Similarly, a good yardstick for how well you're treating your spouse is to ask yourself: "Would I do that if we were dating?" Sad, but true, our perspective on what is 'normal' behavior can change quite a bit after we say, "I do." Let's start with the small stuff. What do you do when you come home in the evening?
This month I want to raise a toast to everyone who has stepped up this year to take the tiger by the tail. The particular tiger I’m talking about is a relationship—a love relationship that somewhere along the way became a source of pain instead of a source of joy. You have to call upon a lot of courage to jump into the ring with that tiger. Because there are so many fears you have to go eye to eye with. First, you have to stop telling yourself everything is really fine. You have to take a long, honest look at your own unhappiness. Yes, it really is that bad. A lot of people feel a sense of failure at this point. After all, everyone else seems to be handling this marriage thing O.K. Of course, if you could see inside the people around you, you’d see they look a lot like you, struggling with the same frustrations.
When your partner snaps at you, it can be irresistible to snap back. But stop: this is a pivot point for married couples. You can nip this fight in the bud. The key is to focus on his desires instead of his defenses. If you can talk about desires, chances are you can resolve your issue.
If you've got that cold and distant feeling (I had that), a diminished interest in what your spouse is saying (check), and maybe a diminished interest in even being with your spouse (I didn't get that far) you need to clear the air. You might feel silly about speaking up. But when you get that dose of caring that you need, your feelings thaw and you feel a rush of closeness that is quite wonderful.