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
“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.
Everyone gets lazy from time to time. We fall into ruts, often when we're working too hard or dealing with a lot of stress. We go for a long time without bothering to try anything new or get a change of scene. But there's another, less obvious cause of this problem that you might not have thought of. I often say resentment is a sneaky emotion. One of the sneakiest things it does is masquerade as boredom.
What are the hardest moments for you in your relationship? Is it when your husband seems more in love with his devices than with you? Or when your wife seems to take all your long, hard hours at the office for granted? For me, it would have to be when my husband is unhappy with me, for whatever reason. I like to feel wrapped in a nice, warm blanket of approval and admiration. Would adoration be asking too much? And when I look in his eyes and see something very different, it can be painful. When would that be? When he thinks I’m not really listening to him talk about his work, that’s a big one. We have a ‘mixed marriage,’ remember—software programmer/therapist. I have been accused of organizing my calendar or my grocery shopping in my mind while he tells me about his day. Which is not true. I am trying. The truth is I really like having a partner who works in a completely different field. It broadens my world. But when it comes to operating systems, devices, and the cloud, listening and understanding are not always synonymous. So, I’m sure I do look a little glazed sometimes.
It's not that men don't get resentful. They do, of course, but usually not as much and not for as long. Does your husband complain that you have an "elephant memory"? He's right! We remember emotional events from the past better than men do and we replay them in our minds more often. Why is that? It's not that we want to dwell on the negative, as men sometimes think. And it's not just painful events that we remember. We also remember our weddings, our anniversaries and our children's milestones in more vivid detail than our husbands do. In recent years, scientists have discovered that men and women remember differently because of differences in their brains. One explanation is that the amygdala, a key region of the brain involved in emotional response and emotional memory, operates differently in women than it does in men.