Where Logic Meets Love

Learning When to Shut Up

Sunday, March 20, 2011

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Learning When to Shut Up | Faith Permeating Life
First, an update (and an excuse for not posting on Thursday): I went back to work on Thursday -- thanks to the combined* miracle of Theraflu Nighttime Severe Cold & Cough and Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold (thank you Internet reviews!) -- and came home to an incredibly messy apartment due to my being out of commission for a week. Mike was working a double shift and I knew that if I found the mess overwhelming, there's no way he would work up the motivation to get it all clean before we left for our weekend trip. So in 5-minute increments followed by 20-minute breaks, I went from one end of the apartment to the other and got (almost) everything cleaned and my suitcase packed. And then I went to sleep.

This weekend was a reunion of sorts that Mike organized to get his hometown buddies together for the weekend in the town where two of them now live. Most people were able to make it, and between us, his friends, and their significant others there were 11 of us touring the town and seeing the sights. It was a blast -- his friends are great, and the fact that the guys all turn into immature teenagers around each other is hilarious more than anything.

Mike and I don't spend a ton of time together with friends as we don't have many living close to us -- and usually it's me or him one-on-one with a friend -- so this was my first chance to try to follow my commandment of "Hold your tongue." I'm sure Mike will be able to tell me how well I did on this one!

The first way I tried to do this was to avoid making jabs at Mike. I realized that I tend to do this in front of other people both because I'm following cultural models of how women are "supposed" to talk about their husbands, and because I use it as a way to show our closeness -- e.g., you tease people that you have a strong bond with. My goal, in following "There is only love," is not to outrightly criticize Mike when talking to someone else. Sometimes it's hard to find the line between what's criticism and what's just laughing at finding out a similarity with someone else's significant other. For example, sometimes I feel better about things Mike does -- and can laugh about them -- when I find out my best friend's husband does the same things. In this case, when Mike was driving a carful of us, I made a comment to him (as I do when we're alone) to keep his eyes on the road, as he can get really distracted when we're in a new place and there's lots to look at. His friend said that her boyfriend is terrible about always wanting to look around while he's driving, and I said Mike just freaks me out because he tends to look off to the left while he's braking, which I think is the worst possible time to do it. I think I may have made too many comments to him to stop looking around while he was driving, but other than this I think I did better than usual about not constantly teasing him or criticizing him to others. (Again, I'm sure he will tell me otherwise if he disagrees!)

Another way I'm trying to work on holding my tongue is not interrupting too much when Mike is telling a story to someone else. Now, there's a particular Mad About You episode that illustrates how couples tell some stories better together, and I think that's true. I see the day-to-day unfolding of events or get to hear more detailed versions of things that happen to Mike, so sometimes when he's telling an abbreviated version of a story to someone I will realize they're confused because of some detail he left out and will jump in with a quick comment to clear it up. He does the same for me. What I want to avoid doing is trying to wrest control of telling the whole story or interrupt with unnecessarily details. This I probably need more work on.

I realized this weekend that there's another situation where it can be beneficial for me to jump in, but which I probably do too much. This is when Mike and I are talking to one person, there's a pause, and then he starts talking to another person or joins in another group's conversation just as the first person asks him a question like, "Where are you working again?" If I'm sitting right there and Mike has already become engrossed in the other conversation, it can be easier for me to just answer the person's question then for it to go unanswered until such time (if any) that Mike turns his attention back again. About half the time this seems helpful, and the other half of the time Mike immediately turns his attention back and then I'm just talking over him. So I have to figure that one out.

Those are the main areas I've noticed where I need to "hold my tongue" for the benefit of our relationship.

What do you think? Do you do the same things?

*combined not in the sense of taking them together, which would be dangerous, but taking Theraflu Nighttime on Tuesday night, followed by Alka-Seltzer every four hours on Wednesday, then Theraflu again Wednesday night. That did the trick.

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