When I was 18, I developed a theory about the world, and people in general. I call it my Coffee Table Theory. Here’s how it goes–Part One: If you wake up one morning and stub your foot on the coffee table–you can consider that an accident. The pain will fade and you can go on about your day. If, however, you wake up every day and stub your toe on the coffee table and you do not move the coffee table or change the path you are walking…you are either an idiot or you aren’t really that bothered by the resulting injury.
Part Two: If you do not choose to move the table or change your path, you forfeit the right to complain about the pain.
This theory has never failed me. As a matter of fact, it has kind of reinforced my tendency to confront all problems head-on and as soon as possible. A certain amount of pain is inevitable in life, but the avoidable, self-inflicted kind is frankly, stupid.
As much as this theory works in the world, I have come to realize that it does not, in fact, work very well in marriage. Or at least, not in my marriage. My husband hates conflict. He would rather just let things go, or try to. He hates talking things out unless there is a counselor to referee and he hates it when I yell. This is especially frustrating for me since yelling is always my last resort, and I do my very best to try every other means of communication first. For me, the problem is, sometimes yelling is the only thing that makes him realize anything needs to be addressed or changed.
After three days of rampant miscommunications, unintentional slights and outright awful behavior, I lost it today. Full on fight. Full on yelling. Not pretty.
So I’m challenging myself.
Husband works 10 p.m.-2 a.m. tonight. For the next 12 hours, I am not going to say anything.
I will answer direct questions. I will interact freely with the children, but I will not speak to my husband. Despite what you may be thinking, this is not punishment or the “cold shoulder.” This is the only way I have left that will stop all the fighting.
I genuinely don’t know what else I can do.
I did this once before about a year ago. My communication issues extend to my family, and my mother (who we lived with at the time) and I were fighting all the time. I was exhausted. I cannot seem to figure out how people want me to communicate. Even when I ask, they can’t give me an answer. So, I just stopped.
The fighting stopped.
The hurting stopped. And more than anything, I realized that as stupid and time-consuming and pointless as I find passive-aggressive behavior, it is how most people interact with each other. Since I suck at passive-aggressive, it’s better for everyone if I remain silent.
I think the first virtue is to restrain the tongue; he approaches nearest to the gods knows how to be silent, even though he is in the right. -Cato
This is partially in response to frustration with my husband, but more than anything, this is in response to my own lack of social skills. I have never been well-received. And it has almost always been due to the way I speak. I’m too blunt. I’m too passionate. I’m not thoughtful enough, and I apparently do not say things the way others expect me to. I accept this about myself. I even try to modify my speech to make others more comfortable.
Maybe one day they will return the favor and actually help me understand the way I’m supposed to speak, or think, or be. Because as much as I honestly like myself, I would like me a lot better if I had one person in the world that I could really talk to and be understood.