Say The %#$* Thing
If you are new to the blog, I usually don't use such harsh language. For some reason, this is the mood I'm in, and I felt like it was helpful to drive home the point. If ampersands and asterisks offend you, please accept my sincerest apologies.
"There is little in a marriage that is so little it is not worth fighting about. You're stuck in a marriage like the two proverbial cats in a barrel, bound by the oath that lasts, in theory, until one or both of you die. That oath is there to make you take the d--- thing seriously. Do you really want the same petty annoyance tormenting you every single day of your marriage, for the decades of its' existence?"
When I shared this with my wife, not because I was trying to tell her anything but just because, she assumed that Jordan Peterson, the author of the quote, must be a real peach to live with. Maybe she's right, I have no idea. But I love the quote for its' honesty and truth.
While there may be some people who, upon every little annoyance, issue, or perceived shortcoming, are willing to, in a marriage, call it out and complain about it. More frequently, I believe, people sit with these annoyances, grow frustrated with their existence, and then, at some future point, blow up about this "little" thing, or perhaps something else entirely, when they can no longer hold it in. And while some of the wording in Peterson's quote may feel strong or pessimistic, or at least make women hope that their husbands don't adopt his particular set of beliefs, he's right.
IF you are going to be in this thing for the long haul, is it fair or healthy or wise for you to sit with something that your spouse does for the next 30 or 40 or 50 years and allow it to get in the way of your relationship? Should you let ANYthing in ANY way muddy the perception that you have about your partner.
Here's a soft example:
My wife really likes her morning cup of coffee. She enjoys coffee, for sure, but in the morning, she is more interested in the utility of it than enjoying the process of drinking her morning cup. For me, I like the ritual of using the french press, pouring it slowly into my cup, and sipping on the warm coffee while reading or writing as the day gets started. I think Jennifer would be happy walking around the house getting ready wheeling around one of those hospital carts with the IV bag hanging off of it full of Bullet Proof coffee if we could work that out.
But that's no big deal. In fact, if we could do that, it might actually solve the "problem" with her coffee drinking. I don't know if it's because of the aggressive pursuit she has regarding the consumption of her coffee, or if she has a really small throat, or extra strong throat muscles, but she is an extremely loud coffee swallower. You can hear her across the room drinking her coffee. It's REALLY loud. And it's not like she's slovenly, or rude, or naturally annoying. For some strange reason, this is just how she drinks her coffee.
I know this is minor in terms of things that spouses can do, but that's really the point. If I choose not to ever say anything, there is a great chance that I let it bother me, and as silly as it sounds, allow it to affect our relationship. Twenty years down the line, I may find myself in the middle of an argument about something else, and blurt out, "...and why can't you drink your *%&# coffee like a normal person?"
So, she knows she drinks coffee loud, and I know she knows, and now we can joke about it.
I'm not advocating that we pick apart every little thing about our spouses that isn't perfect, because then we'd destroy our relationship. But to Peterson's point, isn't our marriage worth taking the time to "argue" about the things that bother us? I think so.
Say the %#$* thing.
When I was in high school, I was dating a girl that I really liked, and the Homecoming Dance was coming up at our high school. This might not surprise you, but the Hendley men are not known for their ability to move their dancing bodies in ways that would encourage anyone to dance with or around them. Also, I embarrass easily. This combination led me to make the decision to attend as few dances as possible in high school. The girl that I was dating knew this, and we even talked about it. "We" decided that we wouldn't go to the dance, and that it was no big deal. Or so I thought...
About a week after "our" decision, she decided that she was going to go to the dance, and I only found that out after some investigative work that did not include her telling me directly until after I'd found out through my research. We talked about it, and it turned out that a good "friend" had asked her to go, and that since I had told her I didn't really want to go, she thought it would be fine to go with him, especially since they were just friends.
You know what I did?
I told her it was totally fine. She should absolutely go with her friend and have a good time. Who was I to keep her from enjoying a nice casual, romantic evening with a friend in which they both dressed up in their best outfits, went to an expensive dinner, and then danced their bodies close to each other late into the evening? That sounded like something she should do, and she should absolutely do it with someone other than me. No problem.
There were a couple of weeks leading up to the dance to really let this marinate, and it didn't get any better for me. I started being a jerk to her, first subtly and then not so. It got to the point when it was very obvious to both of us that I was bothered by something. But what could it possibly be?
"YOU'RE GOING TO THE FREAKING DANCE WITH SOMEONE ELSE!!! I KNOW I SAID I DIDN'T LIKE DANCES, BUT I WOULD'VE TAKEN YOU IF I KNEW YOU WANTED TO GO. I DON'T CARE IF HE'S YOUR "FRIEND", HE'S A GUY, AND WHEN THE SLOW JAMS START PLAYING....WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?
It may have actually gone worse than that. All I know is that I completely exploded, seemingly, all at once and without warning. I think we broke up shortly after. A sad ending to what was a beautiful two month high school romance.
How could this have been avoided?
Say the %#$* thing.
"I know I told you I didn't want to go to the dance, but I would have happily taken you if I knew it was important to you. I know this guy is your friend, but it hurts to see you go out to an evening like this with someone else."
There is no way in the world I had the maturity to speak like this at 18, but you get the idea.
Not long ago I had a meeting with a guy and wanted to share with him about my coaching and some of the curriculum I had created, because I thought there might be some opportunities for us to work together in a way that would be mutually beneficial. I didn't feel like I knew him well enough to just bring it right up, so we made small talk, got to know each other, and had a nice, cordial conversation.
And I never made my ask.
And we aren't working together.
I told myself that I'd done the right thing, and that it wasn't the best time to bring it up, and several other excuses that all added up to me not asking, and us not even having a chance to work together.
"I don't want to be pushy"
"I don't like selling"
"I'm not really sure what to ask"
"What if he thinks I'm being rude?"
....Say the %#$* thing.
A friend of mine recently took a job in which they hired him under one set of circumstances, and then changed those circumstances once the job actually started. It wasn't quite enough to feel as if they'd been completely dishonest, or lacking in integrity (though, one could argue...) it was more like, they changed their minds or decided to take the easier path after the pressures of the job really got going.
My friend now finds himself, due to the constraints, unable to do the job they hired him for to the best of his ability. It is extremely unlikely that he will be able to hit the goals and meet the expectations that were originally laid out for him during the hiring process.
What is he to do? He can gripe and moan about it all throughout the year, to himself, or if he's a real fool, to his co-workers. It's natural to look ahead, notice that you aren't going to be successful (or at least as successful as you'd like) and head off that disappointment early by letting everyone know that it isn't your fault.
He could hold it in, like I did with my high school dance partner, but things that get held have the chance to do significant damage. If we keep it in, it can do damage to our insides, making us bitter, resentful, pessimistic, and a real pain to be around. If we keep it in until we no longer can, then we can end up spewing it out on others, who may be completely innocent, or we may make an absolute fool of ourselves in front of people that don't need to see our foolish selves (for example, our boss) .
He could talk to his boss about it, but that brings up a spine tingling fear to a lot of people. We don't know how they will react, how they will view us, and we believe that they probably won't do anything about it anyway.
In some cases, certainly, we should choose discretion, or silence, or simply dealing with a tough situation without speaking up. We have to discern when those are, but I feel very strongly that more often than not, we use those "reasons" as excuses more than we do as a display of wise restraint. Mostly we are just afraid.
I can say with pretty strong certainty that you have a thing right now that you have been unwilling to say. At work. At home. In your relationships. To yourself. This isn't about being brash, or foolish, or mean. It's about being honest. Failure to say the thing, is often a disservice to both you and the people around you.
Another quote from Jordan Peterson:
Say what you mean so you can find out what you mean. Act out what you say, so you can find out what happens. Then, pay attention.
This is how we learn, grow and adapt. Say your thing, (of course, with respect, but also with truth). Maybe you realize that it's not the right thing for you, or for the moment. Maybe you realize that your thing is more important than you ever knew, because you've finally said it out loud to someone else. There might be some fire in there that you haven't given any oxygen to, that really comes alive when you start speaking it out loud.
It's probably a good thing for my wife to know that she sounds like an elephant with a swollen throat drinking his weekly supply of water when she consumes her morning coffee. Then we can joke about it, we both know we are aware of it, and it becomes something that is not a big deal. Mostly because it's known.
That poor girl from high school deserved to know that I was upset about her going to the dance with another guy, long before I started imploding.
My coaching and curriculum may have been a great service to the guy that I failed to ask.
My friend's boss may have no idea that the decisions he has made are affecting my friend's ability to do his job to his best ability, and therefore, affecting the company.
When you speak your thing, you may give others the courage to do the same. Maybe the people you share with agree with your thing, and become supporters, or encouragers for you. Maybe they point something out that you haven't thought about, that helps you shape your thing into something even better.
Say the %#$* thing.
I hope you will give some consideration to what your thing is, and be willing to start saying the %#$* thing more often. Be honest with yourself and with the people that you work with, live with, and share relationship with.
I'm pulling for you.