Choose your battles wisely, and remain steadfast in the face of adversity.
Readership: All; Men in LTR’s;
Here’s another true anecdote to exemplify Pushing the Line (2018 February 27). Click on the link for a description of the dynamics and why it works.
One weekend a couple months ago, my wife and I were having a few drinks at home. After she got tipsy, one of her friends from college started sending her instant messages, telling her how great her own husband was, and how happy she was living in the United States. This chat provoked the standard trivial discontentedness in my wife and aggravated her envy, and she started to recall all the things she didn’t like about our life and marriage. After a while of this conversation, she had worked herself into a fury, and started cursing me. If that weren’t bad enough, she started destroying small items by forcefully throwing them onto the tile floor. One of the items she destroyed was my smartphone – a rather pricey item.
The next morning, I greeted her by saying, “You really had a rollicking good time last night! I’m glad you enjoyed yourself!”
She just gave me a scowl. I said nothing more about the incident. We didn’t talk for most of the day.
A few days later, after she had resumed her normal mood and had forgotten about the incident, I was hanging a new light in the living room. It was a model of a German biplane, similar to an Albatross, so it required some assembly. She was really excited about this, and she asked me, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
I took a deep breath and resolved my will, and said, “Yes, you can get a job and buy me a new smartphone.”
She immediately flew into a rage, and started giving me a lot of noise pollution, blaming me for various things that she had been discontented about. I just continued working on the light and let her talk.
After her lecture died down, I said, “You’re pretty good at changing the subject, but I won’t let this one pass. It’s time you started taking responsibility for your behaviors!”
She resumed her verbal calumny, saying that I spend too much time *blogging*… that I didn’t deserve a phone… that I was “addicted” to my phone…
In response, I got down from the ladder, picked an empty whiskey bottle out of the trash and set it on the table with a firm thud. “Do you want to talk about addictions?” She glared at me and walked out of the room in a huff.
About an hour later, after I finished the mounting bracket and wiring harness, I approached her and said, “Look, I know you’ll never say sorry. So the only way you can redeem yourself without saying sorry is to buy me a new phone.”
She got on her high horse again, and this time, she became very cutting and condescending.
After a few minutes of this, I became angry. I told her, “As long as you keep pointing the finger at me, and refuse to deal with the issue, we will <<<speaking slower and with a guttural emphasis>>> continually be at WAAAR!!! (I emphasized the word “war” with a barbaric, wide-eyed facial expression.) Is that what you want? I’ll break your favorite coffee mug… and your big-screen smartphone… just the same as you did to me!” She lashed out verbally again, and left the room. I went back to working on the light.
To my utter surprise, she came in the room only a few minutes later and calmly said, “I’m sorry. I will get you a new phone.” I gave her an affirming nod of the head, and asked her to help me hold the light in place while I secured the wiring, which is what she had wanted to do when she first asked if she could help. When it was finished, we spent a few minutes gloating while the peace settled into place.
Afterwards, she spent the rest of the day browsing smartphones online, and comparing the features and prices.
At first, she only wanted to buy phones that appealed to her, but not to me (i.e. oversized screens, extensive photographic capabilities, flashy colors…). But I refused all these. Then she suggested buying a phone like this for herself, and giving me her old Sony (which I actually liked). I said, “That’s a wonderful idea… which I might have agreed to under different circumstances. The problem with this idea is that you’re still rewarding yourself for your bad behavior. You’re not thinking of what kind of phone might make me happy.” This statement drew out her empathy, and seemed to humble her. After that, she started to search with more seriousness for smaller, dark colored, masculine-looking phones. Eventually she found a smartphone that was acceptable to me, and we ordered it. I explained that since my need for a phone was much more urgent than her motivation to find a job, then I would have to “loan” her the money to buy the phone. In other words, I insinuated that she was lazy and indebted to me, and that I was being gracious.
Fokker Dreidecker I (replica) – The German triplane used by Manfred von Richthofen, AKA “The Red Baron”.
It’s been almost two months since this incident. During this time, she has encouraged me many times to find a better paying job. But I haven’t responded. Once, I made the comment to the tune of, “I’m pretty happy with the job I have, and you’re not giving me any incentives to change that. Why should I work harder? …just to have more money for you to buy more liquor? Then you get drunk… and treat me like crap… and break a lot of stuff – which costs even more money! Do you really expect me to be enthusiastic about increasing your disposable income? You’ve already destroyed four Sony smartphones – a total price tag of approximately US$2,700!” My key point was that we could save more money and have a better life if she would decide to stop drinking it up. Of course, she wasn’t happy to hear that.
She has been shopping around for a job, but she has turned down all the offers she’s received so far. I think she is intimidated by the responsibilities of regular employment. She really enjoys being a Stay-At-Home-Wife, and in spite of all her complaints and protestations, she really doesn’t want anything to change. I can see how her comfort zone poses a challenge in her personal growth.
Recently she has earned some money doing various odd jobs, including these.
- She started tutoring a 5-year-old boy. (He’s a real handful!)
- We have a friend who is a realtor, and she started to help her advertise properties in exchange for part of her commission.
- With her friend’s help, she started studying how to make investments in real estate.
Overall, I am pleased with what she has been doing. Tutoring that hyperactive boy is teaching her to be more patient and thoughtful. She’s networking with people, and using her time more wisely. I expect that investing in real estate will become a shared enterprise that will lead to our mutual benefit, and take her mind off of her Pygmalion project (me).
Sergeant Alvin C. York, one of the most decorated United States Army soldiers of WW1.
In summary of this incident, I drew a boundary between her thoughts, feelings, and expectations, and my own, and I prodded her until she acknowledged me as an individual having my own thoughts, feelings, and expectations. This distinction raised her awareness of my values and opinions, and increased her regard for my psychological needs. It also bolstered her sense of emotional security, which was (ironically) displayed through her emotional outbursts. She also became aware of how much I improve the quality of her life. Even though it might not be as luxurious as her friend’s life, she was still able to reassess her general state of well-being, and find contentment in what she has. I’m especially pleased that I’ve managed to motivate her to take action, instead of complaining.
From my perspective, she has been more thoughtful and understanding of me, and her behavior has become more respectful and compliant over time. She has grown to be more relaxed and more positive in her discussions with me, and she has shown a greater openness about laughing and playing with me.
All of this has led to a gradual improvement in our relationship. Lately, she has been saying that we are now very happy together.
All because I declared WAR! Imagine that!