Feeling Irritation in Marriage
Sometimes Larry irritates me with his opinions. Don't remind me that's what attracted me to him over 50 years ago. Shortly after we married his opinionated self began bothering me. I thought his strong opinions would make me feel secure. But I only judged myself stupid and felt irritated.
Now we'll be celebrating our 47th anniversary next month, and I can still fall into the pit of being irritated with his opinions.
Like the other day he instructed me again that I was filling the glass too high that I would then attach to the blender. I'm sure there's a name for the "glass" and if Larry were here he could tell me. But when he told me again I had filled the "glass" too high, I just felt irritated--and stupid--and attached it to the blender anyway and turned it on. I wasn't being spiteful...oh, I guess I was being spiteful...and sending a message that I won't be controlled. hmmmm. That's a new revelation. And he doesn't know everything, even though he thinks he does. hmmmm. That's not a new revelation.
Then Larry spoke up as if a light bulb had erupted in his brain and said, "Would it help if I told you that filling up the glass too much makes it easier to strip the gears of the blender?"
Then the light bulb erupted over my brain, I mean in my brain--but maybe he could see it--and I said, "Oh! Is that the reason you don't want me to fill it to the brim?" I somehow resisted saying, "And why you seem to say I'm stupid?"
A second light bulb erupted over his brain and he replied, "I just thought you knew that. You don't?"
Another light bulb erupted in my brain and I said, "No, I just thought you wanted me to do it your way--the only way on planet earth."
He smiled and said, "No, honey, I'm just trying to avoid ruining the blender." And I thought he should add, "So that we can spend the money instead on a new outfit for you." But he didn't. Oh well, ya can't expect perfection.
So we both had plenty of lightbulbs to dispense and realized how we still are learning to communicate--many, many years along.
When you're trying to communicate, don't assume the other person knows everything you do. (Tweet that!)
Otherwise, you'll have to deal with more irritation, feel stupid, and have the weight of many lightbulbs exploding in your brain.
Book Giveaway: "Dealing with the Elephant in the Room"
I'm so excited to feature and offer a Book Giveaway of the newest book by my friend, Dr. Mike Bechtle. I've known Mike for many years and he is a communication expert who equips us with skills we need to handle conflict. His book gives us practical and productive ways to listen, give/receive genuine feedback, and saturate our relationships with kindness.
I know I need those!!!!
And Mike's writing is always instructive and entertaining. No wonder his book has the title, Dealing with the Elephant in the Room: Moving from Tough Conversations to Healthy Communication.
Here's an excerpt from his book to whet your appetite. Then check below to find out more about possibly winning a copy.
The Elephant Starts Little
by Mike Bechtle
My daughter, Sara, asked me if I could build her a certain piece of furniture. I said, “Of course.” In fact, I gave her a certificate for it for Christmas.
Two years ago.
The problem was that I didn’t know how I was going to build it. I do well with plans but not with making things up. This project didn’t have plans. I would think about how to do it but couldn’t figure it out. So I would set it aside for a couple of weeks, thinking it would percolate in the background and I’d know what to do.
A week or two later, nothing had changed. I wasn’t any closer to a solution. So I kept putting it off week after week, month after month—because I was stumped. When I don’t know how to do something, my default setting is to procrastinate instead of jumping in and tackling it.
Whenever Sara and I would talk, I would carefully avoid the subject. I didn’t want to let her down or appear incompetent. Since we weren’t talking about it, she didn’t know what was happening. I assumed she was either irritated with or disappointed in me. But I never asked, so I never knew for sure. I think I was afraid to ask.
Eventually, I realized the situation had created an unspoken barrier between us. My daughter is one of the people I enjoy talking to the most on the planet, and I want a close, loving relationship with her. But my silence was building an unspoken wall that had been growing for two years.
Once I figured out what was happening, I went to her and told her what I was feeling. I apologized, wanting to do my part to remove the barrier I had created. As we talked, she said, “Yeah, it was the elephant in the room.”
That’s a word picture we’ve all heard and experienced. An elephant is in the room when something obvious is going on and nobody talks about it, and we pretend it’s not there.I pictured the scenario. I’m sitting on one side of the living room, and my daughter is on the other side. We’re peering through the elephant’s legs, trying to make conversation. The elephant smells, and it fills the room. It’s noisy. It’s huge. But we don’t talk about it.
Once we acknowledge it, we think, How in the world did that huge elephant get in this room? It doesn’t even fit through the door!
Sound familiar? Is there anyone in your life with whom you share an elephant—something that everybody knows about but nobody talks about? Nobody wants to say anything, because it will be uncomfortable and people might get upset. The longer the elephant has been there, the harder it is to talk about. But it’s big, and it smells. It gets in the way of genuine relationships taking place.
So how did that huge elephant get into the room?
It came in when it was little.
If we had talked about it when it first entered, we could simply have guided it out through the door. But when we let it stay, it grew and grew and grew. Getting rid of it became a much bigger issue. Once an elephant becomes full-grown, we might need to remove some walls and get professional help to be rid of it.
When I finally acknowledged the elephant with my daughter, she said, “You know, if you had told me you couldn’t figure it out, we could have spent a day working together on it until we knew what to do.” That would have been an awesome day with her. One of our favorite dates is to get coffee at Starbucks and cruise around a hardware store or lumberyard.
I love my daughter. And I love the fact that we got rid of the elephant. She loves the fact that I finished the furniture. And the house doesn’t smell like elephant anymore.
What’s the lesson? Watch for baby elephants in the room.
If you let them stay, they’ll get really, really big.
Doesn't that sound wonderful? Here is the Table of Contents:
Table of Contents
Introduction: How the Elephant Got in the Room
Part 1 The Process of Conversation
1. Elephant Prevention
2. How Conversations Get Tough
3. What People Need
Part 2 Tools for Healthy Conversations
4. Tool #1—You Gotta Learn to Dance (Perspective)
5. Tool #2—Confidence in Communication (Trust)
6. Tool #3—Staying on Your Side of the Checkerboard (Ownership)
7. Tool #4—Your Personal Fuel Station (Emotions)
8. Tool #5—Crock-Pot Relationships (Time)
9. Tool #6—The Value of Everybody (Respect)
Part 3 Skills for Healthy Conversations
10. Skill #1—Make It Safe
11. Skill #2—Eliminate Intimidation
12. Skill #3—Practice Power Listening
13. Skill #4—Encourage Honest Feedback
14. Skill #5—Start with Kindness
15. Skill #6—Know Your Purpose
Part 4 Growing into Connection
16. Relating to Relatives
17. Rust-Free Relationships
18. Redeeming Technology
Here's Mike's bio. You'll notice he mentions me but I didn't pay him to say it. :-)
Mike Bechtle has had writer’s block since 1974. But that hasn’t stopped him from publishing a ton of articles for publications like Writer’s Digest and Entrepreneur, and writing five books on relationships and communication – including
His first book, Evangelism For the Rest of Us was written as a result of Kathy Miller’s friendship, coaching and mentoring on the whole idea of writing for publication. As a consultant for FranklinCovey he has taught over 3,000 corporate seminars on productivity, life balance and communication, coaches corporate executives and holds a doctorate from Arizona State. He shares about living an intentional life on his blog at www.mikebechtle.com.
Thank you, Mike, for sharing with us!
So are you ready to put your name into the drawing to win an autographed copy of Dealing with the Elephant in the Room? Just make any comment on my blog or email me KathyCollardMiller AT gmail DOT com
From the entries, I will choose one winner on Thursday evening at 8pm, May 25, 2017. And announce the winner on my blog the next day. Please check back to see if you won.
Can't wait for the drawing? Buy here:
(Dealing with the Elephant in the Room is a revised and updated version of You Can't Text a Tough Conversation.)
The Reason I Did What I Did
In my last post I wrote about a story about my anger but at the time I didn't know the reason why I did what I did. If you haven't read yet that, you can read it here.
It wasn't until over a decade later that I knew what it was all about. I learned my reaction of anger was a protective device to prevent me from being exposed as a liar, undependable and stupid. Where did this come from?
When I was in third grade, I was Mrs. Leighton's “teacher's pet.” Everyone knew that Mrs. Leighton favored me, and for me, it was like living water for my child's thirsty soul. Mrs. Leighton, for some reason, had chosen me as special and worthy of her special attention. I don't remember exactly how she expressed that, but everyone in the class knew it.
On one particular day, I said something negative and hurtful to someone in class that several students heard. I don't remember what I said, but it was so bad that one or maybe several of the students called Mrs. Leighton over to where we sat. One student spoke up and told her what I'd said. Mrs. Leighton looked at me with concern and asked, “Kathy, did you say that?”
The potential for disappointing Mrs. Leighton, of ruining my good standing before her, of destroying the flow of living water that came from my status as teacher's pet was being threatened right before my eyes. I felt like I was in a vise. The students knew the truth. I knew the truth. I'd said those words. All eyes were on me.
And I choose to protect what seemed like living water. I lied. “No, Mrs. Leighton, I didn't say that.”
Mrs. Leighton smiled her approval and blessing—she even looked triumphant—and turned away. But every eye was on me. They knew the truth. I knew the truth. Not only had I said some bad things, I had lied. I was a liar.
In my heart, I recoiled at the thought that I was a liar. I felt ashamed. Looking back now, I know that I made an unconscious vow: “No one must ever know that I am a liar.” I don't remember thinking those words and I doubt that I did in those exact words. But the result I now see is undeniable. I became dependable.
My “strategy” became dependability. “If I'm dependable, no one will know the horrible truth that I'm a liar. Dependability is the opposite of lying. If you lie, you don't keep your promises and you aren't dependable. But if you are dependable, no one can call you a liar!” Over many years, I honed the skill of dependability. I wore it like a shawl of glory. My most prized compliment was my dependability. My teachers described me in every report card with the affirming words, “Kathy is very dependable and conscientious.” I made sure no one could ever accuse me of lying. My motto—my protection—was in place.
Over the years, I failed at times in being dependable and keeping promises. In those moments, anger reared its ugly head because anger takes the focus off of me and points the finger elsewhere. “Look at what Cherie did to me,” I screamed that day. “Don't look at the possibility that I'm not dependable, look at her. She isn't very smart not to believe the sign up sheet.” I had a knee jerk reaction that I'd made many times over the years, and later wondered, “Why do things like that bother me so much?”
We all do this very same kind of thing in different areas of our lives and wonder, “Why do I do what I do, even when I'm determined not to do it anymore? Even when I pray for God's help, I keep doing it!”
The key is in looking back to see the vows and strategies we made. We can then see how we left out depending upon God and now we can turn our eyes to Jesus and His view of us. It's a process we'll do over and over again. But there is a reason I did what I did. And there's a reason you do what you do. (Tweet that!)
(This is an excerpt from Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today.)
There's a Reason You Do What You Do
There's a reason you do what you do. Let me tell you a story.
I had signed up to take refreshments to our adult Sunday school class. The sign up sheet for that month had been passed the previous month and I'd signed up knowing I would be out of town the week before. But I would return on Saturday so it was no problem to bring the refreshments.
The Saturday I returned from our week's vacation, I listened to the messages on our voice mail. Among them were two messages from Cherie who was in charge of refreshments. The first message said, “Kathy, you are bringing refreshments this coming Sunday to class. Let me know that you can still do that.” In the second message. Cherie said, “Kathy, I haven't heard from you so I'm assuming you can't bring refreshments. I'll get someone else to do it.”
As soon as I heard the second message, I went ballistic. My irritation and anger went sky high as I yelled at Larry, “I keep my promises. How dare she think I would be stupid enough to sign up for something I couldn't do. That is so maddening. I think I'll just bring snacks anyway to show her I keep my promises!”
Larry looked at me as if I were a mad woman. “Kathy, what's the problem? It's no big deal. I don't see why this bothers you so much.”
“No big deal? You've got to be kidding me. Of course, it bothers me; it means she thinks I don't keep my promises; that I'm a liar. It means she thinks I'm stupid or something.” I just kept sputtering the same thing as if it made sense. I was too upset to think through to my core feelings. I just knew that there was something really dangerous going on.
Though I was sorely tempted, I didn't take snacks to class that next morning and it turned out that Cherie wasn't there so I didn't have to deal with my feelings toward her. But as a few days passed, I began to think more clearly about the incident. “Why, indeed, am I so bothered? Why, indeed, is this such a problem?” I didn't know.
In my next post, I'll tell you why I reacted that way.
I Don't Want to Write This But...
I don’t want to write this but I think God wants me to because He’s been bugging me and He keeps bringing it to mind. I don’t want to write about what I wanted when Larry and I were dating. It's embarrassing.
It was an evening when Larry and I were watching television at his house while “babysitting” his elderly grandmother. Larry’s parents were out of town and he was supposed to be there to watch over her. Larry and I had been struggling with the temptations of heavy petting for a while and to tell you the truth, (I hate writing this), I hoped to be alone with Larry at his house.
But his grandmother refused to go to bed. She dozed in her chair and it was well past her bedtime. I knew exactly what she was doing and I hated her for it. I kept thinking, “Please go to bed.” I hesitate to say it but I may have actually been praying, “Please, God, make her go to bed.” Yes, I was a Christian and Larry had led me to the Lord but I still wanted what I wanted.
When it was finally time for me to leave, I left angry. I was angry with Larry’s grandmother for getting in the way of what I craved. I wanted to even say nasty things to her.
Now I want to bless her. I want to kiss her and love her and thank her a thousand times for being God’s vehicle of protection. Of being the “way of escape” Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:13:
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NASB)
I can’t help but ask you and myself: what “way of escape” are we not identifying when we are being tempted? Is God offering you and I a way of escape in our temptation but we can’t identify it or we don’t want to accept it?
That is what was happening when Larry’s grandmother “babysat” us. We were two immature nineteen-year-olds who prayed together for strength to resist yet didn’t want to accept God’s vehicle of help.
I still don’t want to write this but I trust God will use it. He’s good at that. Can you see God's provision of a “way of escape”?