I found myself in a unique position over the weekend. A friend of mine had called upset about an argument with her husband. I spent an hour on the phone trying to get her to calm down and hold off on making any drastic moves. About an hour after I hung up with her, I answered the door to find her husband on my doorstep looking for Steve. Steve was gone working on one of the cars so he talked to me instead.
Normally when a couple fights, you only get one side of the story, the side of whoever is venting to you. Since they were both venting to me, I ended up getting both sides of the story. Steve says it was good practice for my eventual career as a marriage therapist once I finish school.
While it was a bit of an awkward experience, it was also enlightening. I saw that one of the main complaints from both of them was the exact same thing. They were upset that their partner was doing something, but oblivious to the fact that they were doing the exact same thing. I also saw that they had two widely different takes on the same issue.
In the end, the advice I gave each of them was the same. Talk to him/her. Let him/her know how you feel without accusing him/her of making you feel that way. I sent him on his way with a bouquet of roses from my flowerbed to soften her up so she would talk to him (she was pretty pissed).
Later that evening. Steve and I were talking about their situation. We both agreed that their habit of making up without actually dealing with the underlying problem is a big part of their problem. We both agreed that their main issue is their communication or, more accurately, their lack of communication.
It's funny how it's so easy to see it in others, but we struggle to see it in ourselves. This mess we had last week could have been avoided if we had just talked to each other. Instead we both kept quiet. I kept quiet because I didn't want to appear needy or feel like I was burdening him when he had so much on his plate already. He kept quiet because he was scared of what my answer might be if he asked me what was wrong.
We're in our third year of DD. You would think that we'd have the communication aspect down pat by now. And yet we don't. When things start getting bumpy, we both fall back into our old patterns of dealing with it. Instead of talking, we both pull back. He acts like everything is okay and I bottle stuff up.
That's not to say that our communication hasn't improved over the last couple years. It has. We talk more than than we ever did before. But I can't help but wonder how long it's going to take before communicating is the first thing we try, rather than the thing we fall back on after our initial coping mechanisms have failed.