Episode 10 Reality check
I love college football (Hello ROLL TIDE) and one of the funner things in the build up to Saturday football is watching Lee Corso on College Game day let other people state their case about a football team and why they will win. The longer the commentator pontificates their position the greater Lee’s agreeability swells, just when you think Lee is onboard with the position stated, the fellow commentator gleans with pride in being right AND THEN, Lee uses one of my favorite phrases “NOT SO FAST”!!! Well, if you couldn’t pick up on the direction we are going based on the name of this blog and the story so eloquently espoused; just when I thought I was so right about my wife and her tank being full, the voice of Lee Corso yet again smashes an angry rhythm on my ear drums as he shouts “NOT SO FAST”!
Please allow me to confess in the manliest way possible, I WAS WRONG… Ok, to be completely authentic I was right before I was wrong. How so you may be asking? Allow me to blather about and present the details. I will be open and honest here, like I’ve said in the past many a-time, just because a man has a marriage podcast in no way means said man now has a magical unicorn to settle the scores on his behalf should a bit of contention arise. Seemingly, a podcast, like life, does give one the ability to hide from the truth if things don’t turn out as one would have hoped, or simply change the subject and press on. Like our buddy Lee said though; NOT SO FAST! I didn’t sign up to be mediocre I signed up to be authentic and that is exactly what you are going to get, even if I look buffoon-esk in the process.
Early in our marriage counseling with Coach Rita, she gave us some homework. You got to love Coach Rita and her homework. The assignment? Take the love language quiz. Certainly something we will be getting into in some upcoming episodes. To cut to the proverbial chase, my wife had “Quality Time” as her #1 Love language. What is important to understand, simply knowing the names of these Love languages doesn’t mean you can just speak it right away. Easy example: I know the name of the language “Japanese” but I haven’t a clue how to communicate in Japanese. You have to know in the same respect what Quality time looks like to her. As a rookie in the game of communication at that point in time I never took the time to ask her, “hey hunny what does Quality time look like to you?” I just gave her my version.
While I was busy patting myself on the back and giving her my version of Quality Time, I was not speaking her language…if you have followed us thus far you will know one of our common phrases is “You’re not a mind reader”. Neither of us at this point had realized that, so both of us were still running the old operating systems. It came to a head one night when I couldn’t understand why she had a chip on her shoulder. Finally and angrily, or maybe more properly phrased, hurt and frustrated, she said this isn’t what I asked for… A crushing blow to my ego at first. It took me a minute to recall not to take it personal because it’s how she feels. What she really needed was to have Me; face to face, nose to nose, toes to toes and have my undivided attention so she could give me her heart and connect with me. I have my moments, and this was one of them, I adjusted immediately.
So now on to what happened, early in 2018 I had come off of a full year of surgeries; 8 to be exact, that had me under her care for 6-8 weeks at a time. My wife thrives on being needed and I needed her physically more than any time in our marriage. I could not have made it without someone physically assisting me and thank God my wife is such an amazing person. At the end of January, I returned to work and shortly thereafter I was promoted to manage my own location. After a year of being in and out of the hospital and home for weeks on end I jumped right back in to working full time and my wife, who struggles with change had a major speed bump. I was no longer at home all day every day. I was gone for 12 hrs at a time. While we were spending a tremendous amount of time together I felt it to be more of a burden because of how much time and attention I demanded. But for her it was not a burden, it was very fulfilling.
Before my surgeries had begun my wife had developed the habit of being completely engrossed on her phone, most likely developed from the hours she spent with my daughter who has autism and can go days without sleeping. If she doesn’t sleep and it’s your night to sit with her, then you aren’t going to sleep either. It began with facebook, and moved to phone games for her. On my nights I went NETFLIX! After I returned to work the volume of quality time came to a screeching halt, so needless to say neither of us recognized the gap and the vacuum that me going back to work created was demanding to be filled. This could have gone many other ways and I am grateful it didn’t. She began to sink into books. Escaping into a book became her quality time. To compound the frustration, we had recently lost our childcare for date nights. So from quality time a plenty to quality time scarcity to quality time a none we were on a course that most certainly lead to loneliness. I will be the first to admit feeling lonely when you are around the person you love most is certainly one of the ugliest form of loneliness there is in my experience to date.
In my past, I spent a lot of time joking about the things that hurt my feelings. I have certainly found a better way, however in this case I wasn’t using that horrible idea nor was I using any of the tools I had learned. I went back to using a tool that had proven to only make things worse…silence and resentment. Admittedly when I earned my promotion I was commuting and bringing work home with me. After family dinner we would gather around the TV and I would sit with laptop in hand and do work as everyone was immersed in the TV. This was me now not being present in the moment. I had negotiated this before it happened with my wife and family based on this new position. This “homework” was to be temporary. Although the negotiations had been successful, the legs of this perfectly negotiated masterpiece fell out from under themselves rather quickly. In other words they agreed but quickly became unhappy with the arrangement. It seemed everyone needed some time to get used to life without dad. Honestly, it was not a great arrangement because they deserved my time intentionally.
Fast forward to a last minute trip to Idaho and this sets the stage for the aforementioned Reality check. It had become our “thing” when we went out of town for a mommy-daddy get away that we would spend the trip talking, filling her tank with quality time. It was on this trip to Idaho that things were noticeably different. I had come accustomed long trips, the talking the sharing the going to the clouds. We would talk deeply about our family and our future. Lately wherever we drove, with the family or just to dinner down the street she was reading, even when we were watching TV, lying in bed, everywhere… she was reading. Surely this long drive would be different, wouldn’t it? No. It was the same. It was like I wasn’t there and she didn’t need me to be. She needed to read.
As I reasoned with myself and worked on how to address it, something I should have done long ago Clearly and effectively, I should have been open and vulnerable enough to bring it up straight away. I didn’t. Obviously it became a case of the “shoulda coulda woulda’s” and this is a very dependable way to screw things up. I had a good 12hrs on the way there to talk myself out of what I was seeing, what I truly knew about my most favorite person on the planet. Again, I DID NOT SPEAK UP and simply ask her.
So I set out on the way home from Idaho in order to justify the idea that her Quality time tank was full and I could go about my merry way doing what I wanted to do (listen to podcasts or an audio book). My tests proved correct so I shared my victory on the podcast, even though I had to bypass how well I knew my wife. Once back home the reading continued and my frustration returned with a high level of intensity. Needless to say, the changes were so disappointing to her with me returning to work I was largely replaced with books. Her tanks were full in some sense, they simply weren’t being filled by me. There was also the classic case of “well I thought this and you thought that”, for instance even though I changed immediately with my work at home process upon request and she was so entangled in books and life that she hadn’t taken time to notice. Our loneliness continued to simmer until my need to know what and why bubbled over at about 1am one morning when I couldn’t sleep and had to get something off my chest. A very valuable lesson came from this experience; addressing these things in the moment (or when you have your dedicated times for hard talks) and not letting them build up to eruption status. It is times like these that call me to remind my wife of the agreement we made with our marriage so it’s a reminder of her own words and her heart for loving me that will open her heart for true connection and mending. I bring this up simply because on numerous occasions I engaged her about the very issue we were now going through and her response was “I am ok”. I knew better, but didn’t have the key words to bring the truth to the surface. This is a lesson I do not want to have to learn again. I will take a moment of difficulty over months of pain and regret any day. I will attend intentionally to my wife’s heart and her needs with unrelenting tenacity and consistency and ensure her tanks are full. If she reads this I feel it important I say “My whole life, you and no other”.
The moral of this story if there be one at all, don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong even if you were right before you were wrong. Use the tools we have so neatly passed along to ensure your communication and both your needs are being met, trust me distances that can be hard to mend when left unaddressed.