The difference between knowing and really knowing, or feeling, something is amazing. I’m the first person to tell others that a key to any relationship, but especially a marriage, is trying to think from the other person’s point of view. It’s absolutely essential in a marriage, because we are spending the rest of our lives living with this person. The more we try to understand how our spouse thinks, the better off we’ll be.
I know this, and yet it’s so hard for me to act on it. For example: once in a while my husband has to work the second shift. I have problems sleeping, so I’m never able to sleep through his late-night returns. Even worse, I often have trouble sleeping because I’m anticipating being woken.
I’m also a worrier. If he gives me a time frame during which to expect him back, I start worrying if he doesn’t return within it. Usually we try to avoid doing so, because I will literally sleep better, but sometimes plans seem solid and sometimes despite that, they change.
The above happened this week. I thought Jon would be back before my bedtime, and he wasn’t. If it’s a normal day, Jon calls if he’s going to be more than an hour late back from work. I knew exactly what happened: things took longer than expected, and Jon didn’t call me because he didn’t want to wake me up.
I knew what Jon was thinking, but I couldn’t stop myself from worrying anyway. My worry soon turned to anger: it was so clear to me what Jon was thinking, so why wasn’t the reverse true to him? If he thought about it, he’d realize (from prior experience and our conversations) that I wouldn’t sleep well, if at all, until he returned, and that I’d worry if he was late. He should have known to call me, because the chances were far greater that I’d be awake than asleep. Even if I was asleep, I’d appreciate him trying to ease my worry anyway.
Of course I called Jonathan once a few hours had passed, and of course I snapped at him. That’s one of the worst things I can do to someone who’s been at work for around 10 hours, whose work clearly hadn’t been going well, and who most likely had a bad day. But I did it, in part to ease my worry and allow myself a chance at sleeping, but also because I wanted him to know how I was feeling. I wanted him to know that I understood what he was thinking, but that I rejected it.
That conversation wasn’t helpful, certainly not held when it was. I could have waited until Jon came home, calmly told him that I appreciated what he’d done, but in the future, to call me if it’s going to be late. I saw things from his point of view, and even if I couldn’t stop myself from calling, I could have at least acknowledged his efforts with kindness, rather than throwing them back in his face with anger.
I’ve gotten a lot better at facing my anxiety, and not acting on it, especially in anger. As this incident proves, I still have a long ways to go. Even though I know it, I should never stop reminding myself to think from Jon’s point of view.
*(The above image by David Castillo Dominici is from freedigitalphotos.net).