It’s a frequent miscommunication, one written about many times: one spouse just wants to vent their frustrations, and the other hears it as “please fix my problem.” It’s most common that the women are former and the men latter, but I’ve heard of the situation reversed; it all depends on personality.
Jon and I can sometimes fall into this trap as well. It starts off very sweet: Jon would like to be able to solve my problems for me. That’s something we’d all like to do for the people that we love. But because that’s impossible, it’s important that we support our loved ones when they go through rough times. Sometimes it means that we can’t do anything but offer support.
Both parties just end up getting frustrated with the “fix it” attitude. My husband is frustrated because there’s nothing he can do, and I’m frustrated because he’s feeling discouraged when all I wanted for him was to listen to my venting, or for him to console me.
The “fix it” attitude is exaggerated in my situation because my husband is an engineer. Finding solutions to problems is just how they work, and it’s an impulse that can be hard to turn off. Let me share a positive example.
The other day my husband and I were eating lunch, and I commented on how nice it would be if we had a clothesline. I was doing laundry and it was a warm sunny day: perfect for drying clothes outside. It seemed wasteful to keep running the dryer when the sun could do the work for me.
After lunch I went back to my work and my husband went puttering around, or so I thought. When I looked up from my work I saw that he was messing with something outside. I asked what he was up to, and he replied, “I’m building a clothesline.” Sure enough, within an hour I had a serviceable clothesline, just in time to dry the last load of laundry.
In cases like these it’s wonderful living with someone who has the knowledge, skills, and motivation to solve a problem, or at least, help procure a necessary item. Other times, however, there’s just nothing for Jon to fix. I don’t necessarily want him to try anyway, but he reacts as if I asked him to.
Maybe it’s because I’ve only ever been with Jonathan, that I think we have a particular problem with the “fix it” mentality. I’ve read enough to know it’s not an unusual problem, and yet I think having an engineer in the mix can exacerbate things.
The important thing to remember is to keep the lines of communication open, and not to let anger take hold. It’s healthy for us just to need to vent sometimes, but I need to watch how much I complain, knowing how Jon is going to take it. If I don’t seriously need the support, maybe I should work to keep my attitude more positive. And I need to remind him patiently that I just want him to console me, and tell him how I want to do that. With these steps we can move past the problem, and I get to keep my fix-it engineer for when we need real solutions around the house.
*(The above image by Keattikorn is from freedigitalphotos.net).