The Unbroken Woman blog is hosting The Respect Dare. Starting July 10, participants will be using Nina Roesner’s The Respect Dare: 40 Days to a Deeper Connection with God and Your Husband as a guide, posting about their journey. And I will be doing it with you!
Sigh. This is another one that is emotionally draining. I told you I would be dragging you along with me through the whole messy process. I’m a mess again with this one.
I got as far as the title of this chapter (“Me and My Big Mouth”) and was pretty sure I was going to have a hard time with this Dare. I knew Dares 3 and 4 were just too easy. I knew it was a trap.
The main take-away in this Dare is supposed to be this: “Be quick to listen and slow to become angry.”
Um, oops. It looks like I was wrong in Dare 3 about being a good communicator. I failed the whole “quick to listen and slow to anger” thing, too. (Here is proof.) How nice of God to give me an incident to be able to use for this Dare. Ugh.
I realized some things about myself in working through the questions in this chapter.
- Many of our disagreements develop out of my childhood issues.
- One of them is that I hate being the center of attention. (It’s related to FBI surveillance in my neighborhood when I was a child. Seriously.) Anything that might draw attention or get me in trouble initiates a mild anxiety attack. When I was in high school, I wouldn’t even go into a college library because I didn’t belong there and people might notice that I was out of place. Quite frequently, my anxiety about something provokes a reaction in me that my husband then responds to. Then it escalates into a fight when it was really that I am not even able to control a reflexive gasp sometimes.
- When he raises his voice about anything or stands in a certain posture, I feel frightened and threatened. And I respond out of panic and fear.
- I need to be believed and understood. This is probably the source of the greatest number of our disagreements. If I ask a question and he answers, I often follow that up with an explanation of what I was asking or thinking something. He perceives this as a challenge of his intelligence or ability. I perceive it as a way of seeking understanding.
- The only way of avoiding this disagreement is to completely suppress parts of myself that I have no idea how to control. How do I learn to suppress myself?
And the big challenge here is this: “For this entire day, don’t argue with your husband about anything he says, even if you think he is completely wrong.” I can do this about some things.
But here’s what I was feeling in the car after the dance team incident: When my husband started expressing his frustration (aka, chewing me out), I sat quietly and thought about why I had reacted as I had. And he was right in what he was saying to me. So all the way home, I let him chew me out—and even when he was calmer, I still felt like I was being chewed out. I had no response. Tears rolled down my cheeks the entire way home. By the time we got home, I felt like a tiny irrelevant human being who had no business being on this planet. It was a horrible feeling. I can’t even write about it without tears again.
And now I’m being told I have to do this on purpose? Yeah, I’ll be a doormat. I can’t learn self-control if the very process of learning gets the same reaction as not having self-control does. And how is suppressing myself being anything other than a doormat? At this point, the only way I can see that this will benefit my marriage is that it will make my husband happy. But what about me? Doesn’t my happiness matter, too?
I am not enjoying this process at all. I’m tired of having to think about things that hurt. I’m tired of looking in the mirror and seeing a woman who’s screwed up. I’ve worked my whole life to feel confident and competent, and most of the time, I feel like I’ve accomplished that. Doing this makes feel like a hot mess.
Now, I know that this is important in my growth. But knowing that in my mind doesn’t make my heart feel any better.
Half an hour later…
Okay, God, once again, you have my attention. Shortly after I wrote this journal entry, I had to leave to take my daughter to work. Since I am trying to stay ahead on the Respect Dare in order to get blog posts done and be prepared for a couple times I’ll be away from a computer, I decided to start my 24 hours without arguing at my next contact with my husband. On my way home, my husband called. 5:04 pm. Okay. I can do this. He asked me a question about our bank account. He worded his question in a way that I didn’t understand what he was truly asking, so I answered with something that made no sense to him—and as I tried to explain it again, he yelled. I burst into tears (yes, while driving and talking on my cell phone) and wailed, “What is wrong with me that I can’t even make it a whole hour? I’m supposed to go 24 hours without arguing with you as part of the Respect Dare, and I already blew it.”
Now, I’ve mentioned the Respect Dare to my husband. I’ve tried not to make a big deal about it, but he knows I’m doing it. He hasn’t asked me anything about it since I started. I’ve sent him a couple links in case he’s interested, but I’ve left it alone and haven’t asked about it. I figured his response would be something like, “Well, you can start over at 6 or something.”
Instead, here’s what I got: “I know you’re doing that, and I’ve been working to not provoke you because I want it to be easier for you. It’s why I was so upset about the dance team thing. My reaction bothered me as much as yours did. I know it’s hard. We weren’t having a disagreement, and you weren’t arguing with me. I was yelling because I didn’t understand why you weren’t answering the question–but I was the one who wasn’t making sense. You’re fine.” What? You remember that I’m doing this? You’ve been thinking about it? Who are you? Out loud I said, “Oh, you have?” And he proceeded to talk about how my doing this means that he needs to step out and spend some time thinking about what it means to be a spiritual leader. And he’s been reading and studying about that so he could do a good job.
Ladies, this blew me away. I love my husband. He’s a good man. He’s a man of action. He is not naturally reflective. He is not one who studies. Yet my doing this has motivated him to work on what it means to provide spiritual leadership. He is reflecting. He is praying. He is learning. He is trying to support me. He said, “You’re trying to make space for me. I need to step up to the plate to fill it.” Well, how about that?
I’m paying attention now, God.
So, Respect Dare sisters, how are you doing with this process? Have you had any surprises yet?
Image courtesy of Iamnee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net