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!
This Dare was going to be easy–I thought. It’s about communication—how we talk about and to our husbands.
I don’t talk badly about my husband—even if he isn’t around to overhear. I was glad that wasn’t something I needed to work on. I’ve even been making an effort to talk positively about him to others.
However, I have a tendency to speak disrespectfully to him when we disagree or have a misunderstanding. He’s mentioned it many times to me. So I wasn’t too excited about one of the tasks in this Dare, which is to ask my husband if he ever feels diminished by me and the way I communicate with him. I expected to have him either a) deflect the question and not really answer it to avoid hurting my feelings, or b) tell me very clearly that I do, indeed, disrespect him and make him feel diminished in my communication with him.
I was surprised at his response: “Diminished? No. Sometimes I feel frustrated by the way you communicate, like yesterday when I asked you about the bank stuff and you repeated what you’d said instead of giving me new information.”
When I was a relatively new academic, I enjoyed Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. My main take-away was this: men use language to establish or maintain hierarchy and to exchange information. Women, however, use language to establish or maintain relationships. My husband usually wants me to get to the point of start with the new information (so he can tune out the rest of what I have to say?)
It’s good that my husband doesn’t think my communication diminishes him—but it does frustrate him. So, even though the point of this Dare is about being encouraging and uplifting as we communicate about and to our husbands, I’m stuck: I know my husband is frustrated by how I communicate—so the respectful thing would be to communicate his way instead of my way, right? Aargh.
I’m still stuck in the “why do I have to do things his way” frustration. He’s Joe Friday—just the facts, ma’am. My brain doesn’t work that way, with the facts separated from the emotion. So I have to disconnect the facts from the emotion before I can speak? Well, I guess to be fair it also isn’t right for him to have to be the one to extract the facts from the emotion in order to listen. But I don’t want to have to be the one to always do things his way. I cannot let a man dominate me, even my husband. See Dare 2.
God, I can’t pray for change yet. So I guess I’m praying for understanding of why change is needed. I’m just not there.
A bit later…
I had just finished typing the words above when I was sorely tested. My husband had asked me if I could put the food away after dinner. Now, I really hate doing that. And my husband (who had done most of the cooking, so I should have been happy to take care of the leftovers) had made a huge rack of ribs and corn on the cob. We don’t have containers to accommodate the dimensions and amount of these things—so putting the food away was a bit more involved than usual. Because I’m trying to speak only encouraging words and not be argumentative, I agreed (not too kindly–“Well, if you need me to….”).
This part isn’t pretty, but I promised transparency in this process, so here it is. I didn’t want to put the food away, and I found myself resentful. I could feel the resentment in my chest. My breathing was deep and deliberate as I forced myself to stay calm. And my husband was puttering around in the kitchen in the spot where I needed to be so I couldn’t even do the thing he had just asked me to do.
I was working on this Respect Dare blog post, and I found myself thinking, Hey, Big Guy, I’m doing this Respect Dare for you—why can’t you be the one to put the food away? And you know I’m trying not to be argumentative, so you’re probably taking advantage of me. You’re just trying to push to see if I’m serious. I can’t stand this. And after that unexpected and well-executed oral sex I offered—offered to do, not agreed to do at your request—this afternoon—taking nothing for myself, I might add—I’d think you would be grateful and would be wanting to do everything for me. Is that what respect and submission are all about? You get one of your favorite sexual treats, you make food that is impossible to put away so you make me do it, and then you stand in the way. And really, you couldn’t rinse your plate off either? I am not here to be your servant . . .
Yeah. I had about ten minutes of that. Now, one sign of progress is that these words were all internal. He knew I was bothered about something (because I dramatically dropped my head in prayer stance hoping he would get the hint). When he asked me about it a few minutes later, I told him it wasn’t something I wanted to talk about—but I kept my usual martyr tone out of my voice. Actually, by the time he asked me, I was past feeling like a martyr, so maybe that’s progress, too. He gave me some time to finish processing, and I should him what I had written in my journal (the italicized section above). He gave me a hug, kissed me on the forehead, and told me he loved me.
Sigh. Every step I take, there I am, with a mirror held up to my inner ugliness. If I work at suppressing those parts of myself, will there be anything left of me?
Still…I’m also starting to see this: Every step I take, there my husband is, with his love for me held up as a light that shines brighter than the mirror. He’s quite a guy, this husband of mine.
One Week In…
How are you doing, Respect Dare sisters? When you look back at the first week of this process, what have you learned about yourself so far?
Image courtesy of Iamnee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net