For example: Bob is driving home from work and he is grumpy! For 8 hours he struggled to focus on the big project but every few minutes he was interrupted by clients asking him the most ridiculous questions. He was polite, of course. Bob is very professional. However, the boss is waiting for a report and Bob is going to be late in submitting it. To be honest, Bob thinks that his boss is unreasonable. At times, he thinks that everyone is unreasonable.
So, after Bob frantically puts his report together and submits it, he worries if he made any careless errors. He is already frazzled, but as he gets ready to leave, the phone rings. One of his slowest speaking, most repetitive customers is on the line. Bob winces. "Ouch," he thinks. "This just might put me over the edge."
"Hello,Tom, good to hear from you," Bob lies. Fifteen long, wasted minutes later, Bob is flying out of the office. He can't wait to get home. He calls his wife, Sandy, from his cell as he walks through the parking lot towards his car.
"Ah, peace at last!" Bob says to himself. Bob gets in the car and as he drives, he keeps flipping the channel between loud rock and political analysis. As he nears home, his cell rings. It's his wife. "Dear, it's really too warm in the kitchen, would you mind calling the pizza shop and making an order? You can then pick it up on the way."
Well, Bob tries to be a great husband. So, he calls the pizza shop and before he knows it, he arrives at the pizza shop, parks and enters to pick up the meal. He's greeted by a long lineup. It's really hot in the pizza shop. The woman standing in line next to Bob is wearing a blouse with a plunging neckline. Unfortunately, she reeks of BO. All that Bob can imagine is eating BO flavored pizza.
Eventually, Bob arrives home to his sanctuary. The family is fed, the children are put to sleep, Bob showers to rid himself of the woman's BO, and despite being exhausted or perhaps because of it, he is looking to end the evening making love to his wife.
He gets in bed beside her, turns over to kiss her, but is met with a cold stare. "Huh?" Bob wonders, "I've worked like a dog, made the order for the pizza, which Sally should have done, waited in line with that smelly lady who had the nerve to think she was sexy, came home cheerful, spent time with the children when I wanted to go watch some mindless TV, helped my wife clear the table and what is going on?" Bob is feeling really edgy at the moment. In fact, he is feeling rather self-righteous.
"Sally", Bob says softly with an edge to his voice, "why are you looking at me like this?"
Sally answers, "It's nothing."
Bob knows this isn't going to be good. "No, really Sally. What's up?"
Sally answers, "You only think of yourself."
Bob is trying not to let his frustration and anger go from 0 - 100 in 1 second flat. He's failing. "I only think of myself?" It's a good thing Bob's doctor isn't taking his blood pressure at this moment.
"Earlier this week, you told me that you were going to take me to a movie tonight. You don't even remember, do you?" Sally says.
"Um. I did forget. Sorry, but you know how hard I told you I was working this week. It slipped my mind." Bob figures Sally will understand and they can get to making love.
Not so fast. "I feel like you take me for granted. Last year you forgot our anniversary. Three years before that it was my birthday. And now you expect me to be in the mood? Why? I don't feel loved!" Sally adds.
Bob is livid! "I work like a dog, call the pizza shop because you were too lazy to do so, put all of my emotions aside for you and you have the nerve to say that I am not loving! What about you? I do all of this for you, but you seem to like to go back in time and bring back problems just so that you can keep from making love with me. I think that YOU don't love ME!"
OK. Needless to say, there is frustration and hurt feelings on both sides. But, what happened is that all of Bob's pent up anger was triggered by the day's events.
- powerless at work;
- trapped that he doesn't run a business like his boss does;
- even more powerless that he can't say no to his wife, even though he resents her demands.
- frazzled and thought that she could generate warm feelings for her husband if she knew that he was lovingly making the pizza order for her;
- worried that her husband wasn't so much in love with her and she wanted him to prove his feelings;
- almost distraught, thinking Bob wouldn't remember the movie which was important to her.
So, where are the lies we tell ourselves? They are in being confident that our partner is unreasonable but we are really trying our best. In fact, if we are trying our best, our partner is usually, too.
"I'm so good, but my partner is so-so" is very damaging to a marriage. We are all so-so and we are all very good. The reality of our marriage is separate from our frustrations.
The problem for Bob and Sally is that instead of honestly sharing how they felt, both of them hid their fears from each other. But, more than that, they so buried their feelings that their frustration, fear and anger had a chance to keep on growing below the surface until any excuse was enough to release their negative emotions in all of its' unreasonableness.
Questions for the Bob and Sally in all of us:
- How accepting are you of your partner's frustrations at work and home?
- Do you realize how much your partner wants to be loved by you?
- What can you do to deal with your negative emotions before they grow to colossal proportions?
Sally and Bob love each other very much. Finally really putting forth and sharing what is bothering them, they are able to get past this upset. Next time, if they share and discuss proactively, the hurt and discord can be avoided.
Had Bob and Sally gone off to be on their own, the gap between them would have grown even larger. Future attempts at reconciliation would just get more difficult. The end result could be that both Bob and Sally would end up as a divorce statistic.
It is vital in our marriages that we learn to share our upset and to negotiate mutually satisfying solutions.