You might find yourself becoming angry and wondering if this was really the best time to discuss the issue. Why make such a big deal about something when a reminder would have sufficed? And you probably have an explanation as to why you acted as you did.
So, what are your options?
You could decide to argue. Because you feel hurt, you decide to reciprocate. So, you let your wife know why you are disappointed with her. She gets teary eyed and points out how selfish you are. After all, the agreement you had was supposed to help her feel better. Now, not only did you just confirm her fear that you don’t care, you’re attacking her for sharing with you that she needs you. Before you know it
has become an argument
and then escalated into a shouting match
where you are trading character assassinations.
This nice family time has descended into an unpleasant argument. The hurt generated may last a long time. And, you’ve taught your child how not to have an argument.
Alternatively, you may decide to be quiet and not address what your wife said. This way, you have avoided a messy argument. Furthermore, you figure that you have shown your child how to be dignified in the face of attack.
You are still angry and spend the rest of the day sulking. You still feel as if your wife has unfairly attacked you and your character. In fact, ironically, as you said nothing, her verbal expression continued and become more cutting. She was waiting for reassurance and you didn’t provide it.
What have you taught your child? To sulk and feel self-righteous. They will also see how their mother was left frustrated and not assured. The bonds of love that unite this family seem fragile. The deterioration continues. Your sulking and distance result in a corresponding reaction from your wife. You are moving apart. The risk of one of you being involved in an adulterous relationship down the road has increased as well. Martyrdom is not a healthy path.
How about this? You decide to respond as follows with your beloved (remember, you're beloved to each other?): You tell her that you are glad that she is sharing that you have not fulfilled what you said. Then you explain your reasoning. You finish off by sharing that you want to help your wife and will work on doing so. Most likely, she will respond positively to what has made it difficult for you to carry out your word. You may find that both of you are coming up with ideas and that the mood has lifted. Yes, you may still carry a little residual anger, but that should dissipate rather quickly as your wife is happy, reassured and hopeful.
What have you taught your child? Disagreements and disappointments don’t undermine the love that a couple has. They spur them to meet the challenge and grow beyond it.
Another lesson has been that two people can express disparate points of view with respect. From disagreement to win-win. Neither party had to be degraded. Love reigns supreme because respect and problem solving require responding and not reacting.
A bull reacts to a perceived taunt. A husband should respond to his wife’s jab. She wants his love after all. Men and women are just different in many respects.
If you would like to read more about how character condemnation is what destroys a couple and not the fact that they disagree, check out the Gottman blog.
Please remember to consider 'marriage' as a verb. You will get your exercise as you dodge traps and score points if you instead focus on the goal.