We have come a long way, but have a long way to go on how to communicate effectively together. Our marriage counselor recently gave us a tool that, somehow, has been very meaningful to my understanding of what happens when our communications break down, how to stop reacting to each other and really listen.
Neither MC or I came from very nurturing homes. But, MC’s was far less nurturing than mine. Though my father was irresponsible and made horrible choices in terms of supporting our family financially, he was emotionally present for me in many ways. I remember once when I did not get an “A” on a math test. I was exceptionally disappointed in myself. My dad, took me aside and said, “did you try your best?” I told him I had. He said, “That’s good enough for me. You are far too hard on yourself.” I used to hang with him when he would work on cars or go on work trips with him. I had his nurturing, which is probably why I was so devastated when he died at 46 years old. But, also, why I do have an understanding of what nurturing feels like, to think it important to give and receive.
On the other hand, MC will tell this story of when he came in second at the district spelling bee. He was crying and upset, not because he did not win, but because he was afraid of his mom’s reaction. Nothing was ever good enough for her and everything was about image to the rest of the family, the community, etc. . .He was like a fragile display piece, kept pristinely and on a shelf, out-of-reach, only for her to take down and dress, clean and keep pristine as she saw fit. His Dad existed quietly in the background. He was never nurtured and had no idea how to do it, nor why it was important.
Our counselor talks about our three selves. The parent, which can be either nurturing or critical; the adult (or computer), which is processing and communicating information rationally; and the child, which is anger, compliance and passive aggressiveness. She discussed how important it is that we are balanced among the three. It is common to jump back and forth among our three selves in our interactions. When discussing tough topics she wants us to be in adult/computer mode, with the nurturing parent stepping in when needed to offer nurturing and common sense when our partner starts heading into child mode, to pull them back to adult/computer mode. I am not sure I’ve done this theory justice in anyway, shape or form. It is the very beginning of my understanding and so much more work to be done here. But, just to give a little background.
It became clear during this conversation that sometimes when I am asking MC questions, much of what I am really asking him for is some nurturing and reassurance. And, he has been working on learning to give this, not just with me, but to our children too. What I also recognized is that I’ve been withholding nurturing from him since D-day.
I have been afraid to initiate nurturing to MC, to compliment him, reassure him, or even say, “I love you” too much. I’ve withheld initiating this nurturing with him because I saw it as rewarding him for being a selfish prick. I did not think of it as punishing MC, but rather taking my time to see that his actions and words were matching before opening my heart to him in this way. It has been over 32 months since d-day. It is time. I want it to be time. I do not want a parent-child relationship with my husband. But, I do want to be his partner and have a nurturing partnership together. It was just a bit of an eye-opening moment.