I had a personal epiphany the other evening.
Luffy and I were cleaning the kitchen after the dumpling had gone to bed. He was unloading the dishwasher, asking me why I had closed a flip-down lid on the silverware basket. As I was answering, a knife got stuck in it and the whole thing pulled away from the basket. As I put it back into place, I joked that he had manhandled it. And, all of a sudden, Luffy was mad. He had even clarified first, if I meant me or him, but I was oblivious and replied him. After it was clear that he was mad, I tried explaining that I had been teasing him, but it didn’t matter.
In the immediate aftermath, I admit to being hurt and mystified. WTH? It was a joke! I was teasing! He’s just using me as an outlet for stress, I told myself. After he had cooled off a bit, he explained that he had been doing his best to help and then I had criticized him.
Now you guys, I swear I had been teasing. Not the thing where you just say you were joking because you realize afterwards that it was cruel/mean/insensitive. I was truly joking. It was a flap attachment on the dishwasher, a flimsy thing that reattached in fifteen seconds and that we never use anyway. And my husband’s mind immediately went to criticism. I was completely caught off guard and even more hurt to think that I couldn’t even make a joke without him misinterpreting it.
However, that epiphany struck and I could see the other side clearly. You know how, in an argument, you always think you’re in the right. Whenever we have a disagreement, I had been thinking of all the things I’d been doing right, rather than trying to get better at the things I’m not. One such behavior was suddenly crystal clear: I have a tendency to be critical and a bit passive aggressive. Probably the worst thing is that I sneer and get snippy without realizing that I’ve done it. I hate that. I hate that I can’t have a productive discussion about an issue before I let it undermine the best of me. And that’s brought us to the point where my husband expects to be criticized, not teased. And I hate that too.
I’ve been reflecting on myself over the past couple of days and though there are probably many things I should be working on, I think I’ve identified two issues to work on first:
Issue 1: My facial expressions. This is gonna be a hard one. Luffy mentioned that my tone of voice and facial expressions from the other night didn’t convey a joke. They said criticism. In my self-review, I think I can see what’s going on. I have a very expressive face and it’s outing me at certain times. I can picture it clearly in my mind’s eye: I want to be ok with whatever is going on, though my mind says NO! so my eyebrows go up, my forehead tightens, my face tilts down as my eyes look up. A condescending look. My words say sure, that’s fine but my tone of voice says never, and I am annoyed at this whole discussion. And the worst part is that I often do it without noticing. It’s going to be very hard to change this, but I’ll start with baby steps. First step is identifying when I’m doing it. This is probably going to be in hindsight at the start, so along with step one comes sucking it up and apologizing to Luffy each and every time. Hopefully, over time, I’ll be able to identify it as it’s happening and then (with even more time) stop doing it all together.
Issue 2: Being right. Man, I hate this one, this hang-up. I like being right. I like doing things correctly, the first time. I just really, really like being really, really good at whatever I’m doing. And when I’m not “right” I shut down, get defensive. But I need to let go of this, especially when it comes to my son and my husband. Luffy and I are a team. There’s not really a right or wrong way to raise a child. There is no scoreboard in our house that says Belle: 0, Luffy: 1. I’m not even sure how to go about correcting this, other than to acknowledge the feeling each time it rears its head and then reject it, move it aside to face the issue without raising my hackles.
Anyway, I’ve got some personal growing to do. I’m writing all of this out so it’s here, in black and white. And I can come back and read about that time I made Luffy feel so rejected even though I had been trying to tease him. Man that feeling sucked.