Does your brain go on auto-pilot and blame your spouse?
Your relationship communication is influenced by your brain. Here’s a story about how my brain wandered off and began to blame my husband.
Long ago, when I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes, I listed all the ways my husband was failing me: He doesn’t make the bed. He doesn’t talk to me. He doesn’t initiate sex often enough.
I’ve been edgy lately and I feel this list-making return.
But as I look down at my soapy hands, I ask myself if I can change the narrative in my head (this is something I heard myself say to you). Could you list the things you appreciate about David?
Not ready for that.
And it’s OK that I’m not ready. Because I never expect you to be ready if you’re not.
You tell me the truth about these moments, and, when I hear your struggle, I never want to rush you. It’s easy for me to ask about other things, like what’s outside the window above the sink, or what do you feel inside your body?
Instead of forcing myself to be cheerful about David, I borrow from our conversations.
I feel the warmth of the water on my hands. I see the scarlet peonies on my favorite mug. I smile as I spray the counters and lap up that feeling of accomplishment that every dish and surface is now clean.
Do I actually like doing the dishes? I whisper this to myself because it feels controversial. (You’ve said similarly controversial things to me.) How’m I gonna maintain my status as a martyr if I actually enjoy my chores?
Your focus = what you feel
The warm water, red peonies, and tidy counters work on me, and I realize I like my life: even the chores. Maybe especially the chores.
I get to be included in these intimate realizations about your life and you’ve modeled the way for me.
As I realize I’m happy, I feel vulnerable. You and I have laughed about the vulnerability of happiness. Our shared laughter gave me courage. Courage to circle back to my husband.
Maybe I didn’t need to find why he’s to blame for my circumstances. Maybe I could find joy in a pile of dishes (not every time, but maybe I could find it today).
Maybe I could be happy with the life I have in this moment.
Joy hides on the other side of our resistance
I’m able to choose joy because so many times—countless at this point—I’ve sat next to you when you were angry, sad, or overwhelmed and you let me see behind the curtain in your life.
I could feel the joy hiding in your life, and when I wondered about it aloud, you laughed. And your laughter made me laugh. And all of a sudden, we are both overcome by laughter.
It can’t be that simple, we both think. I just need to change my focus?
Suddenly, instead of the litany of ways my husband has failed me, it’s easy for me to find all the ways he enriches my life. He shares a bed with me. He listens to me. I am free to chase after the sex I want.
You remind me I don’t have to LEAP to thinking these things about David. I can trust myself to feel the warmth of the water. To marvel at the teacup that keeps serving up the coffee I adore.
I can trust myself to find happiness where it is genuine. I don’t need to force love.
Rest comes when we stop resisting joy
When I let myself soften into loving those dishes instead of listing all the ways I wish I wasn’t washing them, I often find I love my life just as it is.
Rest comes in many, many packages. Sometimes it’s a good night sleep. Sometimes it’s an extra long shower. And sometimes rest is found by surrendering into what is: the dirty dishes that need to be cleaned.
Thank you for telling me about your life because every time you do, I find a piece of me in your story.
Notice the places and brain spaces where you begin to list all the ways your spouse is to blame.
When you find yourself in the midst of one of those moments, tune into your body. Notice a physical sensation.
Noticing sensual stimulation helps you to choose the present moment because it puts you into your body that is living in this moment.
We tend to blame or find fault when we’re focusing on the future or the past. Invite your attention to the moment unfolding and watch you mood lift when you notice something beautiful right in front of you.
If the warmth of the water doesn’t help you get in touch with a new attitude, listen to this song by Jack Johnson. “One day is only words that we say,” unless you allow yourself to arrive today–in the midst of the dirty dishes–at the life you want to be living “right now.”
If you’d like to understand more about you blame your spouse, and why that blame pollutes your relationship, check out my class: 6 Steps to Better Marriage Communication.