Most days these days, I can name a few reasons to be angry at my guy, The Spaniard. Truly. We’ve been through seemingly endless challenges — some self-created and others lobbed at us by an invisible, arbitrary all-star pitcher — and there are many times I’ve asked myself why, oh why, did he not handle x differently? (Read: The way I would have wanted him to.)
In our maturity, we’ve both learned not to go looking for drama. We know it has a way of finding us even when we’re hiding behind things we think will protect us: well-laid plans, a retirement account, historically good health. But drama has a way of slipping in just when you think you’ve closed the door tight. It doesn’t discriminate. This, we now know.
The Spaniard and I don’t have screaming fights. We don’t (anymore) go days on end without speaking. When we do argue, it’s usually because I’m unhappy with something he’s done. Truth be told, he rarely complains I’m not holding up my end of the relationship bargain. That’s either because, a) he’s more open-minded and forgiving, or b) I’m not doing much to derail our happy place. Okay, honestly? It’s a combination. Cross my heart.
Part of our ongoing challenge is we have a blended family. And blended families don’t come with easy-bake directions. They’re messy and raw. And frustratingly chaotic. Add the recent death of the ex-wife to the mix and you can toss the whole Brady Bunch-esque fantasy into the Nutribullet. There’s grief and disillusionment. And anger. And disagreement about whose anger and grief should be prioritized. And whose disillusionment should top the specials board on days that end in the letter y.
So, I know how it feels when the people and circumstances in your life do crazy with unparalleled proficiency and panache. Your only option is to unleash — often onto your fallible partner — a well-deserved mix of rage, inarguable criticisms and the always constructive, cherry-on-top list of why and how you do the whole living and breathing thing in an obviously superior fashion. Sound familiar? But what I want to share with you has changed the way I choose to respond to the crazy. Yes, choose. And not because I’ve found some super special zen place, I haven’t. But I know, in my deepest core, that it’s the most accurate, frustrating, righteousness-negating truth of truths about all disagreements. Whether you’re expressing anger at your spouse, your friend or your child, what you’re really saying, without exception, is this: Stop making me feel this way.
Yep. That’s it.
Stop making me feel sad or lonely or betrayed. Stop negating my feelings. Stop making me feel this out of control. Quit making me feel like I’m needy or demanding. Or crazy jealous. Or that I’m not an effective parent. Stop making me feel like I’m not a priority. Or that I’m not worthy enough or pretty enough or enough enough. Stop. Just stop. Because the more terrible or threatened or scared I feel, the more vicious and fervent the resulting argument will be. Full stop.