Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you are spending it with someone that you love. Make sure to tell those people how important they are to you.
Alrighty, so on to the topic at hand: love, relationships, and all that good stuff. And happy news, this post today is applicable to everyone in all kinds of relationships. In fact, I think today’s advice, while super helpful in my marriage, was also surprising beneficial as a teacher.
Read on, friends, read on.
Today’s advice: Speak up. Express what you are feeling. Shoot straight with people. Tell people when you are upset.
It helps so much.
Let me tell you a story. When Michael and I were dating I’d get upset with occasionally. He’d hurt my feelings or do something that made me angry. But in my immature, passive-aggressive head, I wouldn’t tell him I was upset. I’d act all ill and childish and wait for him to ask what was wrong. Because I wanted him to have to realize something was wrong and ask about it. I wanted a fight. I wanted to let him know he hurt me, but by golly I wasn’t going to make the first move. And then when he wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t ask, then I’d get even madder. And it would fester and fester until I just blew up.
Later I found out that most of the time he did know that I was upset, but he didn’t know why and didn’t want to ask because he didn’t want to fight.
Bad news people. Not my finest moment.
It took me quite a few years, and I still mess up today, but I have gotten a lot better. I’ve learned that if I tell him immediately when my feelings are hurt or something is bothering me then he realizes it, apologizes, and we are able to move on. No days of silent treatment or anger.
It’s so refreshing.
It wasn’t easy at first. That went against my very nature. But trust me, it helps so much.
So for example, in case you’re a little fuzzy, let’s say that Michael comes in the kitchen and makes an offhand remark like “another spoonful of peanut butter?”. He means nothing by it and is just joking around, but because I’m slightly self-conscious about weight and body image I perceive that comment as him making a jab at how much food I’m eating or trying to sneak. That comment feels unloving to me.
Option #1: Get angry. Feel bad about myself. Give him the cold shoulder and silent treatment. Ignore him. Wait for him to ask what’s wrong. He doesn’t so get even madder. Cry. Yell.
Option #2: I say, “Hey, when you comment on my food like that it makes me feel like you’re trying to catch me or that you’re saying I’m a pig. Could you say ‘are you enjoying that peanut butter?’ instead?”. He says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to sound like that and I didn’t mean to make you feel that way.” Crisis averted. Life continues smoothly.
I can’t even tell you how much just speaking up and saying “that hurt my feelings” or “I wish you hadn’t said/done that”, getting it out in the open, and then being able to move on has improved our relationship. Not that we fought a lot before, but now it’s even less because we deal with the problem immediately and move past it quickly.
I had a similar experience when I was teaching. I hated. And I mean HATED making parent phone calls, especially when the child was misbehaving. I would put it off and put it off and put it off, not wanting to deal with the possible anger from the parent, telling myself I should be able to deal with problem myself.
But during my last year of teaching (in a classroom), that changed. This was right before we moved to Bowling Green. I knew we were going to move, but since Michael hadn’t gotten an official job offer, we weren’t going to put in our two weeks notice or anything. So I started the school year as normal, teaching my classes. But since I knew that I wouldn’t be there much longer I guess I wasn’t afraid of talking to the parents (if they hated me, I’d be gone soon and not have to deal with them anyway). And knowing that I only had a few weeks with the kids made me feel like I had nothing to lose, I wasn’t about to let them goof off and make my life miserable.
So I got a little aggressive and started making phone calls pretty quickly after I had issues with kids. And instead of mincing words, I was much more straightforward. And you know what, it really helped! Most of the parents were very receptive and eager to get their kid on track. In the short time I was there, I was able to see quite a few behavior improvements in my kids. Then I wondered why I hadn’t done that my first two years of teaching! If only I’d know that it was that easy – deal with the problem straight on, don’t let if fester, and say flat out what was bothering me.
The same is true in friendships. There have been times that a friend has done something minor, but rather than just telling them “I didn’t like it when you ____” or “I really wish you would _____”, I would let it fester and fester until every.little.thing they did made me want to scream. If I had just spoken up it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal and we could move on.
Now I should tell you, I’m naturally not a confrontational person. And the situations I described were not easy for me to do, but as I deal with things immediately and see the results, it gets a little easier each time.
That’s not to say I’m great at it. In fact, I pretty much stink at telling colleagues or friends when they’ve done something that bothers me. I know that logically, as long as I talk to them in a tactful and kind manner, they will probably be receptive. If they aren’t (and I’ve been Christ-like), then the issue is with them, not me. But something still holds me back and I just can’t bring myself to say the things I want to say.
I know it can only improve my relationships, and yet it’s still hard. But I’m working on it.
So there you go, deep thoughts from Caitlin on this lovely Valentine’s day.
But seriously, give it a try. Try telling someone when they upset you rather than bottling it up. I bet it will go better than you expect.
Oh and in the spirit of Valentine’s, let me just say that I love you. I love my readers! Without you, this would just be me talking to myself…and isn’t that a sign of insanity? So, yep, thanks for keeping me sane!