Conflict Resolution

UNFAITHFUL WIFE: Some days are good. Some days are bad. Some days start out good and end up bad. Some days start out bad and end up good. Yesterday was one of those days, at least from my perspective.

My husband seemed tense at breakfast. Nowadays, that is not so out of the ordinary. Every day for him is an emotional war zone riddled with reminders, like landmines, waiting to go off. But after breakfast he opened up. He told me he was having a terrible time, and that he was thinking he should just divorce me. He’d read my latest post.

My husband has every right to divorce me. Even five months in he still has every right to a divorce. It is a little shocking to my ears at this point, but I won’t judge him for it. I don’t think I could do everything that he has done even up to this point. He has been amazing.

So here we are. Sitting on a terrible bed in a terrible room amid the chaos of Delhi. Our clothes are strewn around us, mid-packing. Three days ago we were scammed into paying over $500, and we’re still reeling from it. In fifteen minutes we are supposed to meet our driver downstairs for a tour of Delhi, and at midnight we are headed to the airport to fly to Jordan. After Jordan we’re going to Israel, then Egypt, then Africa. All for stays of about a week. We’ve been traveling nonstop. I’m exhausted, and there is no end in sight. And my husband wants to divorce me. I am in tears. I wish I wasn’t. I hate that I cry so easily. Through all of that, I am trying hard to listen to my husband’s concerns.

He doesn’t understand why I’m still with him. He is concerned that I am just using him. He worries that after this trip I will leave him. He doesn’t understand why people place so much value on fighting. He does not think fighting is a good thing.

It’s good that he is telling me these things. I am grateful that he is sharing. I’m also upset and I’m not sure that we’re making any headway at this particular moment.

“What do you want to do?” I asked him, “I don’t mean do you want to divorce me. You have all the time you need for that, but right now we are supposed to be meeting our driver downstairs. We have a flight to Jordan tonight. We can change any of those things, but I need to know. What do you want to do right now?”

“I want to continue the trip,” he said. So we did.

For the rest of that day, our driver would take us to a monument that we didn’t know anything about. We would get out. Wander around a bit, cry, talk, and argue about the value of conflict. After a few minutes, when our tears had calmed for a moment, we would return to the car. Our driver would take us to the next monument, and the process would be repeated.

After about three monuments it felt like we were making headway. I had learned a lot about how my husband felt about fighting, or conflict, which he has lead me to believe is a better word for what I am describing. I don’t necessarily want to get into a knock-down, drag-out fight with him, but I do think that some conflict is necessary to develop a close relationship. This day was a great example. We spent a majority of the day in conflict, but by the evening I felt closer to my husband than I had in a long time. I felt like I had learned something about him and seen a side of him that most people will never see. I want that in our marriage. Not conflict, specifically, but closeness. I want to feel close to my husband every single day. I’m not sure how to achieve that yet. I’m sure that having a long tearful argument every day is not the way to do it, but I think that is sometimes part of the process.

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Why We Fight

UNFAITHFUL WIFE: We are currently in a program through Affair Recovery that involves a regularly scheduled conference call with other couples who are also recovering from infidelity. Before the call we each do a homework assignment and watch a video in preparation. The most recent lesson was title “Why We Fight.” We couldn’t actually read or watch the lesson because we were in China, and the site was blocked. The gist of it, though, was that fighting is necessary in a relationship. It’s an unpleasantness we have to endure in order to become close. In our case, though, I’m more concerned about why we don’t fight.

My husband and I never fight. Not when we were dating. Not when we were newlyweds. Not now. We just don’t. We are both very independent, introspective, passive people. We are not confrontational in anything, including our relationship. Most of the time, we just don’t have anything to fight about. But sometimes one of us is upset about something and doesn’t bring it up. That is a problem. It’s a problem I’ve been thinking about. I don’t have the answer, but I do have some insights.

I hate fighting with my husband. I don’t mean that in the cutesy way that newlyweds say it like, “I hate when we fight because it’s like I don’t have my best friend.” Nope. I hate fighting with my husband because I always lose. He is a very calm and collected person. Always. Even when he found out that I had cheated on. He didn’t yell or scream or throw things or lose his temper at all. I am not like that. I wouldn’t say that I am overly emotional, but I do tend to get upset when conflict arises. I do cry and raise my voice. I do say things that are completely nonsensical.

The last time we fought was a few months ago. We were in Australia. We had an extra day that we didn’t know what to do with. I suggested we take the ferry out to see the harbor. So we did. We landed at Manly Beach with no idea what to do. I suggested we check out the market that was going on that day. So we did. This all sounds great, right? Well, not for me. This is one of the ongoing struggles we have. I often feel like I am dragging my husband along. Like he doesn’t really want to do any of these things. So, with all of that therapy on my mind, I decided to say something this time.

I told my husband how I was feeling. I realize how mundane that sounds, but it is kind of a new concept for me. Of course I tell him how I’m feeling when big problems come up, but for something small like this, in the past I wouldn’t have said anything. Because it sounds ridiculous.

“Honey, I’m upset because you are going along with everything I suggest doing.”

This is essentially what we spent the day arguing about. If anyone has stupider arguments, I would honestly love to hear them. It would make me feel better about myself.

We wandered around the Manly Beach market talking in stern, sometimes raised voices. I cried. He didn’t cry. In the end, though, I felt like we came to a resolution. He understood what I was saying (even if it was silly), and I understood that he honestly doesn’t have a preference on most things. This is still hard for me to wrap my head around, but I’m trying. In the end I agreed to remember that, and he agreed to make sure to share his opinions on my suggestions, even if they were just tiny inklings of opinions. When we boarded the return ferry to Sydney, I was feeling so much better. We had communicated!

Just before splitting up to use the restrooms at Sydney Harbor, I hugged him and thanked him for listening to me. I told him that I felt closer to him, and that is what I think our group program means when they say that fighting is necessary.

“It’s not fun in the moment,” I said, “but it is necessary to become closer as a couple.”

He responded, “I liked it better when we didn’t fight.”

It was like he had punched me in the gut. Here I was feeling like we were making progress as a couple, when he was feeling like we were better off before. I’m still recovering from that blow. I haven’t started a fight since.

Three Things

UNFAITHFUL WIFE: We started couples therapy immediately after discovery. It was good to feel like we were tackling the problem, and I think that is what my husband needed at the time. I soon realized, though, that I had some issues I needed to work through on my own. My husband agreed that, while he didn’t feel that he needed individual therapy, it was a good idea for me. Of course, we were leaving on our trip in a month so my individual therapy was limited to only a few weeks. Couples therapy may have been what my husband needed, but individual therapy turned out to be what I needed. On my own, I was able to open up more about my feelings and concerns, and my therapist forced me to face my emotions instead of just wallowing in them.

One of the first things the therapist had me do, after understanding the situation, was to list all of the things that I liked more about my affair than I did about my marriage. I was able to come up with three things.

  1. The Fights: My affair partner and I would actually fight. This one sounds strange, and I’m not sure that the therapist fully understood it. She seemed to think it was the excitement I enjoyed. It wasn’t the excitement; it was the communication. My husband and I don’t fight. Ever. Never have. If there is something bothering one of us, we usually just figure out a workaround on our own. If we must mention it, we do so as politely as possible, and the other person accepts it. With my affair partner, if one of us had a problem we would let the other know. We would hash it out – oftentimes loudly – until it was resolved. There was constant communication, even if it wasn’t constantly pleasant.
  2. The Interests: My affair partner and I had more shared interests. My husband and I don’t have any of the same interests, really. And those that we do share, we enjoy for such completely different reasons that it is frustrating to do them together. Take hiking. We both like hiking. I enjoy the exercise and the meditative state I get into on a hike. Which means I walk quickly at a pretty steady pace. He likes to walk slowly and stop to take in the natural surroundings. We don’t like hiking together.
  3. The Sex: Sex with my affair partner was generally better than sex I had with my husband. I know that is a terrible, horrible thing to say, but it was on the list and I am trying to be as open as possible on this blog. So there it is.

The therapist listened to all of my concerns, and gave me hope. She said that each one of these problems is fixable. She thought the sex would be the most difficult to change. She was working towards becoming a sex therapist, though, so I feel that could have been a biased assessment. We have made lots of strides on the sex front. I am honestly more concerned about the fighting. But I’ll get into more detail in a later post.