I’m slow. She’s fast.
I’m the epitome of waiting until… wait for it… … … the last responsible moment. Sometimes hard to tell if it’s patience or simply an excuse for procrastination. I’d like to think the former. She would say the latter.
She was a champion gopher smasher. A whack-a-moler par excellence. Striking at the first opportune moment. Often amazing me with her foresight and anticipation. Whether it be finding the fastest checkout line at Costco or somehow ending up with the latest limited supply video game console without even realizing it.
I’ve become painfully reticent with my thoughts about our relationship.
She’s always been expressively liberal with hers.
Our opposite worlds collided on one perfect storm of a day.
It all started when she suggested excitedly that we flush our hot water tank. She loves her showers HOT and our supply of hot water had not been consistent lately. Flushing a hot water tank is a fairly easy do-it-yourself (DIY) project to drain the water and any built-up sediment in the tank so that efficiency is maintained and corrosion is minimized. A recommended annual practice that hadn’t been done in the nine years since we had it installed.
She did all the research and summarized it in an easy to read set of instructions, replete with pictures.
All I needed to do was show up and lend a hand. I enthusiastically said “Sure!”
We were looking forward to doing this together.
That same day, we were getting our hot tub serviced. Someone needed to be around when they arrived and if they needed anything. So I volunteered again, reflexively without even looking up or giving it a second thought.
She wanted to start draining the hot water tank when out of the blue, a colleague calls me up to ask for some advice. Again, wanting to help and without thinking of my other commitments, I said “Sure!”
I was like a squirrel darting from one commitment to the next.
It was the beginning of a dark end to my day.
By this time, the hot tub service man had arrived and started working as well.
Twenty minutes into my fifteen minute call, my wife has started flushing the hot water tank on her own while accompanying the hot tub service man. All while trying to complete online training for her new job without the system timing out on her.
Words are not enough to describe her disappointment with me. It was written all over her face and body.
She reminded me it wasn’t the first time I over-committed. In fact, it’s been the same story for years. Not just over-committed, but always choosing her last.
She was tired of playing second fiddle to all my other commitments.
No amount of excuses or apologies could save me.
Her pent-up gunny sack of a thousand cuts and slights exploded in that moment.
When this happened in the past, I would endure her rant, clam up except to promise to “be better” in future. And then, the vicious cycle would begin again.
This time it was different.
I had spent the last six months meditating, training and evolving my leadership with the extraordinary guidance and support of Michael and Audree Tara Sahota from SHIFT314. This was my first real test of a newfound stillness and consciousness within me.
I failed (almost).
As I endured her rant, any stillness within me was dissipating fast. In its place, my ego started to swell its ugly head. I felt tense all over from head to toe. Just as I started to think my previous six months of training was a wasted cause, an interesting thing happened.
Instead of claming up and saying nothing as usual, I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and then told her how I felt and how this incident was adversely impacting me. In a word, I “communicated”.
Communication – such a deceptively simple concept, yet often taken for granted in long term relationships. Where words and sentences are replaced with grunts, nods and winks.
She noted and genuinely appreciated my change in behaviour. For the first time in a long time, we were starting to openly share our thoughts and feelings not just during the good times but more importantly, during the hard times.
Through this incident, we’ve learned something deeper about each other but more importantly, we’re explicitly communicating again.
Correction: I’m explicitly communicating. She never had a problem communicating. No more assumptions. Clarity is king.
It’s so easy to fall into the unspoken comfort and familiarity of a long-term relationship. We start developing assumptions about each other. Some say they can read their partner’s mind so words aren’t necessary.
I say don’t let that happen.
So, what will I do differently?
No more assumptions and no more mind reading.
And just like we used to tell our kids when they were upset,
“Use your words”.