As I write this, I am just back from vacation. The local paper I picked up held the headline “Bells Toll for Montclair”–– the story about a “valiant patch and repair job,” according to the church’s rector. While they’d ‘done a good job of keeping the church in sufficient shape all those years, it had unhappy and unexpected results. What once was a $400,000 restoration is now estimated at $1 million! Why? The many “patches” created a setup over time that allowed water to get behind the rock foundation; essentially, the inside of the wall had turned to sand. It made me think of our trip.
My husband and I spent a beautiful week away –– a mix of spending time with friends along with ‘just the two of us’ time (celebrating our anniversary) The settings were lovely, the mix perfect –– result of the trial and error of many previous trips navigating our different preferences, me for alone time and he for friends. I was excited and hopeful and ready to simply enjoy the downtime. Mid-week my husband realized that something was off. Indeed it was. He was surprised. I was equally nonplussed.
The issue that led us to this point stemmed from a sensitive incident involving my husband’s family –– one that left me feeling personally insulted and disrespected. My husband and I had different viewpoints on the next steps for addressing this issue. It seemed though, the issue was “his” to “handle”; mine to express my needs about and otherwise stay away.
I made it very clear what was important to me — addressing the issue with his family member — and why. After all, I am a communications professional; in my experience, people NEED information and communication to move forward. My husband, on the other hand, hates confrontation and avoids it at all costs. Resultingly, when it came to this particular subject, he was not only reluctant but a bit afraid to make this next steps. Despite this, I persisted. It felt important to me, on principle and at a very practical level. He finally spoke with the key family member in question about the issue, and after a series of back and forth (with this person resisting accountability until finally relenting), we came to an understanding — but not yet a solution. There were still more conversations to be had, and so the cycle continued.
For more than two weeks, I watched my husband put off the uncomfortable conversation I’d asked him to have. I asked him if he made the phone call, reminded him of why this was important, and told him how dragging it out sends a clear message to everyone involved. All the while, I felt myself drift further and further away at an emotional level, and I told him as such. I wanted closure, after all. What little did happen felt like a half hearted effort and way too late. Consequently, by the time we were ready to head out on vacation, I knew I would be physically present at best and hopeful for some dialog about potential resolution.
It’s easy for me to see how this issue came to fruition — and of course our differences come to mind. My husband is generally a “people pleaser” –– , frequently bending over backwards for others, putting himself last,prioritizing the “health” of the relationship over his needs, and procrastinating endlessly until he can figure out a solution. I, on the other hand, am all about figuring things out, finding the best solution and getting it done. We understand and appreciate our differences and for the majority of our relationship, know how to work them to benefit us mutually. But, things get sticky when volatile relationships are involved (drama exhausts me).
However, as I reflected on this further, I wondered –– was I really focused on ‘the solution’ in this instance? Or, did I just want ‘my’ way? I’d come to realize that, on this occasion, I was stuck in full blown ego wanting it done my way and done now.
Stepping back even further, I came to remember what it is I really want… and what I don’t.
Want: a closeness and connectedness in my relationship.
Don’t want: A relationship built on sand; one that could disintegrate once any pressure was applied.
In my personal experience, and in my many years as a communication professional and coach, I’ve discovered that staying “in ego” will never get me what I want. Ego divides. It makes one more important than the other in any relationship. Instead of collaboration, there is competition. Ego tries to control an outcome rather than contribute to a solution.
So, back to basics I return. To do this, I’ll reflect by asking these questions: What’s important to me? How do I communicate that? How do I give what I’d like to have? From there, the answer becomes clear.
I invite you to join me in this reflection. Ask yourself:
-Where are you letting ego create rifts in your relationships?
-What’s important to you?
-What takes you toward that? Or away?