Life with a husband and three children leads to the fact that real life presents itself to me each week in a real live form. There never seems to be a shortage of topics to write about as my life keeps happening and it is anything but boring. As I learn every day to be a better wife and mother I keep being challenged to do better.
I think one of the best things we can do as a married couple is to talk about a fight and process what happened. Where did we go wrong? What are we going to do next time so that it doesn’t escalate? If we can put our defenses down and really get down and dirty and evaluate a fight together, then we can both do better next time.
Seth and I just walked Tanner together. He asked me to explain some things to him about what happened last night. He asked me to explain why I said, “You aren’t helping me,” when I know that is a button of his. He said he prides himself in being super helpful and that when I say that he feels totally unappreciated. I know that he doesn’t like when I say that. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I was upset in the moment and feeling as though he was being unhelpful. I told Seth that 1) I wasn’t saying those words on purpose to upset him. 2) I wasn’t feeling helped. 3) He wasn’t helping me how I wanted him to help me. He thought he was helping but I didn’t feel helped.
Seth got really upset with me last night when I told him he wasn’t helping. I guess I didn’t realize what a hot red button that is for him. I think that we need to realize what pushes our partners buttons so that we don’t do it. Trust me when I say that I will try really hard never to say those words to him again.
We were both exhausted last night and feeling really done parenting. When we both feel done parenting the picture isn’t pretty. We both want to check out and just go to bed and call it a day. Parenting is exhausting. I’m sitting here typing and no one is bothering me. I am soaking in the down time before someone tells me it’s time for dinner. Lillie just asked me if she could use my cosmetic face mask and I said, “Yes, go ahead.” Anything for more peace and quiet. That is the problem right there, what I just said. I will usually do anything so that Lillie gives me some down time.
Lillie had been on the phone all day. She was talking to her friends and her iPad was almost dead as usual. She wanted to go into the playroom to do gymnastics with her friends and she was super frustrated that her iPad and phone were dead. I would say she needs to be more responsible and charge more often but her iPad also seems to be having issues. I wanted Seth to help her figure out another device and it wasn’t going well. He told her to just deal. I hate when he says that. He doesn’t like when I say, “You aren’t helpful,” and I don’t like when he says, “Just deal.” See, we both have things that push each other’s buttons. He is much more into discipline, tough love, and natural consequences. I am way too nice and accommodating. At that moment I needed to tell Lillie to listen to her father, but I stepped in and ended up giving her my phone to go do gymnastics with her friends in the playroom. I just want them all to be happy. I just want to solve the problem. I was super annoyed that Seth didn’t do it and he was super annoyed with me for undermining him and giving her what she wanted and saying he wasn’t being helpful.
Do you see all the ways in which we both went wrong? As we walked and talked alone without our children, Seth explained that he always backs me up. He said that even if he doesn’t agree with me, he backs me up and helps me by being a united front. He wanted to get that in return.
I put any defensiveness down and really listened. I knew we were both really upset, and we needed to repair the damage that we did. We needed to be a team. A united front with our children. Kids learn quickly how to play their parents against each other. I knew that my mom would always say no, and I would complain to my dad. Our kids know that daddy is stricter and that if they tell me they are upset that I will try to fix whatever it is. That isn’t being a team. That is making Seth feel alone in his discipline.
Seth tends to focus on discipline, and I tend to focus on the relationship. I want my kids to want to please me. I want them to do something because I asked them to. I want Lillie to speak respectfully to me because she loves me and knows it’s the right thing to do. I want Max to bring the groceries in because he likes to help his mom. If we connect and bond with our kids, then they want to do the right thing. I’m not saying kids don’t need discipline. I think Seth and I balance each other out. I also think that we both need to meet more in the middle.
If we jump to discipline every time, they do something wrong than it damages the relationship and loses it’s power. I don’t think we should jump right away to a consequence. I also think that we should think first before we give a punishment. If we give a punishment in the moment that we are angry it will probably be larger than if we would have given ourselves time to think about it.
What did I learn in my recent fight with Seth?
- Think before I speak. This is the biggest way I can be successful in all my relationships.
- If I know a phrase pushes Seth’s buttons, avoid saying it. Find different words.
- Back him up. We are a team.
- If I don’t agree with him, ask to go speak in private and work out next steps together.
- Tell Seth what I am looking for from him. In this example, “Can you please find another device for Lillie to use?”
- If I see him getting heated, I need to take steps away and give us both space. I also need to be able to tell Lillie when we need space from her.
- Don’t let the kids put us against each other. First and foremost, we can’t have a fight about the kids in front of the kids. That is undermining each other in front of the kids.
My wife is an inspiration. I don’t know how she does it. One day with Lillie and I’m fried and losing control. Heck, it wasn’t even one day. It was one interaction. I may claim to be a life long Tony Robbins student, but my wife is way better at changing her emotional state than I am. She can be pissed at me one minute and cooing at the cat the next. I need to learn to be that good.
I freely admit I need to work on my patience, my flexibility, and just about everything else when it comes to Lillie. Lillie was freaking out because she let her iPad drain to the point of being almost dead (3%), and she insisted that she couldn’t use it while it charged to talk to her friends, because it would die. I suggested that perhaps she learn from that and get over it. Especially seeing as how she had already talked to those friends for hours that day. That just made things worse.
She wanted me to get messenger kids on my iPad so she could talk to them there. I refused, as I deleted it off my iPad because once I got it, it never stopped pinging. I should have downloaded it again for her, and then just turned off notifications when she wasn’t using it. That’s what I realize now that I’ve had 24 hours to think about it. She got so emotional over what “I thought” wasn’t a big deal, that I let it affect me, and thus wasn’t resourceful enough to think of the easy solution.
Rebecca did back me up at first, and suggested Lillie sit in the chair and charge, but when she saw that was just making Lillie more upset, she pivoted. She tried coming up with other solutions, while insisting that I wasn’t helping, which made me see red.
I really have some work to do. I have to change my expectations. See, I have been spoiled by Max and Ella (more by Ella). They are such easy, well-behaved kids, most of the time, that I expect Lillie to be the same way. When she isn’t, I get frustrated, and from frustrated, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to cranky town. Nobody likes it when Daddy gets cranky. Yet I still do it?
Rebecca’s suggestions above are spot on. Mine won’t measure up, but I will give it a shot. To give credit where it’s due, Rebecca inspired, or flat out told me these answers on our walk.
I too need to think before I speak. If I did that, I don’t think we would have any conflict.
Realize Rebecca isn’t trying to push my buttons or offend me. If she is saying I am not helping, perhaps I could ask her how she wants to be helped in that moment.
Realize Lillie’s emotions are because she feels she can’t get, have, or express what she wants. She isn’t trying to upset me either. Try and help her find the words for what she is feeling, and then stay patient and try to find a positive resolution.
This one is a Seth original:
My “Buttons” are just that, mine. I made them up, so I have the power to unmake them. If I get upset because Lillie isn’t behaving how I want her to, that’s her choice, not mine. As has been made abundantly clear to me, I can’t really control anyone else. I can cajole, persuade, beg, plead, yell, or threaten, but unless the other person really wants to change what they are doing, it won’t work. They have to see it as in their best interests. That’s what you have to communicate through the tears, shouting, or pouting.
If I can’t stand it when a client wants to go back and forth and make multiple revisions to their marketing, that isn’t about them, it’s about me. It may have something to do with my parents (copy editor and librarian) both editing everything I wrote as a child (over and over again), but how I choose then and choose now to interpret that is up to me. Shelly Lefkoe would say that they didn’t “do” anything to me (it was for me), and I could redefine what they “did” as attempting to help me do well any time I want.
To my wonderful wife, I apologize. I am so sorry that I didn’t handle last night, or tonight better. I have learned a lot in the last 48 hours, and I promise to do better next time.
Thank you to my husband Seth for contributing to this blog. You see, after last night’s fight, I’m sad to say we actually got into it a little tonight too. We are entering into the world of two more books written by me. My daughter Ella and I wrote a children’s book that I am very excited about. Seth is having it illustrated. The illustrator sent two pictures of Ella that I didn’t approve, and Seth got short with me. I told him that I wasn’t going to deal with him being impatient with me. I would rather not make the book than deal with him not being nice to me in the process. I told him that if he was impatient with me on our first date I would have run away. He told me if I took forever to order a meal he would have run away too. None of that was helpful to our marriage. Marital rule: Ask yourself, is what I am about to say going to help the situation? Am I about to make the situation better or worse?
Seth and I continue to work on doing a better job. The good news is that we both care so much and always want to do better. The good news is that we both want to work on ourselves. In working on being the best version of me I will always continue to learn and grow every day.
Seth will be more patient and flexible. That tends to be his two areas to work on. I will be more calm, clear, and consistent. I will be careful with my word choices. Words are super important to Seth.
It is very hard to communicate effectively when people are upset. Rachel Bailey calls it the “Yuk” state. I love that word. We can process and learn from our mistakes after we calm down. When we are feeling the “Yuk,” it is harder to communicate effectively. The same goes for our children. When Lillie is upset and frazzled, she isn’t going to calmly communicate and resolve things either.
Tomorrow Seth will be able to get space from his family. Parenting for a long weekend doesn’t seem to agree with him. This is why we pay him the big bucks to go to work and run companies, and this is why I stay home and parent my children and fit in work as it works for my family.
Thank you for going on this adventure with me. I’m so in love with my husband and I really like him too. Three of our reasons for success: Loving each other, liking each other and a desire to do better. No marriage will ever be perfect. If there isn’t any fighting, it is usually because someone isn’t being honest. I encourage you to be honest with each other. It isn’t what we say, it is how we say it. I also encourage you to evaluate your arguments after they occur when you both are in a more resourceful place so that you can do a better job next time.
Wishing you a happy family and a happy marriage. My prescription for Seth and I is a happy day of a blissful marriage tomorrow. No fighting will be allowed.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R