The way I talked to Pete when I was upset never served me–or us, or the problem I was trying to solve. My constant disappointment, carried far and wide by my tone of voice, served primarily to cement alienation in our marriage. And things weren’t improving much in divorce.
It became obvious that if I wanted our dynamic to change, I was going to have to change my attitude and my interpersonal style. I understood that my unhappiness was no longer Pete’s responsibility (and, in fact, it never was his responsibility). So, I made a decision to align my behavior with this truth. I would live by the platitude, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I would not give feedback if there was any risk of whining in the transmission. And I would not make a request if there was any risk of it coming across as a complaint. Nor would I allow myself to blow off steam by bitching about Pete behind his back to my friends. My disparaging days were over.
The extreme difficulty of this discipline was almost immediately rewarded. When I was clean, clear, calm and self-responsible in my communication, Pete was genuinely happy to help, apologetic, responsive–whatever the situation called for. Each positive communication with a positive result released another knot from our tangle.
Soon, I had a new center around which to organize my thinking and my behavior. When I got triggered, heartbroken, blindsided, I knew I could count on myself to do whatever needed to be done to communicate without blame, and take the next powerful step toward freedom.
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