"Use your words."
"Can't we discuss this?"
"How does that make you feel?"
If I had a nickel for every time I have used one of these phrases...
And of course, those phrases are pulled out of my bag when there is conflict in the house. When things are threatening to explode or have begun exploding already. But I am convinced that, as human beings, we are afraid of differing opinions and potential conflict so much that by the time we get to this point, discussion is like trying to cut a frozen cake with a plastic knife. Merely surface.
Color me guilty.
For a while now, something has been bugging me. Something about Bubba. I'll talk to my girlfriends about it. I'll mention it in some slight, round-the-bend, cloaked in humor or false nonchalance to him, hoping he gets the hint and suddenly decides to change his behavior. What I haven't chosen to do is say it outright.
And all the while, I wonder. I create dialogue in my head, imagining what he would say if I said "X." I feel like I know him pretty well after twenty-some years, so I can fill in the blanks, right? And the thing is, I am a native Idealist from the land of Idealism, which means that I want him to change because it is the Right Thing to Do, not to appease me. I want him to feel it in his heart. But I'm afraid. Afraid that he won't care as much as I do or that he'll somehow mock me or that he will think the entire conversation is a waste of his time, and so I keep the dialogue in my head. And the more I pretend I'm talking to him about it, the more scared I get to actually have the conversation. Because by now, I have done a lot of assuming.
So by the time I found an opportunity to have the conversation with him, I couldn't look at him. We had gone to bed with our books, him lying on his stomach and me sitting up against the headboard, pillows propping my head and shoulders up. I looked straight forward and dove in. And I didn't meet his eyes the entire time we talked. Even when he gave me a perfectly Bubba, absolutely authentic, thoughtful reason for behaving the way he had that caused every cell in my body to soften and round itself in recognition that this was the man I love. This compassionate, loving person who had been missing in my imaginary discussions was, in fact, here next to me, offering a scenario I couldn't have predicted. And while he wouldn't have prompted the conversation, he was more than willing to engage in it.
Nearly an hour later, I was left with the solid reminder that these discussions always go better in real life than they do in my head. In real life, Bubba doesn't belittle me or mock me or refuse to deal with difficult situations. It is my fear and anticipation that creates those stumbling blocks for me.
I wonder if there is a simpler way to learn to talk about difficult issues. Talking it out is something I encourage my kids to do all the time, but I am not sure I have properly taught them how to do that. Perhaps that ought to be the next item on my to-do list.