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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Don't let your circumstances dictate what you hear.
I know, now your bubble has burst. Marriage bloggers don't have flawless marriages after all.
The reason I bring this particular disagreement to your attention is to help you avoid the same mistakes I made. In particular, putting up a false filter.
A false filter is a way of receiving communication or information in a distorted way, brought on by our own (normally distressed) state of mind. Let me explain using my own example.
I was working on some blogging stuff late into the night over the weekend. I was trying desperately to complete some web stuff and a little writing project before I called it quits for the day. I had mentioned that I would be up late to Jenni and suggested she go to bed before me, especially since she was still fighting the cold that had gripped her for more than a week.
It got to be past 11pm and I knew I still had hours of work left before I completed the tasks at hand, so I left my office to find Jenni. I went to tell her to go ahead and get some sleep. I don't remember exactly what she said in response, but it was some mild statement or question about why I needed to be up so late.
Enter False Filter
I was struggling at that moment with a lot of frustration at my inability to make adequate progress on what seemed to me to be a small goal for the day. This irritation was fueled by my general frustration on several fronts relative to my marriage ministry and multiple long-delayed projects.
I received her innocent question, when passed through my false filter of the moment, as accusation against me and as a lack of support for my ministry, and I basically told her so, in a not very nice way.
Now to see how false this particular filter was, you have to know how diligently my wife supports me in my marriage ministry. She encourages me to spend time writing, she gives up many evenings together for me to slave away at the computer down in my office; she hosts our church marriage small group with me; she edits and gives input to my posts whenever I ask. She is amazingly patient and generous about it all.
My curt response hurt her rather deeply, and things kind of spiraled downward from there. She went to bed rather unhappy, and I worked until after 2am.
The next day, as we talked through what had happened the night before, I realized how my reaction to her was totally out of proportion with what she had actually said. I realized that my state of mind at the time caused me to receive her words in a way that she never meant them and elicited a complete overreaction on my part.
Watch Out For False Filters
Do you ever listen with a false filter? Do you sometimes let your state of mind cause you to completely misinterpret something your spouse says or does to you?
I have been thinking about what I could have done to remove this false filter, to listen more accurately, during our conversation that night. The best thing I could have done would have been to be more self-aware, to be more cognizant of my emotional state and to tune out the voices in my head that were screaming "see, you can't do this blogging thing like it needs to be done."
I wish I had paused in the moment to consider how ridiculously incongruent the message I received through my false filter was when compared to what I knew to be the truth.
Where do you have false filters? What are the messages in your head that you are listening to that fly in opposition to what you know to be true? Let me toss out a few examples:
- You hate your body so much that you think there is no way your husband could be attracted to you. Even though he continually compliments and pursues you, you filter his compliments as untrue and his pursuit as unwarranted. You reject him every time.
- You are feeling beat up at your job by a series of mishaps or hardships. You feel like a failure. The next time your wife reminds you gently of something she needs you to do for her, you receive her request as an accusation and angrily reply "I'm doing the best I can!"
- You hang up the phone with your mother, who has been berating you for how you are raising your kids. When your husband approaches and asks if the kids have done their chores, you respond defensively, feeling accused by him, even though he's always been supportive about the kids in the past.
- A series of circumstances have prevented you from making love for a week. In your mind you decide it must be because your wife isn't attracted to you, even though this is an atypical dry spell. When your wife makes a statement that she is tired during dinner, you immediately take it as her way of fending off any advances later, so you don't bother.
photo credit: robodread / 123rf.com
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