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Saturday, August 6, 2011
It’s no secret that men and women typically process things differently. Men tend to be more the “let me go away and think it through” type, whereas women are more often the “let’s talk it out” type. My wife and I fit this somewhat stereotypical mold.

I’ve been under growing stress since returning from two glorious weeks of vacation. Many work, home and ministry pressures have been building up on me, resulting in a feeling of being rather overwhelmed. My natural reaction to stress is that I get short tempered. It’s often not pretty! It’s a long-standing personal deficiency that God is still trying to work out of me, but I’m not there yet.

As is sometimes the case when I get stressed, this week I got sharp with Jenni several times and also tended to take her attempts to encourage me as accusation, which only added to the tension between us. We were not communicating well at all! As much as I could see it happening, I was at a loss for how to reign in my emotions and get things back on a solid footing with us. It’s kind of like trying to save yourself from drowning. If you knew how to swim you wouldn’t be drowning in the first place.

As a result we withdrew further from each other emotionally. I needed time to think things over and to get a handle on what to do about my situation. Jenni was feeling hurt because we’d been close during our vacation, and now her attempts to encourage me and help bring us back together were having the opposite effect. It was difficult and painful for both of us.

Yesterday I spent a significant time in prayer, and I felt the Lord direct me to change my morning routine. To better equip myself for the day’s battles, I felt impressed to get out of bed and immediately listen to 15 minutes or so of worship music while interspersing it with prayer. This was not to be a time of major intercession for all my woes and worries, but to simply rest in his presence and start my day with Him.

So, yesterday afternoon I let Jenni know about what I felt led to do. I had “the answer” or at least a good strategy to get to one. In my mind it was (hopefully) over. But although she liked my idea very much, in her mind it was only part of it.

Fixing It vs. Fixing Us

You see, I had set about getting myself set on a better course. For me it was about seeking the fix for my problem of responding with negative emotions while under stress. But she was about fixing us, about restoring our connection. And I completely failed to see it.

Last night we decided to watch a movie. I could have given into the crush of stuff and skipped it, but I felt like we needed that time together and I was completely wiped out anyway. I snuggled close to her during the movie and touched her in ways I know she likes. But we were in two different places.

While I had processed things in my head and felt settled on my course of action, she didn’t have the benefit of all that was going on in my mind. I was thinking that all that was needed was to get myself in a better place to handling my stress and we would no longer be separated. But we hadn’t had the chance to talk things through, which for her was necessary for things to feel resolved.

In order for her to overcome the feeling of separation it meant talking through what happened and why. For example, she wanted to understand why I felt accused when she was attempting to help me and to be forgiven for any wrong she may have done. She wanted us to reconcile what happened in order to reconnect.

As much as she appreciated my functional fix, what she wanted wasn’t functional in nature – it was relational. The thoughts in my head weren’t enough; she wanted conversation and closure.

Note To Self

I need to remember that sometimes the solution isn’t the answer. At least it isn’t the whole answer.

There are many times when my introspective, factual-based, problem-solving nature comes in handy. But I’ve realized that there are also times when I need to be more transparent with my wife through the process, especially when the issue affects our relationship. To maintain intimacy when things get strained, she needs to know what I’m thinking and feeling as I work toward the solution to the problem.

What about you? Have you fallen into the same trap as I have? Do you find that the way you process through a problem is different that how your spouse does? More to the point, does your method of working things out leave your spouse in the dark and in need of connection?

I’d love to hear your own experiences with this issue and any trick you’ve found to deal with it!


Beth Templeton said...

this is really good Scott. So true that the solution isn't always the answer. I've never thought of it that way. Seeing the answer as possibly in two parts, one that addresses my part and the other that addresses the issue from my spouse's perspective. Very helpful.

Scott said...

Thanks Beth. Yeah, we have to keep in mind that whatever the "problem" is, the relationship is what matters most!

Julie Sibert said...

Love the realness of this post Scott... thanks for sharing and being so authentic. Great post on multiple levels!

Scott said...

Thanks, Julie. By opening up, I'm hoping a few people will relate to my own struggles and challenges.

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