Unkindness vs. Setting Speech Boundaries

As a law enforcement family, there will always be pressures as we looked at in the first chapter. Unfortunately the easiest place to release that pressure is on those closest to us. And the closer you get, the worse it can be. Because we are so entwined, when our spouses go through stuff, it affects us and vice versa.

Earlier I mentioned a brush that went flying through the air at Brent on Christmas morning. The pressures at that moment were very great; we were newlyweds, we just moved, we didn’t know anyone, we didn’t have any money, and he was dealing with people on the road for the first time—it was nuts. That pressure really built up in me, and then when we fought Christmas morning, look out! She’s gonna blow! And blow I did.

But it doesn’t always go that way. What about when we’re irritated with each other, or the kids, or the neighbor’s dog that kept us up all night?  Unkindness has a way of creeping in. We start treating each other poorly. Little digs here and there, our voices raise a bit, our patience wears thin. It gets old quick.

After our argument on Christmas morning, Brent and I settled down enough to decide that we needed to implement some ground rules. Here’s what we came up with:

The first thing we decided was to never use divorce as a threat. We have friends who do, but we decided that this was too big of a withdrawal for us both. Brent’s parents divorced when he was young, so divorce is painful for him. I came into our relationship with trust issues caused by philandering ex-boyfriends. We chose to treat this topic as taboo. The commitment that we made has helped us to do this. We never go there.

Second, we don’t use sarcasm. When there are unresolved conflicts in a relationship, sarcasm is easy to muster. But it is also a cowardly way to throw insults. Someone says something mean and then laughs it off as a joke. It’s not a joke. It hurts just as much. And usually sarcasm is used when other people are around. Let me just say if you use sarcasm against your spouse in front of other people, you just created an embarrassing situation and cast a shadow on your own character. They’ll think you’re a jerk whether you are or not.

The third boundary we set is that we will never insult each other. This includes name calling, comparing with other people, and just being mean.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t joke or tease. But jokes and teasing are not meant to cut someone down but rather to lighten up. In fact humor is an excellent way to release some pressure.

One last thing. Something that comes really easy to us women is nagging. Many times our guys don’t get things done in a timely manner whether it’s because they tend to procrastinate or their schedules just don’t allow for it. Either way, nagging is destructive. It won’t get us what we’re hoping for, which is action. Because my husband’s job is so high velocity, he needs down time on the weekends and time with our kids. Weeks will go by with his honey-do list untouched. I am so tempted to nag, nag, and nag some more!

But over the years I have learned to combat this urge with these two ideas:

1. I’ll ask supportive questions like “I know you’ve been working so hard lately. Is there anything I can do to help you get this done?” Many times there is a reason he can’t get it done. Perhaps he has to research how to do it, or the hardware store didn’t have the right part. Many times I might be able to help him get past the obstacle, and then it gets done.

2. I tattle on him to my journal. It may seem a little silly, but it works. When I get to the point where I want to nag (or release frustration in other ways), I write it out and then throw it away. Actually, when I do this, it helps me work through the emotion so I can see the deeper issue. Then I’m in a much better position to communicate constructively.

About Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder"

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