I found this very interesting, and it confirms one of my own pet theories, which is simply:
People forget that they love one another.
It can happen soon, or it can happen over time, but it can happen.
Humans in a relationship don't always agree on everything. If you never argue with your partner over anything, if there is never, ever a disagreement or misunderstanding, you are bloody weird. But it's possible not only to keep it to a minimum, but to cut the disagreements short by remembering you love a person.
Those of you who've been with your partner a long time, and have a successful relationship, tell me, are you familiar with the idea of "It's a good thing I love you...." Yes?
Applies to kids too, of course.
I'm going to tell you a funny story, but at the time I wasn't laughing.
Sit down, and pay attention, this is a rare treat, an insight into the wonderful weirdness that is my personal life.
Sunday morning, as is usual, I came downstairs to my husband cooking breakfast. He's a good cook, and he does this out of love in any case, it's one of those little romantic extras that allow people to stay married for 35 years. He even makes my fried eggs in funny moulds, and has been known to arrange things on the plate into a smiley face. Men like Martin are rare treasures, and if I could clone him I'd be rich.
He's a loony. By which I mean he sometimes does things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and this is of course where me loving him very much is so important, or I'd have killed him years ago. (This works both ways, obviously). So bear that in mind. Nobody is perfect, and both he and I are far from it. Oh very far. Somewhere way so short of perfect that you can't even see perfect standing on tippy-toes. We also both have what they call "strong personalities" which is.........a euphemism.
Anyway, rather than make extra demands while he's cooking, I usually see what still needs to be put on the table, and do it myself. Fetch the salt, or ketchup, or forks, or whatever. Or - usually - because he has a pot of coffee, I fetch myself a glass of water.
So I went to the glass cabinet and took out a glass, but I snagged it on the edge of the shelf, which knocked it out of my hand, and it smashed on the floor.
When somebody breaks glass (or ceramics) my immediate reaction is to prevent harm, so I say "don't move!" so that anyone in the vicinity doesn't step on it. Then whoever is not close, or has shoes on (rare) gets the broom/vacuum cleaner and we clean it up. I am solutions oriented, even in a split second. There is no WTF? response, because it's obvious what just happened. It was a broken glass, not a gunshot. I simply deal with it.
Martin, being different, had his first loony moment of the event. He shouted "What the fuck are you doing?"
This actually classifies as a rhetorical question. It comes from the suddenness of the sound of glass breaking, and is an emotional reaction. I suppose I could have ignored it, but I don't take kindly to being shouted at. Sometimes I shout back. I don't approve of that (I don't usually recommend it), but on occasions it has the desired effect - sometimes it makes Shouter #1 realise they over-reacted, and/or shouted at the wrong person.........
There's something else I rarely approve of, and that's sarcasm. But every so often that has its uses too. Anyway, rightly or wrongly, I shot back with:
"I did it on purpose, yes, I thought, 'I know! I'll just smash a glass!'"
That was when he had his second loony moment. He said the very thing you never say to a person who is annoyed, when the reason they are annoyed is that YOU annoyed them. Here's what you never, never, never, never say in that situation.
Yep, he said that. When I related this to my daughter, after she stopped laughing, she said "Oh Daddy, you've known her over 35 years, you really said that?"
I try really hard to just let shit like that go but I was steaming. For quite a long time, too. Instead of taking it out on him, I ripped the dining room apart. I threw chairs aside, and hauled out cabinets. I cleaned every damn square inch of it. Not only was there guaranteed to be no trace of the teeniest bit of broken glass, possibly even at a molecular level, even the spiders behind the beer fridge got scared. I cleaned the gaps in the wine rack. I cleaned the light bulbs. Then I took all his "stuff" off the top of the microwave (where my family have been categorically forbidden to put anything on pain of death, so naturally that's where everything goes) and dumped it on the table, and told him to find homes for it.
I then took everything else that didn't belong to me, put it in a similar pile, and called the boys to tidy up while I went outside to play in my garden. The sanity of nature. Aaaaah.
The next thing I knew, Martin was weeding a flower bed. The shitty one, where thistles grow. Sackcloth and ashes, I guess. Anyway, that was that.
But I mention this because it covers several aspects of bad communication.
1. Rhetorical questions, even when not in a raised voice, are usually a bad idea. They are almost guaranteed to inflame, even if they aren't intended to. Unfortunately, Martin has picked up a habit of using them instead of giving commands out. Maybe it's a trend in the construction industry, I really don't know. But the problem is he gets answers. Remember, you love this person.
2. Answering rhetorical questions, when you know full well that an answer is not expected, is probably not a good idea either. Rolling your eyes may well serve the same purpose, and even a passive aggressive "YES DEAR" (not usually recommended) might be better. So have a laugh at me, but....best not. Remember, you love this person.
3. Specifically, sarcasm is a sure way to increase tension. Even if it is killer funny, or clever, or right on, or whatever. Don't. Just don't. Save it for shouting at the TV. Remember, you love this person.
4. And the whole calm down thing...yeah. You know what that reminds me of?
Remember, you love this person.
BUT. That was that. It didn't turn into anything else. We both know better.
Maybe that takes experience, or maybe we are good at remembering we love each other.
What should we have done instead?
Firstly (Martin), when there's an insignificant event, shrug it off. No biggie. Meh. Clean up. Carry on.
Secondly (Melanie), when a person gets excited, don't get them more excited. Don't shout at a dog for barking.
Thirdly (Melanie), when you can't say something nice, say nothing. It's not a weakness to remain silent. In some cultures women are actually expected to do that! Imagine!
Fourthly (Martin), the best way to calm a Melanie down is to shut up. OK, if somebody else riled her up, that's different, but face it bud, this was your oops.
I hope we taught you something from this. We were young once. We're still together, and look, we still fuck up sometimes, but it was soon over. The lesson is, it can always be soon over. That option is always available. Just remember you love them. Got it? Good :)