Stop Finding The Bright Side
"It could always be worse."
I say this a lot. "It could be worse." "At least it's not X." Basically anything that helps me to see the positive side of things. And it always pisses my husband off. Anytime I meet him with one of my bright-side-of-things responses, it is usually met with "Can't you just acknowledge when something is shitty?"
Is that a way of diminishing someone's struggle? Or is a helpful way of acknowledging a struggle but then being able to refocus on something else?
How often as spouses do we find ourselves doing this? Again, if you're like me, the answer is probably too much. But in my head I can justify it. I do it because if my husband is focusing on the shitty part, scratch that. If my husband is focusing on the HARD parts, I don't feel like it does any good to have us both doing it. I'm afraid of having too much "negativity" around. But maybe in doing that, I am doing a disservice to both him and myself.
I think the other thing that keeps me hanging on to this sometimes toxic positivity is fear. I fear that if I allow myself to acknowledge, and therefore truly feel, the hard/scary/shitty things, I will drown in them. I have a difficult time acknowledging the crap and then moving on from it. Because for the past 2 years, it has felt like there was so much of it. So instead, I try to pretend it isn't there.
And let me tell you why this is a problem.
BECAUSE IT IS THERE!
The shitty stuff is there. The hard stuff is there. And I am darkening a piece of myself by trying to pretend that it's not. I am dishonouring myself. I am lying to myself. And none of that results in growth.
On top of that, I am dishonouring my spouse and his feelings. Which of course is never my intention, but intention doesn't always matter. If I am to truly be his partner in this journey, then I need to make sure he knows that I see, hear, and acknowledge his frustrations. His struggles. His feelings.
So how do I do better? Well, I remind myself to follow these 3 (somewhat simple) steps.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE STRUGGLE
I listen to what he's saying and try to respond with someone along the lines of "You're right. That is frustrating." The simple act of letting someone know that you aren't diminishing what they are saying is huge and can make all the difference for the rest of the conversation. How do you move forward and grow if we first don't acknowledge the hardship?
2. ASK IF THEY ARE LOOKING FOR AN OPINION
I know that many times when I am telling someone about a situation or just venting my feelings, I'm often not looking for advice or an opinion. I am simply looking for someone to listen. If the person isn't looking for an opinion or advice, just listen. If you need to analyze the conversation after, do it to a friend or journal.
3. REMEMBER THAT YOU'VE MADE IT THROUGH EACH HARD DAY
Sometimes looking at the big picture can be overwhelming. Instead, try looking at one day at a time. "What can I accomplish today?" "What is one good thing about today?" "What is one thing I can do for my mental health today?" Taking things one day at a time when they feel hard has helped me get through weeks and months.
Plan things. Give yourself something to look forward to. Maybe it's a walk with some girlfriends. A beach day. A haircut. Anything that allows you the space to focus on something totally unrelated to any of the heavy shit.
In a way, this all comes down to communication. I have learned over the years the type of communication that my husband needs and responds to. I guess this journey is also just one big reminder that we are constantly learning how to be the partner our spouse needs (and who we need).
If there is something that you have learned about better communication with your spouse, I would love to have you share it with me!
Take care of one another and be kind,