Yes, I think too much

Changes and Routine

with 5 comments

This morning, my husband and I had a very small argument that I’m sure is the type that many couples have as a result of living together and being human. Yesterday, I asked him if his schedule, which at times varies slightly, was going to be different today. Sometimes he starts 20 minutes later than usual and I had arranged to do one of my freelance jobs from home such that it would start 10 minutes after his usual departure time. I wanted to know if I would be starting the job (which has people calling me on a specific schedule) before or after he left, though I didn’t think deeply about why this mattered.

My husband said he’d be leaving as usual when I asked him about this and that was that. This morning, as the departure time approached, I mentioned that he’d have to go soon to which he blithely responded that he was starting 20 minutes later today so it was okay. Unsurprisingly, I got upset because I had specifically asked him about this point yesterday. He was apologetic and said something he has said many times before and that is that he needs to think more deeply about what he tells me. However, I have mentioned before that this is the “yang” to a certain “yin” of his. He is absent-minded and forgetful, but this is the flip-side of his calm nature. He can’t be his calm self if he is fretting over details, though clearly it would be better if he answered direct queries accurately. This was a step beyond his usual type of forgetting.

At first, I justified my anger by quibbling over  the fact that this was different from “forgetting”. Truly forgetting would mean that he wouldn’t recall the accurate information when he needed it and forget it when I requested it. However, once my emotions died down, I realized that the level at which I was upset about this was rather disproportionate to the “offense” of making an error about his schedule. I had strong and deep negative feelings as a result of this minor difficulty.

The main sense that I had was a feeling of helplessness and a lack of control over the smallest parts of my life. I felt as if even the tiniest experience and reasonably predictable aspects in life were chaotic and unpredictable, even when I tried my best to anticipate changes and should be able to know what was coming. I felt depressed and dispirited, seemingly all because of one tiny mistake my husband had made.

I realized before we had even completed the argument that the problem lay not with him and his dodgy memory (which I believe he cannot help), but in some of my deeper issues. I feel most comfortable when the path before me is known and I can map out my journey before I travel that road. This relates not only to big things, but even the routine things like how the morning is going to progress. The reason it was “important” for me to know my husband’s tiny change in schedule was entirely psychological, not practical. I wanted to know how things would occur, though knowing changed very little except my expectations of how the morning would unfold.

Lately, I’ve been through a lot of changes, and it has been hard for me both because many of the changes have been major disruptions in routine and because I’m not good with changes. I have tried to become more labile, but this is a core character trait which has been very hard to fundamentally alter. I think a lot of it is role modeling my mother’s sense of panic and extreme emotional responses to small things, and part of it is a response to the lack of stability I encountered in my childhood. It’s amazing how the experiences we have growing up embed themselves so deeply in our psyche that we can’t remove the stamp they leave on our personalities even when we are aware of them and seriously motivated to do so.

At the moment, the best I can do is recognize when small things like this exchange with my husband tap into it and recognize that it isn’t his actions that are the problem, but rather my nature. He always apologizes, and blames himself, but I view his mistake as something which is trivial and only seems bigger because of my reaction. He wants to focus on not doing the things that upset me, but I think I need to focus on not becoming upset by them. The well of this issue are not a result of his actions, yet what he does can sometimes tap into it, and it’s important that I find a way not to allow that to happen on my side, not look to him to change.

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Written by yesithinktoomuch

September 29, 2010 at 1:37 am

Posted in psychology

5 Responses

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  1. Heh heh – boy can I relate! I, too, am one of THOSE who thrives on predictability & order…
    Just wait until if & when you have kids, if you want to feel what it’s like to have a tremendous monkey wrench thrown into what you THOUGHT was your well-organized schedule!
    (But a big point of conflict between me & my hubby is the fact that he seemed to be under the impression that things would get EASIER as my son grew up, whereas in reality they only grow increasingly busy & more complicated…)

    Val

    September 29, 2010 at 11:36 am

  2. Well, I’m pretty sure that I won’t be having kids. I’m 46 years old, and not really in the market to get pregnant. 😉

    I can’t imagine what it would have been like had I had kids. It would have been a huge challenge emotionally. I think I did some child a favor by choosing not to have children. I don’t think I’d want me as a mother because of my hyper-sensitivity, tendency toward perfectionism, and inability to change, but I think my husband would have been an incredibly good father.

    Thanks for commenting! 🙂

    yesithinktoomuch

    September 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm

  3. Yeah, I get pissed at my husband for some nonissue and he immediately assumes he is to blame. Then I have to explain that it really isn’t his fault when I react. His needing to think it is his fault is just the flip side of me wanting to be in control. If it IS his fault, then maybe there would be something he could do differently next time, something he could change, you know, control, so that I wouldn’t get upset.

    Geeeez.

    So then I have to break the bad news to him. He doesn’t have that kind of control. No one does. *God* only knows what is likely to set me off. 🙂 This week it could be his sighing over cleaning up my clutter. Next week it could be his cheerful whistling. So, see? There’s nothing he can control to make me feel okay. All he can do is keep living with me and silently hoping, perhaps, that I will keep getting a little saner with each passing year.

    So far, so good.

    RNegade

    September 29, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    • It’s rare these days that small things set me off to the extent that this thing did. It used to happen a lot more, but I have developed an awareness and have worked on my temper so much that it is relatively uncommon these days. That’s probably why I wrote about it.

      When you mentioned that “next week, it could be his cheerful whistling”, it reminded me of some of the irrational things that got on my nerves when we first married. The first 5 years included more arguing than the last 15 for us because there was a lot to settle.

      I think that self-awareness is really key, and working out this particular dynamic. I ‘catch’ myself a lot earlier now than I used to and sometimes short-circuit the irritation before it gets out of my mouth. I think I actually get a little worse at it when a long time has passed and nothing has set me off (which happens a lot these days since less and less troubles me).

      yesithinktoomuch

      September 30, 2010 at 12:30 am

  4. […] follow other lines of thinking. For instance, in the argument with my husband that I discussed in the previous post, I did not concern myself with “blame”. When most couples argue, the preoccupation is […]


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