My wife (Lindsey) and I, after a night of passionate, riveting, and seemingly never-ending (…uh…how do I put this?) arguing, decided to dissect our feelings the morning after like we were back in 10th-grade biology class poking at a dead frog.
“It seems black and white to me,” I’m guilty of saying.
“But, you’re not acknowledging my feelings,” she pled.
Like all good married couples, our biggest fights are about…well…nothing. They are simply eruptions of hoarded emotions mixed with a moment’s feeling of hurt. It’s like one of us chases the other deeper and deeper into a forest and then at one point, we both stop, turn around, and ask ourselves, “how did we even get here?” Then we wind up poking a frog. If you’re married, and you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you might not be married.
So, there we were dissecting the argument on the living room couch, and, after about an hour of ripped amphibian appendages, we discovered something brilliant.
But, before I get into that, first, some insight:
A Story About Me
I have a party trick.
One party trick.
And when I’m at my wife’s high school friend’s surprise 30th birthday party at which I don’t know a soul, and to them, I am merely a Facebook picture come to life, I depend on my party trick like it’s my ticket to the cool table in heaven.
I really hate to ruin the surprise in case you and I ever find ourselves mingling at the same shindig, but here it is: I can open a beer bottle with my wedding ring.
I’m no Houdini, but, c’mon, I pretty much am.
So, I am at this party, doo-doo-dooing like a middle school kid who skipped a grade, pretending to admire the wall art, and I notice this guy with that look in his eyes while his palm is choking the neck of a beer bottle. He wants to drink his Southern Tier, but he can’t find an opener.
“I can open it for you,” I said. “With my ring,” I said. “It’s my party trick,” I said.
“Oh no, I couldn’t put you out like that.”
“No, I really can…It’s no big deal…It’s a $40 wedding ring.”
“Ha…” it was the painful kind of ha. “Nooo, I’m good.”
I saw clear through his forced grin.
Not only did I put myself out there and then treated like I was trying to get him to smuggle cocaine through the backseat, but I didn’t even get to show-off my one party trick. He snuck off to confide in a bottle opener, seemingly backing away from me like I was about to stick a balloon up somewhere.
Ah…beautiful wall art.
For the rest of the night, I avoided this guy like he was my greatest embarrassment eating pizza to my shame. That one fleeting awkward interaction almost ruined my night.
So, yeah…I’m pretty sensitive. Even opening up enough to offer a random dude a simple favor can be a big deal for me, and when he denies my generosity, I wrinkle like a prune.
My wife, on the other hand, she returned peed-on pregnancy tests.
I’m not joking.
A Story About My Wife
I knew she could return anything after she marched into a big-name store, complaining about the breakfast tray we’d had for over a year, that we accidentally dropped sometime after the dog chewed the corner of it, and she came out with a new one.
I’d never been more in love with her.
We were trying for number 2–baby number 2, that is–and, she bought two boxes of pregnancy tests that turned out to be toys or thermometers or some other pointless stick-like uselessness. Basically, they didn’t work. She peed on two, and they did not work. Still, not only did she take the boxes back to the big-name store with an expectation of getting her money back, she actually took the used ones too. And it worked! They took them back and returned her money.
I can only imagine the look on the employee’s face as she pinched the corner of the box like she was holding a string of acid, eking out an “Okay…have a nice day…”
But, that’s my wife, and I love her for it. She is a doer, a go-getter, an achiever in a way I’ve only fantasized about. She doesn’t get bothered by awkward interactions, she’s not overly sensitive, and, in general, she is bold and confident and sexy…oops that slipped out.
My Gift Is Her Given
So, again, there we were, sensitive me and go-getter Lindsey, dissecting the argument on the living room couch, when, as if the frog had eaten a nugget and we’d found it, we struck gold.
Because I am so sensitive, when opening up to someone, in general, I release a piece of introspection like it is a gift–a valuable gift–a part of me that I’m breaking off of my character, because it’s not easy for me to open up. I hate conflict, I don’t love attention, and I don’t like awkward situations. When I share even the smallest piece of me with someone, it is a strain and, therefore, an honor to that relationship, and it is a gift.
Lindsey, because of her Type-A personality, considers sharing a personal thought to be more of a given. If it needs to be said, she’ll say it, and, pretty much, what happens happens.
We are grafted together in marriage, and so we are forced to evaluate how we communicate with one another and to consider how we each might accommodate the other. Having coined the brilliant concept of gift versus given, each of us gained insight into the other person’s unique wiring.
Sometimes, I feel needlessly hurt by her, simply because of the tiny nuances in her tone or facial expression, or when she just “says it how it is.” Other times, she feels hurt by me because I can be hesitant to open up to her, my wife, the one person who sees me naked almost every day (if she’s lucky).
Neither of our approaches is better or worse; they are equally good and valuable elements of our relationship that make us who we are as a couple. The realization that some people share their feelings as a gift while others treat them more as a given, hopefully, will improve our communication and increase our empathy toward one another.
We are slowly learning this thing called marriage, but most importantly, we are learning each other. And now I know that my gift is her given.
When you share your thoughts or feelings, do you view it more as a gift or a given?