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A Better You
by Jo Ann Fore

Illogical Conclusions

One day last week my husband hurt my feelings. I was upset. It took me a couple days to get over it – and to talk to him about it.

“Why were you sarcastic in that text message you sent me a couple days ago?” I finally ventured.

“What do you mean?” he asked innocently.

What do I mean; you know exactly what I mean. How could he be so insensitive to have forgotten it already? “When I sent you the text message about our schedules, and you responded sarcastically – why did you do that?” I continued.

 

 

“Sweetie…I really have no idea what you mean. Why would I be sarcastic?” he implored. “Is it in my nature to be sarcastic?”

What a simple, but profound question. It stopped me dead in my tracks.

No, it isn’t even in his nature to be sarcastic. He simply isn’t like that. Why did I think that about him? I had nursed an emotional wound for days – unnecessarily. I interpreted his statement negatively, and concluded — illogically — that he meant something he really didn’t mean. I was mad about it, and I allowed it to distance us for days.

Irrational Beliefs
I laughed out loud recently while reading Marriage Partnership. Apparently I’m not the only one who jumps to conclusions about their partner’s thoughts. There was an article (Lost in Translation, Summer 2006) – written by a man about his wife – that revealed their communication breakdown.

The writer picked up his wife from work one day. The wife climbed into the car, exhausted. “I am so tired!” she expressed. She couldn’t wait to get home and climb into a nice hot bath and then go to bed. Sensing her weariness, the husband suggested they go out to dinner, so she wouldn’t have to cook or clean. ‘Is he crazy?’ she mused. ‘I just want to crawl into a tub of hot water. I don’t want to deal with the noisiness and hassle of going out.’ She responded to him with silent aggravation.

In an effort to cheer her up, he tried again – thinking that the support of her friends might brighten her mood. “Well then, would you like to have some friends over?” ‘Yes, that’s what I want after a hard day’s work…to come home, clean the house and make dinner for a house full of people.’ She shot him a dirty look.

Realizing that nothing he said was going to cheer her up, he reached over, smiled, and lovingly placed his hand on her knee for encouragement. ‘That’s the last straw. How could he be so insensitive to think I feel like having sex tonight?’ “I said I’m exhausted – did you not hear me!” she snapped.

They rode the rest of the way home in silence.

Pure Thoughts
This couple, along with me and many others, discovered how easy it is to jump to conclusions about what our partner is thinking. How can we avoid this behavior?

1. Consider the character.
Before we give in to petty criticism about our partner, we must learn to take the negative thoughts we have about him or her, and compare them to the true character of the individual. We must ask ourselves, “Does what I’m thinking about this incident parallel their normal behavior?” If not, there’s a good chance we’re wrong about what we’re thinking. We need to compare what we believe with what we know to be true.

2. Consider the method of communication.
It’s important – in communication – to consider the method. In today’s world of instant messages, email, and text messages, there is a lot of room for misunderstanding. Electronic communication doesn’t allow for voice inflection. How we articulate something allows an impression of the manner in which it was meant. You can’t always gauge someone’s anger, sincerity, or sarcasm in an electronic communication. It’s easy to miss out on what someone really means when you can’t hear them say it.

3. Accept the communication at face value.
We also need to learn not to project earlier methods of communication on our partner. I’ve been married only 15 months, but have been married before. I tend to compare my communication in my existing marriage to the communication methods of my earlier marriage. And trust me, that’s not good! We need to learn to listen to what our partner actually said and accept our communication at face value. My communication with my husband now is safe; I can trust it and relax in it.

Remember: If you have a wound that you’ve been nursing for days over something your partner said, you might want to ask him or her if what you heard was actually what was meant. Jumping to conclusions causes unnecessary angst.



Jo Ann Fore welcomes your comments about this article or suggestions for material you would like to see in future articles. Email her at: JoAnnFore@msn.com. A Better You is published every Saturday.

 


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