On August 30, 2023

The Funologist: Language arts

 

I didn’t want to do it. But I needed to do it. For both of us.

Our marriage of 42 years is solid as a rock—and scrappy. We are a great team, achieving a high level of DIY with everything we do. But harmonious, not so much. I’m a scrapper. He’s internal.

We argue, make up, and move on. Quitting is not an option.

But now, in our 60s, arguing feels more draining. Tiring. It robs us of the precious energy and time we need to do the things we want to do. 

Rather than tell my husband that we needed to both change to get along better, I know how unmotivating it is to be told you need to change. It sets the stage for resistance.

No one wants to be told what to do. 

Marriage, of course, is a two-way street. But hoping and expecting my husband to change his ways was more likely to bring resentment and disappointment, than change. And before asking someone else to change, it seemed the best place to start—was within.

I believe deeply that for every problem or need that I have, I am outfitted with the tools to fix that problem or meet that need. 100% of the time, when I take complete ownership of my problems, I find a solution.

There is no need to involve anyone else. I am the creator of my own reality.

Win-win

The first thing I recognized as I assessed my own behaviors and practices was that coffee was a stimulant that caused me to be less patient. A stimulant I didn’t need, as I am blessed with plenty of natural energy. So, slowly, I made the shift from regular to decaf coffee. Not only did I feel a mild increase in patience, I felt better physically.

A win-win for both of us.

Once I noticed this positive improvement, I wanted more. I kept thinking of ways to improve our communication that did not require expecting, or even asking my husband to do anything. I stayed focused on my own personal growth.

The noticer

In the evenings, I began to sit across from my husband at the dinner table and observe him in a way I never had before. With the same mindfulness and life coaching skills I use to help others — I wanted to use them to help myself. 

Instead of sitting across from him and jabbering away about my things — I sat, listened, and noticed.

I mindfully breathed slower, relaxing my forehead, jaw, ears, brain, neck, shoulders, arms, and back. I smiled but did not speak. I was in learning mode.

I noticed he needed to eat for a few minutes before he felt comfortable talking. 

So I slowed down with him and held that quiet space for him to settle into his meal — without words. It felt like a tiny, invisible gift to him. And it felt good to do it.

I was speaking his language. 

As a motivational storyteller, my entire body joins in when I talk. Emotion and passion are woven into my stories. They are full of imagery that he and others enjoy. The spoken word is my birth language. But it is not his.

His birth language is thought. He is the thinker, I am the doer. 

You get good at what you practice.

Though I am learning to speak his language, it does not come naturally to me. But the more I practice it, the easier it gets. 

When I need my husband to help me but he is busy thinking and doing his own thing, I shift my mind to dude mode.

I think about what it is I need. The facts, the correct descriptions of things instead of my go-to terminology of “that thingee.” I remove extra words, emotion, and storytelling, then, I go to him and say, “Okay, let’s talk man to man”…and using as few words as possible, I get to the point. 

He smiles and answers easily. I thank him, we hug and I go back to minding my own business, with the information I need. No shouting, no arm waving. It is helpful and harmonious. 

And he goes back to building the garage we are three years into. Together, we built our timber frame house (a lifelong pursuit), and are rebuilding the garage we moved into with our young daughters 38 years ago. I work near him on my own landscaping projects, but am not waiting around, impatiently. I step in, help, step out. We move through life at different speeds.

This is a system that works for us.  

My husband carries piles of information in his head. Big, heavy piles of everything he’s ever known. His brain is so full that it’s harder for him to easily make changes.

I, on the other hand, like to keep my mind free of big, heavy thoughts. It’s uncomfortable. 

So I keep the important thoughts and let go of the  ones that no longer serve me, or anyone else.

This frees my mind to add in changes when I need them. 

Like learning a new language.

For more information about Sandra; visit:
sandradeeowens.com.

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