So, yes, I confess: there is a standard, eerily familiar tinge to every single one of our arguments. And, in the scheme of things, not a one of them matters. What can I say? We're works in progress.
Sunday's argument started out no different. He said something that upset me because, as always, he tends to view my way of saying or doing things as both baffling and frustrating. Unfortunately, his responses to those words or actions frequently go beyond confusion. In essence, he seems to suggest that my way of saying and doing things is wrong, not just different. Usually I roll my eyes or gently remind him that his way of speaking and acting is not inherently better. But this time I found it offensive. I was exhausted, tired of being in the car and getting sick. So I fell silent. Which meant he was consumed with worry, and I was consumed by the offensive nature of the offense.
It doesn't matter now what he said. Truth be told, it didn't matter then. He didn't mean to be patronizing, and I don't think he even recognizes when he is being insensitive. (Men think differently about these things than women.) I understood all of this. But I was wholly consumed by the fact that I would have never said to him what he said to me. Knowing that, I felt both superior and slighted. But as he tried his hardest to affirm me and cheer me up -- genuinely; not because he was in the proverbial dog house but because it makes him upset to see me upset -- I tried to think of how to get past his comments. I just couldn't come up with it. I was upset, and I didn't know why. I just knew I didn't want to talk about it. But he did. He wanted to understand what upset me and prevent it from happening again. I disagreed with the idea that talking would be productive. So we sat there, each of us sad, frustrated and unsure how to resolve it. Until we did.
It took me an hour to really believe that it was okay to be upset but not understand why. It took me equally as long to realize that 10 of 11 hours of peace while in a confined space is actually pretty impressive. For, as the great Laurence Olivier once said, if you are gifted, you can only be great once or twice in a while; the rest of the time you have to settle for being very, very good (#242). It's okay that sometimes we're not clicking; no couple always does. And it's definitely okay if we're not upset with each other but upset in general after a long, exhausting and emotionally-charged week. It doesn't mean anything is wrong with our relationship.
It has taken me the last three days, however, to recognize that I had no right to feel superior in that moment. Because, while I may not be insensitive, I am, as it turns out, painfully selfish. Mr. Wonderful is the exact opposite. He may say things without thinking about them, but very rarely does he demand that I act in ways that suit him. I, however, try very hard to be sensitive to other's feelings, but I often find myself being very self-protective. When others act in ways that I think are disrespectful, I'm quick to notice it, and I tend to voice it. Mr. Wonderful, on the other hand, doesn't seem bothered by others disrespecting him; he's self-confident.
And that is an important distinction, because I think the two concepts go hand-in-hand. People who are confident in themselves don't need to be self-protective. They don't have to demand your respect, both because they don't care all that much whether you respect them and because most of the time they've already received it. Conversely, because they don't care all that much whether you respect them, they don't always pay close attention to how you might feel. They don't mean to be offensive; what does it matter whether that's how you interpreted it? On the flip side, those of us who aren't all that self-confident and do care whether others respect us tend to demand (rather than command) others' respect. We are insecure and, therefore, selfish.
All of this has made me very ashamed of my tendency to feel superior when others are unknowingly disrespectful. It's likely that they mean no harm by their comments, and it's also likely that I have no reason to feel superior. Likewise, there's something to emulate about the trend toward self-confidence or, more importantly, self-love. I need to grant myself a lot of grace and feel comfortable in my own skin; only then will I be able to stop demanding the respect of others and earn it instead. Only then will I not take insensitive statements as personally offensive. Only then will I be respected. And only then will I be happy. I mean, who wants to be around a person who is insecure, easily irritable and superior? It's not a highly desirable friendship or relationship combination.
It dawns on me that losing my job and almost losing my relationship have humbled me and ripped away my sense of entitlement (#243); allowed me to take responsibility for my own happiness (#244); stopped me from allowing others' actions to hurt me, make make me suffer and feel like a victim (#245); and taught me to be confident not because others approve of me but because I love myself and am doing the best I can (#246).
This is a journey, not a destination. But it's a worthy one. If I can learn to love myself and, therefore, stop being so demanding and selfish and instead just be myself, I will earn the respect that for so long I have demanded.
Of course, the key to all of this is learning to love myself, and that is easier said than done.