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Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Mining for Nuggest of Understanding

My husband, Kim, and I rarely argue about things of substance like values and principles, finances or our goals. When we do argue it’s about two things:

  • Our child
  • Our communications

As a team, we have to spend time mining for nuggets of understanding, or we’d spend all of our energy reading between the lines and making erroneous assumptions. Our communication styles clash and it drives us a little crazy. I over communicate and talk him to death (which is part of the reason he tunes me out), and he just wants me to give him the bottom line. I suppose almost 30 years in the corporate office did that for him. We also have rather significant cultural differences (He’s Portuguese. I’m American), and age differences (I’m 36. He’s 63), as well as different experiences and vastly different dynamics within our extended families. It all makes for an interesting mix, and if we weren’t conscience of it, I’m quite positive we’d have an extraordinary amount of power struggles, and we would not be married today.

Sometimes it’s the smallest of daily things that create a struggle. Our son, Aaron, develops a nasty cough and runny nose every time the weather changes. His pediatrician has explained that Aaron has seasonal allergies and a reactive airway. As long as he’s not running a fever or presenting additional symptoms of something more serious, I don’t panic and we treat him accordingly. Every time a new season starts and the cough begins, my husband starts to freak out a bit and wants to head for the doctor’s office. I have a more laid back attitude and since we’ve been going through this for two years, I’m hesitant to head for the pediatrician’s office just to hear the same diagnosis.

It becomes a point of contention between my husband and I, and as Mother Nature has recently ushered in a cold spell, and everyone in his preschool seems to have a runny nose, Aaron predictably started coughing and nose-dripping, and my husband predictably started asking me to call the doctor. After a few days I relented and made an appointment. We saw the doctor, who after conducting a thorough examination told us the same thing he’s been telling us for the last two years. I would normally have been annoyed with my husband, but on our way to the pediatrician’s office, with Aaron coughing off and on in the back seat, Kim shared a story with me that I’d never heard before, and it helped me to better frame his anxiety.

Kim’s father spent much of his adult life suffering from tuberculosis and he was in and out of hospitals for long periods of time, which meant Kim grew up only seeing his father sporadically. When his father was periodically healthy enough to spend time at home, the family had to practice partial quarantine type efforts…no physical contact, dishes had to be sanitized, there were no kisses, no hugs. It was incredibly tragic for the entire family. His father passed away from TB complications when Kim was in his 20s. Of course I know the story, but what I didn’t know was that the initial TB diagnosis took much too long.

“When my father first started to get sick he developed a cough,” Kim explained in a soft voice while keeping his hands firmly fixed on the steering wheel. “The doctors kept telling him he had a cold.”

I could see his fingers curl around the steering wheel a little harder, and his voice lost its tenderness. “A year later and he still had a damn cold.”

I was horrified and wondered why I hadn’t put two and two together. Of course it makes Kim panic when he hears his son coughing. Intensely protective of our son, I’d not realized his over zealous nature regarding Aaron’s health had wider inspirations. It was me who hadn’t been listening deeply enough this time.

“The family always believed that if he had been diagnosed earlier,” he explained, “the disease wouldn’t have had time to progress and we may have been able to save him.”

I wish we hadn’t been in the car so I could have wrapped him in my arms and told him how sorry I was that I hadn’t understood before. He’d been bottom lining it for so long, that I’d never looked for that nugget of understanding to help me see why Aaron coughing immediately puts Kim on the edge for days. I get it now. He can bottom line it from here till eternity and I won’t get annoyed again, but he had to stop and fill in the gaps for me.

I think the longer a couple has been together, the more complicated their communication can be. As time marches on, we have more and more experiences and past conversations on which to hang new engagements and filter meaning. We make assumptions. We misinterpret. My husband and I are still exploring and adapting, and I hope we’ll continue to do so for the rest of our lives. Nothing is stagnant, especially marriage. We’ve been together for 13 years, and we’re still learning how to listen to each other’s hearts. We’re still discovering what makes the other tick.

====================================================================

I read a lot of blogs, and every once in awhile a particular story or work will stay with me for days. Hilary at The Smitten Image has a post this week, Bridging Generations, that has been playing a melody in my mind. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, please do. It’s beautiful.

Don’t forget to stop by Jan’s place for this week’s Thanksgiving Thursday recipe. It looks delicious.

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18 comments to Mining for Nuggest of Understanding

  • It is so true how we can completely take our loved ones for granted. MHS is a bottom liner also. I feel your pain. But communication is key and I, like you tend to over do it so much that in the end he doesn’t hear me anymore and I don’t hear what he isn’t saying. This relationship thing is a tricky bugger. Glad you worked this one out. And I hope Aaron feels better soon.

    Smart Mouth Broads last blog post..HER NOSE CAME OFF

  • Jan

    Ah, yes. Beloved is fond of saying “Women rapport – men report.”

    Family dynamics and histories, especially among blended families like yours and mine (and you face generational and cultural differences to boot), are often a major source of contention between couples. We’ve been having problems with Darling Daughter for some time now, and Beloved is one of those people who speaks his mind – often loudly and vehemently – when irritated. I finally had to tell him, “Will you PLEASE stop yelling at me about this? I have no control over her actions!”

    He said he wasn’t yelling at me, he was just venting his frustration and I’m the person he vents to. I told him I understand that, but in my past, I was often the scapegoat for things outside of my control, raised voices were often accompanied by raised fists and he needed to tone it down some. He knew my history, of course, but that hadn’t occurred to him, and it’s been much better since.

    Oh, I’m going to have a story about a lemon for you tomorrow.

    Jans last blog post..Thanksgiving Thursday – Cranberry Sauce

  • donna

    I can relate to this story, only mine does not end tragically.
    When you were a little girl, you would get ear infections and really high fevers, with those fevers came convulsions. One night I remember staying up with you all night with a high fever, you had 6 convulsions that night and ended up in the ER. I was only 17 or 18 at the time and was scared out of my mind. I can not tell you to this day what a fever in a child does to me. I too would panic I was so afraid of loosing you that you can not even imagine. We had to do all kinds of tests on you to make sure that every time you had a convulsion, you did not have brain damage from them.
    So, Kim I relate to your fear.
    XOXOX

  • Tricia

    SmartMouthBroad: I wonder why women over communicate the way we do. Thank goodness we have other women to drown with in conversation. Thanks so much for your well wishes for Aaron.

    Jan: I soooo hear what you’re saying. Kim and I have had several conversations where I’ve explained that when he raises his voice “to me”, even when he’s venting about someone else, it makes me want to shrink and remember my first marriage. Did you mention a lemon…that’s intriguing. I’m puckered and ready.

    Mom: Well, that story made me cry. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to be a teenage mom and I just want to say thanks for loving me so much. Do tell though…all those tests for brain damage…obviously they said the damage was irreversible, huh. It explains a lot!

  • You’re so sweet for linking to my blog. Thank you so kindly. I’m glad my post touched you. :)

    I can relate in part to what you’re saying. I want to talk things to death once I’ve formulated them in my mind. My SO has a tendency to blurt out the passing thoughts and I tend to take them as fully thought out conclusions. We drive each other nuts and yet we’re both deemed good communicators by those who know us well, and even by each other.. most of the time.

    I’m glad you gained a better understanding of your husband’s concerns. His Dad’s medical history might be something you’ll want to mention to your son’s doctor just so they have it in his record. From what I understand there actually is a genetic susceptibility to tuberculosis – however, very rare.

    Thanks again for the linkage. You’re a sweetie. :)

    Hilarys last blog post..Bridging Generations

  • First of all, I hope that Aaron feels better soon. I so feel ya sister. Isn’t it amazing what we sometimes take for granted? But you, like we all, learned from it.

    MamaGeeks last blog post..True, That.

  • Amy

    After all these years (20) Dan and I are still learning to communicate! IT seems that it is never ending learning process … hope your little man is feeling better and hope that together Kim and you can find what each of you need! At least you are trying … and that is what makes it work!

    Amys last blog post..More Giveaways!

  • Beautiful post. I hope Aaron feels better, like, right NOW! Communication is everything – looking for understanding every day is essential. You nailed it. :D

    goodfathers last blog post..SHE’S WALKING!

  • Oh . . . I hope Aaron is on the mend soon. It sounds like your husband is a man and you are a woman, simple as that. Did that sound sexist? Seriously? My husband and I have communication styles very similar to yours indeed. I’ve been trying to get to the point more, and he’s been trying to share more. Every little bit helps.

    Cheri @ Blog This Mom!s last blog post..Tina Fey, You’ve Got a Little Competition

  • Whoa, your poor son!!!!!
    It is true that miscommunications come between me and the missus sometimes too. That drives the plot of many sitcoms too, doesn’t it?????

    garys last blog post..this whole reunion thing

  • Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. I actually don’t care for that boiled down explanation of the communication differences between the genders, but it’s true. How wonderful that he opened up and shared his fear with you. My husband is the same way with any of the illnesses with our children. I swear that man keeps a thermometer with him at all times. Poor Aaron. I hope all is well!

    steenky bees last blog post..The Spin Cycle: Children of the Corn(field)

  • Be

    Excellent post. Jan stole my line, but it is true – women and men by their nature communicate differently. It isn’t sexist to say it, and it is important to understand it.

    But more to the point you have indeed hit the nail on the head in terms of communicating with ANY one. We would all be better served by entering every relationship knowing that we do not understand the perspective of the other and instead of wanting to challenge an assertion alien to our own experiences, be genuinely interested in understanding the hows and whys that bring the other to their perspective and point in life.

    Sounds like ya’ll have a wonderful and mature relationship – certainly your level of understanding is the foundation of a good family and a relationship that will see you both into rocking chairs reminiscing about bygone days and understanding what each other thinks before the other even thinks it!
    Very sweet!

  • what a great illustration of the importance of communication, and what may be lost in the translation between 2 people…and very impressed also with the comments by your readers who added even more depth to the discussion. This was a great post, thanks to all for sharing. The family i come from are some of the worst communicators in the world…i have no idea how my parents even get out of the driveway most days, so i am always delighted to hear it doesn’t have to be that way, and maybe even learn a little about how it should or could be done.

    Cheers!

    thistles last blog post..In Anticipation of a Grueling Great Weekend Event…

  • Tricia

    Be: I think Jan stole your line, and your heart. I’m thrilled that you stopped by and hope you’ll make it a regular haunt. And if you have any particular nuggets you’d like to share about the mistress of the Sushi Bar, please do share. Especially if they’re bribe-worthy nuggets and I can use them to get her to cook me Sunday brunch.

  • What a thoughtful post. i liked the way it made me slow down and think after a hectic day. My husband and I have similar differences. Most of his anxiety stems from his losing his mother in a car accident when he was seven. So he is overprotective and paranoid a lot of the time. Although I want our children to be mindful and careful, I don’t want them to be afraid to take chances.

    phhhsts last blog post..I’d like to thank my mother………….

  • When my little brother was little he had a febrile seizure and didn’t come out of it for a while… I still remember it clearly and I was only 6. Now, when my kids run fevers I FREAK! My experience wasn’t nearly as traumatic or terrible as your husbands, or other readers, but it’s always in the back of my mind when my kids are sick.

    Sammanthias last blog post..Hurry, While Supplies Last

  • Wow! So much to think about from that post. Not only does it make me want to dig more with my husband, but it leaves me thinking about how much our kids take their childhood experiences into adulthood.

    Lisa Ps last blog post..Hen Pecking

  • Wow. I say what’s another one or two doctor’s visits each year?

    patoiss last blog post..The Weekly Wonderings #82

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