Recently, after some big life transitions, my wife and I have been having trouble communicating. Maybe that’s an understatement – we spend the majority of the month giving each other side-eyes through the routine conversations we need to get through the day… followed up by nights of making it blatantly obviously we’re avoiding skin contact while we sleep.
My mother moved in with us recently. She was also diagnosed with cancer. My wife is pregnant with our second child.
She’s been wanting to talk, and I’ve avoided it like the plague. I know, unique story, right? But the thing is I wanted to talk too, but i didn’t know how to have a meaningful conversation with her without the conversation diving in the “the pit of misunderstanding.” It’s the current pit dividing my wife and I and is only getting larger with each night of non-conversation.
But I wanted to speak with her – to her. I had to find a way – a common ground that wasn’t going to end in the cliché of abrupt silence and unspoken departure into the nearest room.
One evening, I pulled out pen and paper. I started writing down all the things I was grateful for in my wife. Whatever came to mind, I wrote. I figured there can never be too much good. Even though I could have written way more, I simply stopped when the page was full. And later than night, I sat my wife down and told her I had something I needed her to hear me say.
All the things I’m grateful to you for:
- you feed our son healthy food
- you care about my health
- you help my mother when she asks for help
- you give my mother her own space to be herself
- you don’t wear a lot of makeup
- you wear your hair the way it grows
- you exercise and watch what you eat – it shows you value yourself enough to discipline yourself
- you don’t judge my self-expression
- you pay the bills every month
- you try to be a better mother every year
- you read books (let’s be honest – how many of us still aren’t reading books these days)
- you’re interested in self-development
- you’re not ashamed of professional counseling
- you’re a foodie (food is LIFE)
- you know how to rely on yourself
- you put up with me
- you can appreciate the creative genius of Childish Gambino
Her first words after I finished reading off my list were, “Thank You.”
Later that evening, she also said, “This may be the first time in our entire marriage that I’ve felt acknowledged for how I feel.” We pulled up Childish Gambino’s recent performance of Redbone on Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” and laughed as we speculated on what kind of shoes Donald Glover must be wearing with his sparkling trousers. We smiled together for the first time in a long time.
We eventually got into an argument about why we felt so distant from one another, and still went to bed frustrated with one another – looking at each other from the opposite edges of our great pit. We held each other as we fell asleep that night. Grateful to simply be speaking again.