It’s taken years of practice, but my husband and I have pretty good communication. No one’s perfect, so we aren’t either, but for the most part we tell each other what we think when we think it, and this has served us pretty well. That is, until extenuating circumstances come into play.
I have a problem with insecurities from time to time and this causes us issues. Sometimes these insecurities translate into projection, which causes feelings to get hurt when they shouldn’t.
I work two 12+ hour shifts a week at a local hospital. Because of my health, I need a rest day after I work. For a healthy person, 12 hours is a long time; for me, it can be an eternity.
On my work days I walk about 3 to 4 miles throughout the course of the day. Not only does this affect my hips and knees, but having to be ‘on’ for 12+ hours adds to my fairly constant mental exhaustion. I love my job, and I’m fortunate that I can do it, but it takes a huge toll on me physically and mentally.
My husband knows this and he worries about me. This is where the projection and communication (or lack thereof) comes in.
Years ago my insecurity was due to my looks or personality, but now it has a lot more to do with my poor health. Going from being a relatively healthy young woman to a 30 year old dealing with fatigue and constant pain has been quite the blow to my self-worth.
Going from working full-time and contributing and being independent to having to work part-time, making less money and contributing less has pretty much demolished all of the good work I had done on my self-esteem.
People think I’m lucky because I ‘only have to work part-time‘, but they don’t understand how useless I feel because I can only work part-time. I began my career in the medical field at the age of 19, where I ran a doctor’s office. I had big plans for my future, but my injuries and pain have put them on hold for the foreseeable future. That hurts.
Between my own insecurities and the constant comments and criticism I receive from others, I’m kind of a mess. I feel useless, like a failure and a burden.
Even though he never ever makes me feel guilty, I project my guilt and insecurities onto him and I often assume he dislikes me as much as I do.
So, this leads me to last week. I worked on Wednesday and it was a particularly rough day, so I planned to have a rest day on Thursday, especially since I was scheduled to work again on Friday. Before my husband left for work on Thursday he asked me what my plans were for the day, and he was happy to hear that the answer was “none”.
When I finally got up, however, I realized that I needed to fill out a form at my doctor’s office and it had to be done that day due to scheduled appointments next week. Because I really needed rest, my day did not go well. I was in a mental fog, so I had a hard time keeping track of other errands, and because I was so physically drained, I kept dropping things – including almost an entire smoothie into my center console.
By the time my husband and I had gotten home, we were both exhausted and I was pretty miserable and frustrated. This was when the trouble started, because:
A lack of effective communication + my underlying insecurities and projections = a problem.
So when he somewhat jokingly said ‘how are you more exhausted than me when you didn’t even work today?’ I took great offense. When I responded with, ‘well, when you’re healthy…’ and he made an exasperated sigh, I took even more offense.
I should have said something then and there, but instead I walked away. The wound was too fresh and raw for me to deal with the emotional toll talking about it would take. I was already so tired. I just couldn’t take an in depth conversation about it.
He left me alone and cleaned the kitchen (seriously, he’s wonderful). He later tried to explain what he meant, but in my frustration and emotional pain I wasn’t ready to understand where he was coming from, so I just told him it was fine and tried to move on.
It wasn’t for another three days that I finally brought it back up. This isn’t something I’m proud of; we usually get the discussion out of the way as soon as we can so that we are able to move on. But this cut too deep. This hit a nerve that was already raw from being hit by me every day.
So, yesterday we finally talked about it. I told him that, in my mind, he was saying that I was using my health as an excuse. That he resented me for not working full-time and that I couldn’t possibly be exhausted because I don’t even work every day.
He explained that, in his mind, he was trying to express his frustration that I didn’t take the day off and rest. He couldn’t understand why I needed to leave the house and doesn’t like to see me hurting.
He also told me that he had had a bad day but didn’t want to put that on me since I was already having a hard time. That added to his frustrations, and when he tried to put it all into words, it just didn’t come out right.
All that hurt and frustration just because we didn’t clearly communicate with each other and I projected my own insecurities and self-hatred onto him. Had we put our frustrations aside, we may have been able to avoid the issue altogether, but we’re only human.
There are going to be times when you can’t quite articulate what you want to say. There will be times when you project your own problems onto your partner. All you can really do is admit it, talk about it and try to do better next time.