I can count on one hand the number of major, blow out, yelling fights my husband and I have had in our entire twelve-year relationship. That number? Two.
Our first fight was about six months in when he told me he didn’t want to go out that night but ended up going out in New York City with our friends, while I was stranded in New Jersey with no friends. That fight became even more awesome when I threw the cell phone into the empty car seat next to me and forgot to press, “end.” He heard every single nasty word that I yelled at him. Obviously that inspired him to come hang out with me immediately and not stay out later…not!
Our second blow out fight was on the three-hour drive to my hometown to meet the Minister for our wedding. I felt like I was doing all the work for the wedding and that he just didn’t care. The discussion became quite heated and I threatened to take my ring off and throw it out the window and into the woods. He encouraged me and actually opened the window. This story makes us both laugh now, but then, not so much!
Why so few blow up fights you ask? Well, my husband and I talk “so much” when something bothers us and we communicate our feelings “so well” when we were unhappy that we don’t need to fight because we always work on things before they got out of control. Yes, yes that is most certainly we don’t fight – we are such great communicators! Right. As if! Oh how I wish this was the truth; but it is not.
Sure we talk “so much” and “so well” about small things bothering us like dirty bowls in the sink (really, sweet husband, the dishwasher is right there) and socks and shoes left out (really, dear wife, the closet is a few steps away.) But the big stuff? The big stuff like “Dear husband, I wish you would acknowledge how hard I work to raise the kids because I feel unappreciated” and “Dear wife, I wish you didn’t put all your energy into the kids because I wish you would put more energy into us.” Yeah that stuff – that really hard stuff to admit and talk about because it has the high potential to hurt feelings and lead to a fight? Well, we don’t talk about these tough feelings “so much” or “so well.” In fact, we both actively avoid communicating them as much as possible because neither one of us wants to engage in a massive, uncomfortable yelling battle.
While it is “great” that we don’t fight and have only really yelled at each other twice, the fact that we don’t talk about the uncomfortable stuff and avoid it is not so great. In fact, it really is a disservice to our marriage and our family. We know this – we know that not talking about the hard stuff makes us both grow resentment and unhappiness. We know that not talking about the hard stuff makes us nastier to each other and shorter with the kids. And we know that we don’t want this dynamic any more so we have been actively trying to change it. And I think, fingers crossed, that Sunday night we might have had a breakthrough!
This what went down.
I shared something that really bothered me.
He replied in a way that he felt was really awesome.
I replied using my louder tone of voice that it was less than awesome and that it in fact really angered me.
He replied using his louder tone of voice,
“See, there you go. You get angry and change your tone anytime we talk about hard stuff which is why I don’t want to talk about these things with you.”
My response (after taking a HUGE deep breath thanks to my Orange Rhino training):
I continued on with a more calm tone,
“Babe, I will get angry at you. You will say things that hurt me. You will say things that anger me. And I will do the same right back at you. I might even yell. But not talking because we are afraid of anger and yelling at each other isn’t working. We can try our hardest to say things in the right way to avoid a huge, angry fight but we won’t always succeed. So yeah, anger will happen. Yells will happen. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do after. What matters is that we apologize if we hurt each other’s feelings. What matters is that we don’t walk away but try to understand what ticked the other person off so much so we can try to work on it. What matters is that we forgive and move forward so that we can keep having the conversation and learn from it so that we do better next time.”
The craziest thing happened next; his anger subsided, my anger subsided and we talked “so much” and “so well” about the tough stuff. It felt fantastic and productive! It really is amazing what you can accomplish when you have a calm and civil conversation and keep anger and yelling out of it!
And it really is amazing that it took me this long to say this speech in this situation because I have been telling myself it in regards to The Orange Rhino Challenge for two years! The whole “apologize, forgive, learn about the anger to do better” is EXACTLY the lesson I learned within my first few weeks of The Orange Rhino Challenge.
Right out of the gate, I went 8ish days not yelling.
Then I yelled.
Then I apologized and accepted an apology.
Then I stopped and tried to figure out why I yelled in the first place, what drove me to get so angry so quickly, how did I keep anger at bay in the first eight days?
Luckily for me, I yelled every day for the next few days so I gathered lots of answers as to why I yelled (my hunger, my p.m.s, my lack of sleep, kids lack of listening, kids level of noise, kids lack of sleep and so on and on and on!) and how I didn’t yell. And luckily for my boys, this also meant that I figured out how to move forward more calmly and without yelling for 520 days.
Yes, I went 520 days without yelling.
And then I yelled because I was…get this…angry at my husband!
Again, anger happens. Yells happen.
But it is what happens after that matters more.
Look, even though I am The Orange Rhino, I am still human! And so is my husband for that matter! We will both have good days that make it easy to keep our anger and “yells” in check; we will both have bad days that make it near impossible to keep our anger and “yells” in check and one or the other will inevitably slip out. And when those bad days happen between us, we have to do what we did Sunday night: apologize, forgive, and learn about what drove the anger and yelling so we can move forward and continue to keep anger and yelling out of it and to well, let more love in.
And when the bad day is all on me and I slip up and let a yell out at my boys (it will happen; it has happened!) I will also do the same. I will apologize, push myself to figure out what pushed me to yell and then take that new knowledge to keep progressing forward while leaving anger behind more often and letting love in much more often.
Curious to learn more about how I discovered what pushed me to yell and how I taught myself to calm down and go from wanting to scream to talking calmly? Check out my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” due out this September. You can pre-order it here.