Author Interview, Part Two
Some of the advice in Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is pretty standard stuff. Some of it, however, is not. Here, a short Q and A that follows the lessons in the book that might help clarify a few of the more nuanced suggestions.
Lesson: Don’t Make It Into a Big Deal
Can you give me another example of how to pretend something isn’t a big deal? Is it just about ignoring the little stuff, or what?
No. It’s partly that, but it’s also about having a bit of fun with the process.
When something is bugging my husband and I know that it’s a temporary thing—a bad mood, tiredness or whatever—I use the opportunity to practice what I preach in this book: being nice, not getting angry, keeping my perspective. Here is sort of what that looks like: First, I don’t take hold of the rudeness he’s offering me. If he continues to offer it, I say something like, “Hon, are you okay?” Usually, that diffuses the situation pretty quickly. On the rare occasion on which it doesn’t, though, and he’s actually mad at me, he might explain what’s bothering him. That’s my chance to either talk it through or tell him that I love him but I’m choosing not to do what he wants me to do.
I’m a pretty serious person. I tend to be a little more like Rachel the list-maker than Genevieve the intuitive. How can I learn to not sweat the small stuff?
Control freaks do well to find other outlets for their passion. Do you have at least a few other close friendships? Do you have at least one hobby you really love? Your partner shouldn’t be your only source of endorphins.
Also remember that the whole letting go thing feels weird at first; when you’re emotional, your instinct is to directly deal with the situation. After a while, though, as talking about your relationship issues becomes less the norm than the exception, you begin to settle into a habit of ignoring stuff that starts you both spinning.
You become more at peace with peace.
What if we never get there? What if we never figure out how to be “comfortably in love” again?
Relationships aren’t always fun and easy. But they should be a lot of the time. If yours isn’t, you’re either not a good match—water and oil—or you’re really seeking out problems. Stop the problem-making habit and start a fun-making habit. If you do lots of enjoyable stuff together, little problems tend not to grow.
And definitely don’t get too much into his emotional business unless he shares it with you. Remember that your partner’s happiness is his job—not yours. Be the best partner you can be, and let him figure out everything else. Give him a bit of advice, then let him make his own choices.
Lesson: Be Uncomfortably Nice
What is the best way to show my partner that I love him on a daily basis?
Use a pleasant tone of voice. Always, always, always, unless you truly, in that moment, cannot. If you follow only one piece of advice in this book, follow this one. Use a (sincerely) pleasant tone of voice at all times, particularly during the mundane activities of life. This is where your relationship really lives. If you’ve fallen into that common but horrible habit of speaking with slight condescension to your partner on a regular basis, know that in order to make things work, this will have to change.
So, what about when your partner says something that’s not just rude, but super mean? The other day I told my husband I was really stressed out and he said, point blank, “I don’t care.” I couldn’t believe it. It hurt so much.
That does hurt. Have you asked him why he said it?
He said it because he didn’t care. In that moment, he didn’t care about how I felt.
Not necessarily. People say this stuff. He probably cares but at the time was upset about something else. My best advice is to ask him if he meant what he said. Ask him sweetly, at a time when he’s not mad. He’ll be impressed by your mature way of handling the situation. He’ll remember it, and if you handle rude comments this way regularly, he’ll eventually learn to be more careful with his words.
Countering not-nice with nice is the best way to get an apology.
So, how do you do this? I mean, we all snap at our partners and kids sometimes, right? We can’t be nice all the time.
Make it your number one priority for a week. A nice tone of voice, all day long. It’s a habit.
Lesson: Shamelessly Bargain (And Always Have a Bottom Line)
One of the things my husband struggles a lot with is getting time to exercise. He likes it, and it’s important to him, but there’s only a certain window of opportunity—in the hour after work—when he can get to the gym or take a jog. Lately, though, he’s been skipping this window and coming home early to crash on the couch. Then when it’s his turn to take the baby, he says he really needs to get his exercise done. It’s not fair, and the other day it caused a huge fight. What should I do?
It sounds like you have a schedule in place that you’re generally both happy with. If that’s the case, it’s just a matter of sticking to it—even if he doesn’t like it. Tell him that it’s his baby time, offer to discuss it, then walk away. If you need to, leave the house to force him to do his duty.
Oh, that’ll go over well.
Risk the argument. See it as an investment you make for your future happiness; if he sees you’re going to enforce your agreement, he’ll take future agreements more seriously. See it as practice for when you have to do the same kind of enforcement with your kids.
If you don’t take this advice, don’t blame him for taking advantage of your fear of confrontation.
Oh, and as always, when you leave, leave with a smile, or at least without undue emotion. He may not be smiling back. But that’s okay.