It had happened several times before. Even on a cold rainy night (or as cold as one could get in tropical Malaysia) hubby would insist on turning on the aircond throughout the night. I’m no actuarial scientist but even I can see a (causal?) relationship between that and the event of our son tossing and turning through the night hours later with a running nose, upon which he would get up to turn it off and I would fetch the ever-reliable Vicks and spread it on our boy’s chest, back and tips of his nose.
What happened next had also happened several times before. After switching off the aircond he would proceed to turn on the fan, which is fine since without the former we would wake up hot and sweaty at sunrise. The problem is, he would always, always press on all the other switches first (the main light, the second light, and so on) before finally finding the right button. Son and I would be blinded by the sudden burst of light and the little boy would dive under a pillow and continue his sleep, but being the annoyed wife that I already am, found myself snapping this time “For God’s sake, it’s the upper right switch!” Thankfully, hubby proceeded to ignore my outburst and immediately executed the much-envied act of laying back on the bed and falling asleep almost immediately. I, on the other hand, lay awake and berated myself for what I had just blurted out, which suddenly sounded less justified.
Practising some concepts I had applied in some books (such as Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth – which i had read after i saw him on Oprah) I tried to be not the immediate voice inside my head, but the other, bigger voice that is aware of it. What was I really annoyed about? Was I really being that martyr mother who was defending and wanting the best for my son – and if so, why the snap? After all, hubby was on my team with this one, and it’s not like we’re in a competition on who’s being the better parent (which would be stupid). So what was I really annoyed about?
I realized that I was actually responding to his perennial search for the right switch out of a different underlying cause – my fear that he does not consider this our real home (this being my family childhood home, which we have been living in since coming back). I know how he wishes he can have his own home, and be the king of our own house, but unfortunately we sold our house in order to be able to afford his MBA and have been house-less since. When I realized that, I felt more empathy and felt regret at what I had said earlier.
Another thing I’ve read is that there tends to be a few basic underlying causes, or patterns to every married couple’s fights and issues. The main ones are security (i.e. jealousy, trust, etc), control (power struggle, who wears the pants, etc) and fear (such as what I’m feeling now). So when you get into a fight with your spouse, you’re not supposed to immediately launch into a similar fight again – try and step back and analyze the real voice inside your head. What are you really fighting about?
Since practicing this concept I realize I’ve been trying to be a better spouse and a better friend to my husband. The problem most of the time doesn’t lie with him, but within me, in my head, or in other words as we Malays say it – the syaitan talking. So what we’ve gotta do is try to play the devil’s advocate with yourself in the heat of the moment – it might save you and your partner an unhappy next few hours, and save your marriage in the long run. Insya Allah.