Caution: there’s a wee bit of adult language ahead!
I’m sitting in a Peet’s Coffee in Chicago this evening.
They are playing corporation-friendly Christmas music, and I’m wearing a puffy down coat to protect myself against the dark, wet, cold night. It is evident that the Holiday Season, in all of its glory, is squarely upon us. It’s a time when people feel an immense amount of pressure to be happy, while often feeling stressed out and pissed off.
Why? Well, this Jew has a couple of ideas.
We compromise when we don’t want to, we don’t speak our truth and then we end up resentful at the people we should be loving. “Goddamn it, we are so lucky and blessed,” we say to each other through gritted teeth and backed up, angry feelings.
Here are three ways we often lie to each other, and what to do instead. Although lying may seem like a good idea in the moment, to spare the feelings of the other person, in reality, it is slowly poisoning your relationship with quiet, insidious resentment.
1. The Lie: I Swear Everything’s Fine.
No, it’s not.
If it were fine you wouldn’t be muttering under your breath and grinding your teeth in the corner. But you don’t really want to have that conversation. Maybe you have a client call in 20 minutes or maybe you want to go to bed and talk about it in the morning. Or you’re like me, and you think if you close your eyes hard enough and squeeze everything into a little ball, maybe you’ll never have to talk about the thing and it actually will be just fine.
We can ignore the thing until we forget—because I hate fighting and processing. So much. I’m fine, I swear, just leave me the fuck alone and I’ll be just fine!
The Alternative: This thing is really bothering me. Let’s talk about it tonight after work around six. Does that work for you?
Schedule a time that works for you so you’re not adding this conversation to the list of resentments you need to talk to the person about. But do it as soon as is convenient. And then, the key is not to blame them. Do not ever, and I mean ever start with, “I can’t believe you…you’re such an asshole.” Since you postponed the conversation, your emotions should be a little more in check than before.
Start with, “I got my feelings hurt when…” or “I have a hard time dealing with…” Because, let’s be honest—we don’t forget. We never forget. When we don’t talk about it, we go back to normal-ish with a little more distance between us. And then it happens again and again. And all of the sudden you are two roommates who barely talk and sleep at the opposite corners of the bed. The processing and fighting is worth having the closeness you get in the make up.
2. The Lie: Whatever you want, I don’t really care.
This might be true sometimes. Other times, you just don’t want to deal with the conversation that would ensue if you actually stated your desire (are we seeing a pattern here?) Maybe it’s that you want sushi for dinner, or you actually really want to see your mom for Christmas and haven’t told him.
Whatever it is, you rob your partner of the ability to give you what you want when you deny that you have a desire.
And then you spend Christmas resentfully interacting with his family and drinking too much eggnog in the corner (and nothing leaves you with a shitty hangover like too much eggnog).
The Alternative: I really want to see my Mom for Christmas. How can we make this work?
Be on the same team, and tell him what you want. And then stick around to negotiate. Maybe you do Christmas apart and New Years together. Whatever it is, it’ll feel better than you tallying the amount of times you did what he wanted passively and storing it up in your head for a massive backlogged resentment fight. Like I said on number one, we don’t just forget about it. We grow apart instead.
3. The Lie: Of course I want to spend more time with you, darling.
Let’s just go to the movies so we don’t have to talk to each other. (I have used this one so many times. I am secretly convinced that movie theaters get 90 percent of their adult business because couples are sick of each other and don’t want to admit it).
The Alternative: I could use a little space tonight. I’m not mad at you, but I just need some alone time/time with my friends.
Learning how to say this small thing to your partner can change your entire relationship. I’m serious. Practice it in the mirror. Taking space and letting yourself miss your partner strengthens your relationship (and makes the sex better) every time.
So do it. Take that night out. And encourage your partner to do the same thing. It will make all the difference in the long haul.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Lianna Lifson
Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman