Many of the posts on Wife Behind the Fire are great launching pads from which I can develop and convey my opinion and experiences. There was a lot of bitterness and frustration with the lifestyle of a firefighter girlfriend, and that kept me quiet and unable to communicate for a seemingly never-ending period of time. Now that the academy is over, and I have my own experiences, as the partner of one of New York’s Bravest, I want to develop a voice as a woman behind the fire.
In the post Communication as a Firewife, I found a topic that both frustrated me and resonated with me. There is a frustration that builds when one person is being put under extensive mental and physical stress from 5am-4pm. But, there is another frustration that exists when one person’s daily responsibilities and achievements– whether as a stay-at-home mom or a full-time worker– suddenly seem minimized compared to the daily dealings of a hero-in-training.
The author discusses her frustration and her hot Irish temper. This made it difficult to communicate her feelings and daily dealings to her firefighter. One of her points was to listen more, and learn to communicate more efficiently. To me, it is not a matter of closing your mouth and listening more. You can keep your mouth open, but change the topic of the talk.
She wrote: “By yelling, it turned into a blame game and instant defense. No way to be productive when people go on the defense.” While I completely agree with this statement, one cannot control the tone and level of defense of their partner. Regardless of my approach to many situations, The Man would remain defensive and, naturally, the exchange was less than productive.
Life happens and there will be chapters that alter your ability to have a dialogue with your partner. Problems are fine, natural parts of life, but what happens with the relationship and what determines the level of healthiness is how each party comes to the table.
In dealing with The Man, I adjusted my talking techniques pretty early on in our relationship. Despite my greatest efforts to stop the yelling in any tense exchange, it still takes two to tango. I drove myself near insane trying to get a topic discussed and problems addressed without a fight. But the truth is, if the other person isn’t willing to reflect on their tone, recognize their anger and propensity to become defensive, and their potential to cut a line of communication, then there is no way for you to control whether a conversation or argument happens.
The first step is to address your own approach. Are you too angry to properly talk? Exactly what is the problem, transgression, or situation that you want to address? Do you know how you would help fix the situation? Do you know how you expect your partner to help fix the situation?
I was not aware of the importance of that last question until one episode of the Steve Harvey Show. There was an excellent segment about relationships and fixing problems, whether small or immense. There was a couple who had been dealing with an issue of emotional infidelity, and the were struggling to move past it. The husband repeated the phrase that he was with her and only her, but the wife was grappling with trusting those words. She asked him to prove them, but the husband didn’t know how. When the therapist asked the wife how he could do it, the wife could not respond. If you do not tell someone how you envision proof of love, fidelity, honesty, or effort, then no solution can be found. It helps both parties to be aware of the expectations of a solution. You will always fall short of an imaginary finish line.
If you find that your partner isn’t adjusting their attitude, then there needs to be a separate dialogue about that. It is unfair for one party to adjust their tone and approach, while the other stays angry and defensive.
Communication is key to any relationship, obviously. But it is also a two-way street that needs to be approached as such.