I have a career where I make good money. But it is an hourly position with no pension or benefits that tie me to it. I also have “side gig” that I love and enjoy, but obviously make less doing. I discussed my desire to further my learning, maybe take some courses, even start my own business this year, or at least move in a direction that will get me closer to my own personal happiness. We have no financial stress, he makes good money, we have rental properties that cover most of our own personal bills…Emma, Reddit.
His response was just to keep doing what I’m doing, that’s it’s good money, he doesn’t just quit his job because he doesn’t love going every day.
The conversation didn’t end well, I got upset, we both got a little defensive, and I’m just feeling really really let down.
How do we get past this?
Let’s first take a quick step back and review what happened.
In the cusp of a new year, you looked back upon your current financially satisfying but personally dissatisfying career. And when you decided that you wanted to expand upon your personal growth by exploring a more personally rewarding career or enrolling in personally enriching courses, you communicated so with your husband. And instead of nurturing or engaging in the type of constructive dialogue you wished to have with your spouse, he got defensive about your desire to keep growing.
It is no wonder you feel disappointment and sadness from that interaction! Disappointment is the gap between your expectation and your reality. And you might have had a very different expectation of how that conversation was going to go than how it actually went in reality. You did expend quite a bit of emotional labor on what you wanted to accomplish in the new year, long before you approached your husband. And when you did come to him with what you have internally processed, you already knew the gravity and sincerity of what you wanted to communicate with your spouse – the very gravity and sincerity your husband appear to have missed or misunderstood. That is where your pain is coming from.
And I think that is the best place to start your next conversation with your spouse.
Even you acknowledged within the very first sentence that your current career is financially rewarding. But your career dissatisfaction is a deeper reflection of your personal desire to keep expanding upon your foundation, not as a reflection of how much money you earn from your hourly job. And it could be possible that your husband could not or did not see how much of a role your personal dissatisfaction played in your overall dissatisfaction with your current career.
A good way to help your husband understand how you feel is to relate his actions and words to how you felt. When your husband dismissed your desire to take new courses, you felt disappointed. You currently feel very disconnected as a result of the last conversation with your spouse. It could be that his intent wasn’t necessarily to be dismissive or defensive. Perhaps his emotional hygiene was cluttered with other aspects of your collective lives together that disconnected him from being fully present in that vulnerable conversation with you. But your recollection of that memory – the feelings they brewed – are just as valid as his recollection of his words.
Here is an exercise I believe you can implement into your next conversation with your spouse about your intention to expand. Try having your husband explain to you in his own words where he thinks your headspace is at. Relating to others and teaching others is one of the most effective ways for us to learn and absorb new information – 90% of new information, actually. And he might have a better time understanding the gravity and sincerity of your intention setting if he had an opportunity to empathize with your deeper desire to grow in his own words. After all, this is your own experience and reflection. Clearly, your husband has a different relationship and experience with his own career. It is important for him to acknowledge and understand that your experience with your career is not at all the same from his experience with his career.
It might be a good practice for you to also take on his role in this conversation. Try and speak out loud what you thought he felt during the conversation and gauge where his deeper motivation or insecurity could have stemmed from.
If the first step was for your partner to validate your feelings and intentions, then the next step is to figure out why this happened and how you can avoid this type of disconnect in the future.
I am curious if there have been any other instances of obvious communicative disconnect in your relationship history with your husband. We only have a smallest slice of your relationship at this specific conflict point. So you might have a better idea if this is a next example in a general dismissive pattern or if it was a truly random one-time occurrence from an otherwise attentive partner.
It is also very important to note that we are all experiencing a massive societal trauma through this pandemic. We are all on edge, pushed to the brink of our own respective sanities. So it could be possible that your spouse just did not have the adequate emotional capital to process what you shared in a meaningful and productive way. Explicitly allocating time and space for a discussion of this magnitude might be a good way to avoid this type of miscommunication in the future.
I’ll leave you off with one last consideration. In each of our engagements, we sometimes make emotional bids for our partners. Gottman Institute defines emotional bids as “the fundamental unit of emotional communication” where we request to connect with our partners in an emotional, physical, or sexual nature. This video explains emotional bids in more detail. In your case, your partner turned away from the bid you made, which prompted you to retaliate in defense of your vulnerability. It is important that both you and your husband acknowledge and understand that what happened was not okay, before you two can even attempt to reconnect and rekindle over this miscommunication.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
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