Understand, or Be Understanding?

Marriage is hard enough, add kids to the mix, and life gets totally crazy.

One afternoon we were in the car on a long ride home, and we were talking about how we felt things were going. I was talking about my long days, my overwhelming schedule and to-do list, and that there had to be a better way to do things. My husband began doing what many husbands do in that situation, he started offering solutions, and comparing his day at work to my days at home.

I was getting irritated, my words were getting jumbled, and I felt even more stressed about the conversation. After some fumbling through my thoughts and feelings, I finally figured out the cause of my frustration, I just wanted him to be understanding. Let me explain.

I was essentially venting about my day.

My husband was trying to relate by comparing my work to his work.

This made me feel like he was minimizing my stress, when what he was trying to do was to convey that he understood.

In return, I kept “one-upping” him because I thought I needed to prove myself to gain his understanding.

Finally, we realized the spiral of misunderstanding (ironically, in a search for understanding) that was happening. I kept asking for understanding that he thought he was giving. The truth we came to was that he cannot truly understand the work I do, unless he were to be a stay-at-home dad. And I cannot truly understand the work he does, unless I were to be a manager of many employees.

It wasn’t really understanding that we needed. It was for the other to simply BE understanding.

There is a difference between truly understanding and being understanding.

To be understanding, is to empathize. To let it be okay for one or the other to feel angry, sad, overwhelmed, or stressed because emotions are not right or wrong. We don’t need to tell the other not to feel a certain way, or to feel differently. We don’t truly understand the depth of their feelings, we can only be understanding of their joy and pain, and love them regardless.

We are a team that supports and carries one another, not individuals that compete to get ahead.



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