“This f*ckin computer!” I called out in frustration.
My husband was sitting at his desk across the room in our shared work space. There was no way he couldn’t have heard me.
“What’s the matter honey?”
“It’s doing that same thing again!”
“Did you try the work-around I showed you last time?”
“Yes. It didn’t work. Damn it. This is so frustrating!
“It wouldn’t be so frustrating if Microsoft wasn’t such a pain in the ass.”
“I don’t want to hear about Microsoft being a pain in the ass. I just want you to fix my g*d d*mn computer!”
And so it went. Me swearing at my computer, him trying to help me, him getting frustrated with Microsoft and then me criticizing him for the way he was trying to help me.
“Did you find it yet?” I demanded.
“I’m working on it but this damn Microsoft!”
“I told you I don’t want to hear about Microsoft!’”
Did I hear that right? Did he tell me to “f*ck off?” Who does he think he is? He can’t talk to me like that!
He looked at me, his face flushed.
“This happens all the time,” he said, catching his breath. “You get all whiney and helpless and suck me into helping you, then get all over me for not helping you fast enough or good enough.”
The d*ck! Boy, do I have him now. I can tell him that he globalizes when he says ‘this happens all the time’. That he’s not taking responsibility and that he’s blaming me. I can say “could we please just deal with the computer right now.” I can even tell him that he fights dirty.
All I could hear however were his words: “F*ck off!”
They reverberated in my ears. It wasn’t like him to say that, no matter what was going on.
A light went off inside me. I know this man.
I pictured him having dropped what he was in the middle of to figure out what the problem with my computer was.
I pictured him helping me up all those flights of stairs that I couldn’t manage because I’d forgotten my cane. I saw him carrying all my bags as well as his own through the airport. I saw him getting up from the table to get the cream for my coffee when it was hard for me to move.
I remembered that he was the most nurturing man I’d ever known and I remembered that he loved me.
I realized something: He’s not angry with me. He’s hurt.
“You’re right.” I said evenly. “That’s exactly what I did. I played the big baby, like I couldn’t figure out my problem myself, fully knowing that you, out of the goodness of your heart would stop what you were doing to help me. You’re right. I set you up when I act that way.”
A silent moment passed in which I recalled all the times I’d done exactly what he’d accused me of. “I’m sorry.” I added. “It’s sh*tty of me to do that.”
A long time ago, a very wise man who I knew and respected told me a secret I’ve never forgotten.
“When someone you love tells you something about yourself, whether out of anger or frustration or even criticism, they are probably at least a little bit right.”
It was a concession for me to admit that my husband’s frustration or criticism of me had a kernel of truth in it, but it was a concession not to him so much as it was a concession to the truth.
In a moment, he got up from his desk, came over to me and, putting his arms around me whispered thank you in my ear. He said he was sorry too, that he didn’t need to bring Microsoft into it, Microsoft was his problem.
“But they’re still *ssholes,” he teased, and we both laughed.
The whole thing was resolved in about 10 minutes and all because of the two magic words that I have learned to say.
Another friend of mine summed it up perfectly.
“Life is too short to play the ‘I’m Right You’re Wrong Game.’ It’s much better to take the foul and stay in the game—and to be more interested in seeing the truth than in being right.” ~ N.H. Rodriguez