Changing Our Spots

Not too long ago I had an eye-opening, heart-stopping conversation with my husband. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

In case you don't know me well enough to have discovered this, I can be a tad defensive. That might be putting it mildly. For a myriad of reasons, from family dynamics to past relationships, my dukes go up anytime I sense that someone is trying to tell me what to do, or correct me in an area that I either, a) know that I'm pretty damn competent, or b) want to do it my way or the highway, come hell or high water. The motto "Don't fence me in." is music to my ears.

Tom is a helper at heart, and anytime (well, almost anytime) he steps in to offer a hand or a piece of information that might be useful, it isn't because he is trying to control me or take over. It is because he loves me. He respects me. And, he wants to help. My first response? Some form of "Back off buster!". In that moment of offered support, I am sharp, quick and abrasive. That's how I am, and, that's not who I want to be. 

Now back to that conversation.

After another defensive interaction, I mustered my courage, apologized for my response, and shared with him that I want to learn to do it differently. That I am committed to changing my spots and creating new ways of responding that reflect the kind of partner I want to be to him, and the kind of person I want to be in the world. Digging deeper, I asked for his help (big step for a girl like me) in letting me know when he saw me responding in the old ways. He listened deeply, thoughtfully thanked me, and then he said "But you have to understand, I've just gotten used to that in you."  

He has just "gotten used to" me being defensive and abrasive, sharp and quick. 

The weight of those words smacked me squarely in the face and then went straight into my heart.

What else has he gotten used to?

What else does he tolerate because he loves me?

It might be worth asking. (Gulp)

Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't cut one another a little slack, and extend some grace to each other. I do that for Tom (because, no, he isn't perfect... just nicer than me sometimes) and he does that for me. He's gotten used to the fact that I'm much better after I've had my first cup of coffee in the morning, and I have a bigger need for space and autonomy than he might like. I've gotten used to the fact that he tends to over-commit his time, and underestimate how long it will take to do almost anything. Giving each other wiggle room to be our imperfect selves is part of what it means to human, and to be in relationship.


I don't want him to tolerate things in me that are hurtful. Things that create distance between us. Things that are within my power to change. Those spots? Those are the ones worth whatever it takes to change. .

What have those whom we love gotten used to in us? 

What have those whom we lead gotten used to in us?

What have those whom we work with gotten used to in us?

It might be worth asking. (Gulp)

As hard as it was to hear, I'm grateful for Tom's comment.

It was spot on. .