David and I met with a couple the other day for some informal premarital counseling. Throughout the course of our conversation a theme developed about the importance of getting to the heart behind the issue when communicating with your partner. I shared an example from our marriage, and I’ll share it here. This is the real deal. . . can’t let a story like this go to waste.
One night early in my third trimester David and I were casually winding down our day and we were discussing the fact that David’s drivers side window motor was broken and needed to be fixed. At the same time I was thinking about the fact that the carseat we registered for may not fit in his truck.
So I said to him that we might want to wait and see if the carseat fits before putting any more money into his truck. I was thinking we might need to consider getting another vehicle if the carseat didn’t fit. He replied that he wanted to keep the truck for sure, even if the carseat didn’t fit. He said it was paid off and it wouldn’t make any sense to sell it and get another car now. He was just talking normally but to me it seemed so cold and uncaring. I kept saying I just wanted him to consider after the baby comes we might need a different car that could fit a carseat. He just kept saying he did not want to sell the truck. Before we knew it the conversation had escalated emotionally and neither of us knew why.
After about a half hour of confusing and heated discussion and both of us saying the same thing over and over again, we reached a stalemate. In the silence I started asking myself why it was such a big deal to me that he be willing to consider changing vehicles. I realized something important that was motivating my emotions. I was fearful of what it would mean if my car was the only one that could transport the baby. I was afraid we wouldn’t be a team, but that I would be alone in caring for our baby. It sounds silly now writing it, but it really is the fear that was influencing me.
You can imagine that until I shared this realization with David he had no idea why this molehill of a conversation had become Mount Everest before our eyes.
Once I told him what I was feeling he understood more where I was coming from, and was able to alleviate the fear. He had no intentions at all of leaving me alone to take care of the baby. He was able to hold me and reassure me that we are in this together and that he would be right there with me to figure it all out. That’s really all I needed. I just didn’t know it at first until I got off the first floor and started thinking about what was deeper in my heart.
So whats the moral of the story? Sometimes you’ve got to get off the first floor and into the basement. Whenever a conversation takes an unexpected turn emotionally, there is something in the basement hiding that hasn’t come out yet. Both people have to figure out what’s down there on the heart level and deal with the underlying hidden issues. It may be pride, may be control or lack of it. . . it may be fear of abandonment or feeling neglected or unappreciated. We are all motivated by hidden issues in our hearts and often don’t even know it. All couples have to take their conversations to the basement sometimes! Thats how intimacy grows . . . when someone is willing to be vulnerable enough to share their basement level stuff. It’s also super important that the other person responds by lovingly receiving and validating, not by criticizing or belittling. Even if they don’t fully understand they can (and must) respect their partner’s feelings.
So next time you find yourself in a conversation that escalates emotionally or feels like a merry-go-round, ask yourself what floor you are on. Go down to the basement and figure out what’s hiding there. Learn how to make basement conversations normal in your relationship and true intimacy will grow.