Recently, I started reading a book titled The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch. The book details the author’s quest to be a better husband after being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Asperger’s is an autism spectrum condition that limits one’s ability to interact socially with others. They might not pick up on normal social cues or deal with change very well. The author was several years into marriage when he was diagnosed and his marriage was suffering greatly. He decided that he was going to save his marriage and he was going to do this by learning to be a better husband. So, he sought to teach himself at the most elementary levels how to be a good husband. It was a long process and involved him journaling his revelations with simple truths that he would write on receipts, scraps of paper, and used envelopes. As he progressed, he started accumulating these findings in a journal that he could read daily to keep him focused. He decided to call the journal the Journal of Best Practices. The language is pretty bad in this book, but I have found that we can learn a lot about being better husbands from the simple things he discovered on his journey.
A great example the author uses is what does a couple do after the spectacle of getting married wears off and you look in the refrigerator and only find one cupcake left in the Tupperware container. David Finch explains that “most couples don’t consider or discuss these (issues) types of things until they have to, until they’re both staring at the same cupcake, wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. This is tough for any couple, but imagine if one of the spouse’s brought the challenges inherit with Asperger’s: extreme “daily routines, obsessive tendencies, and a total unwillingness to participate in social events.”
Unfortunately, even couples where both partners we would term as “normal” struggle with these same issues in marriage. Over time we get tired of fighting the same battles involving the same weaknesses. We lose sight of the person that we were so excited to get married to that was the greatest thing in our world. So, we often give up and stop dealing with the daily challenges and problems and stop communicating. For a marriage to be successful, though, we must learn to communicate despite the challenges.
David Finch uses another example that I can definitely relate to because we used the same technique with our children. David’s wife had taught their daughter sign language before she was able to speak so that she could communicate what she wanted to them. These are typically pretty basic signs for words like hungry, thirsty, more, please, or hurt. With a baby, most of their frustrations can be traced to not having a need met. Once a baby is taught to express their needs and have those met they learn that “tantrums lead nowhere, but communication produces results.” Once we are married, we have to learn the same rule.
In another great illustration that David Finch uses, he describes a discussion he had with his wife after going full brood over a pretty minor event with his family, “I admitted that I felt reluctant to submit to the process of communication when it mattered. I understood that we had to talk about things, but it seemed like an exercise that would invite a lot of arguments. “I don’t want to fight all the time,” I explained.”
David’s wife replied, “Well, these little meltdowns are way more toxic and dramatic than the occasional argument. I can handle an argument, but I don’t do drama.”
I know that I do the same things as David. I take the passive approach and try to keep the firecrackers from being lit. So I throw them in my big barrel until it is full and then something creates a spark. What I could have worked on when it was just a little issue I let hang on until it effects everyone that I am around.
David explains the surprising results he found when he talked through this particular issue with his wife, “I became more comfortable using words to express myself, Kristen became comfortable sharing her feelings with me in return, and it wasn’t long before we started seeing the rewards of our efforts. The most notable being that when something was bothering me – anger over a misunderstanding, interruptions to my daily routine, itchy shirt cuffs – I no longer felt isolated, misunderstood, or hopeless. I could simply talk and know that Kristen (his wife) would help me through it, no matter how big or small the problem was.”
Communication can bring almost instant healing. Communication can bring intimacy and bonding. After that exchange with his wife, David wrote the following in his Journal, “Say it, don’t show it. Talking = productive. Showing = drama. Kristen doesn’t do drama. Use your words.”