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.
One of the areas that all of us struggle in our marriages is communication. As a man that has struggled with passivity, I can relate to the author’s struggles. The author points out that a lot of times we have been programmed with many years of habits to be quiet in the face of conflict. We were all brought up following the rule, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Often times as kids we are discouraged from dealing with our negative feelings with others and told to be quiet to maintain the peace in the house. Kids are often instructed to deal with their issues internally and let the problem run its course.
So what happens when we internalize a problem that is bothering us? We tend to brood and pout. We get in a terrible mood where we take out our frustrations in everything we do, we are short with everyone around us, and pretty well set out on a path to make everyone miserable around us. In reality, we selfishly hold tight to our anger like a powder keg and dare anyone to light our fuse. Even when we are confronted by our spouse to discuss our feelings, we continue to shut down and just say, “I am fine. I will be alright in a day or two.” We hope that with a little time that we will just forget what is griping us. But we know that it usually takes some communication, about the issue or another intimate conversation, between you and your spouse for you to start to actual let go and forget. In the case of the author’s Asperger’s, he noted that his wife called him out on using the “Forget it” out. She said to the author “I wasn’t someone who knew how to forget about things that were bothering me.”
It is extremely damaging to our marriages to hold on to our “resentment, anger, and frustration.” It can be emotionally, spiritually, and even physically damaging to us. As the author reflected on what he had learned about trying to communicate his feeling with his wife he wrote this in his Journal of Best Practices, “swallowing anger = swallowing poison.”