The Time We Stemmed What Could've Been a Long Night of Arguing
I found myself laying alone, downstairs. It was 10:47 pm and I was either bracing myself to sleep on the couch (and I never sleep on the couch) or for a long night of arguing with my wife. My head was filled with all the things I wanted to say to her, none of them nice. And none of them would help the situation. For some reason, I didn't get up. I just lay there, on my back, taking long, slow, deep breaths. I found myself slowly calming down. That's when I decided to go upstairs to apologize to my wife.
It was 9:30 pm or so and Jenny & I were packaging up some cards in the kitchen. I noticed a mistake in the numbering on the back of one of the cards and said something about it that hurt my wife's feelings. It was a silly, simple mistake made by her on accident. And I hurt her feelings. You know how those fights start though, right? It's always something deeper. There's always something going on under the surface that you've been holding inside and it only takes something simple and stupid as a tiny number printed wrong on the back of a greeting card to set you off. That was me.
I'm not proud of it. I hurt my wife's feelings. Jenny's under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure right now. She's doing all she can to get well and when I go and do things to make it worse...well, that just doesn't help anything. I quickly apologized, but the damage was done. She got up from the table and went off to bed. I joined her, but was still not over the fact that the mistake was just the scratch of things that have been bothering me. So, of course, I said some more things. I apologized. She never fully accepted my apology and was still upset over it, which upset me even more. So I got up and went downstairs to sleep. I was trying to remove myself from the situation so I didn't cause further damage.
That's when I started focusing on my breathing. I didn't get caught up in all the horrible things running through my head. I didn't succumb to my amygdala and go back upstairs still angry and trying to prove my point and show that I was right. It's scientifically proven that long inhales sends more oxygen to the brain which causes you to think more clearly. When you're thinking clearly, you're using your prefrontal cortex...when you're stressed out and anxious, more often than not you're making decisions with the amygdala. Long exhales help you relax. When you are deeply breathing in and out, you can naturally calm yourself. So that's what I did.
I was never going to sleep downstairs. Jenny & I never go to sleep mad at one another. For some couples, it might be a good option to sleep it off, but for Jenny & I, if we go to bed angry, we'll wake up even angrier, and that's not pleasant for anyone. As I headed back up to be next to Jenny, I kept breathing deeply, in and out. I laid down next to her. She rolled over to the farthest edge of the bed she could, away from me. Deep breaths. I can do this. I knew she wasn't happy with me, but this is what I said...
"Before we say things we'll both regret, let me say this. You love me. More often than not, you have my best interests in mind. I love you. More often than not, I put your interests before mine. This is a fact. We love one another. But we're both human and sometimes we're going to mess up and say things to hurt one another's feelings. We have two options here, we can either fight all night or remember how much we love each other."
Then I asked her to roll over and I held her tight. That was that. No long night of fighting. Just two imperfect people, madly in love with one another, holding each other tight and thinking of all the reasons why we're in the same bed together in the first place.
I share this story in the hope the next time you find yourself upset with your loved ones you try and remember to focus on long, deep breaths. All acts of love start and end with the breath. Everything we do in life starts and ends with the breath. If we're living with quality breaths, we're better equipped to live a more quality life.
Update: A few days later, Jenny and I were taking photos of all the new cards we're going to be releasing in the next few weeks, and she just looked fabulous. The way the light was hitting her. I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed at this tremendous love I have for her. So I snapped a picture and shared these thoughts...
My heart is filled to the brim with love for you. It's overflowing. I know times are tough, but we've been through a heck of a lot of life together these last 19 years, and it's just the beginning of a heck of a lot more life together. I want you to know we will get through this. We're resilient. We're brave and strong and our love is enough to see us through anything life wants to throw our way. I hope you lay your head down tonight and know that you are loved, whether you think you deserve it or not, you are. I want you to know I've got you. Through thick and thin and all the adventures in between, I've got you.
Your imperfect but trying really hard husband