“What’s Your Problem?”

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. I’ve learned a great deal about communication from my healthy relationship with my husband. It makes me realize how messed up all my past relationships have been.

Years ago, pre-husband, when I had something that (I thought) was interesting to share, I’d say, “Hey Bob!” (Name changed because, to be honest, I really don’t care.)

He’d respond, “What’s your problem?”

That would take the wind out of my sails. Here, I wanted to tell him this cool thing I’d heard on NPR. I wanted to share a moment. A laugh. A smile. Instead of responding with enthusiasm, he’d come at me with his typical negativity.

For Bob, everything was a problem. Being alive was a problem. You’ve never met a sadder sack in your entire life. It made people uncomfortable. They wanted to avoid him. I didn’t realize how much his horrible attitude weighed me down until I got out from under it.

Who wants to be in a relationship where everything you say is interpreted as some sort of problem? I certainly didn’t. And even more insidious is the fact that clearly there was a lot under the surface that he was failing to say. He’d much rather be a martyr than assertively communicate and work out issues. No positive growth to be had there. Instead, I got the passive aggressive, “What’s your problem?”

Oh, I tried to talk to him about it on multiple occasions. He didn’t seem to think that any changes were needed, so I was left to realize that the problem was, in fact, his. I hope he hasn’t carried that on to future relationships. I would wish rather more for him than that.

But his Facebook page indicates that he’s still unhappy with life. It’s an endless litany of complaints, negativity, bitter humor, deep cynicism, and depression. Every once in a while there will be something pleasant in there, but if you count each post as positive or negative, the negative stuff outweighs those things ten to one, and half the time the positive things were posted to his page by someone else. It makes me sad just to look at it. It also makes me relieved that I’m no longer breathing that toxic air.

Now I’m married to someone who is interested in what I have to say. He also happens to have a lot of interesting things to say himself. I look forward to talking to him. It isn’t a chore for either of us. I save up stuff to tell him at that happy moment when I finally get home, and we communicate positively throughout the day. And now I realize that’s how it should be. How lucky am I?

Yes, life will throw its fair share of problems at you. There’s no denying that. But that’s not the lens through which I choose to view the world. It’s not my automatic assumption. I also happen to think that negativity is learned, and can be unlearned, but some people would rather wallow. I have no idea why. Clearly wallowing hasn’t made them happy or they wouldn’t feel the need to wallow.

I have this theory that people like this think that their attitude is something that they are helpless victims of, rather than it being a conscious choice. I would hate to feel that helpless. Yes, I struggle with depression, and there are days when I feel like crying, but for the most part, I spin my world rather than letting it spin me.

Your existence should not be a problem to overcome. There is so much to see and do and learn and be inspired by! There’s so much beauty and wonder! Life is such a gift and such an opportunity. It shouldn’t be squandered.

It’s delightful to be in a relationship that isn’t covered with a wet wool blanket of despair. My husband can put a positive spin on just about anything. If he sees dog poop in the road, he’ll say, “Thank goodness the dog wasn’t run over!”

I love that about him. So, so much. Life is good.

communication-pattern

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3 thoughts on ““What’s Your Problem?”

  1. Angiportus Librarysaver

    As jaundiced of a view of life as I sometimes get, I have nothing on an older relative of mine. This person is so big on gloom and doom sometimes, from the world in general clear on down to the fate of a letter I sent to the hospital after being misdiagnosed in the ER [my GP came to the rescue], that I have more than once said “We don’t know that for sure” or “If I believed that I’d go shoot myself.” Then when I start bellyaching about anything, I hear all sorts of “Chin up” and “Don’t look so worried”, the latter popping up even when I am not worried about anything but just wearing my RGF [Resting Grouch Face].
    Sometimes this pessimistic tactic has an apotropaic function, as in school– “Oh, I know I flunked that test.” It worked, sometimes. But there is another thing that many who talk about this often miss–the difference tween a pessimist who is just resigned and wants you to fall into despair as well, and one who is ticked off and defiant and is going to go down with teeth locked in the enemy’s throat. Read Saki’s “Achievement of the Cat” for a good example. I can’t help but believe that those who survive might get optimistic.

  2. Angiportus Librarysaver

    It’s an essay; google it. Saki [HH Munro] wrote zillions of short stories that…well, I can’t describe them, you have to sample a few. He’s one of my favorites.

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