“Can you talk to the kids tonight?” That was my text to him. His response was a simple, “Give me 45?” And then? Radio silence. Well not totally…
There was an accidental phone call from the pizza joint asking me where I wanted ‘my’ pizza delivered. Except it was his and they somehow had my phone number.
And of course there were the Facebook posts he made–not to mention all of his comments and likes on other people’s posts.
But there was no phone call. Not in 45 minutes. Not in an hour. Not all night.
Oh, we waited by the phone, me and the poor children. And then we waited and waited some more. The kids’ bedtimes drew near…and then passed.
Still. No. Call.
All they wanted was to talk to their daddy but nooooo… Is it really too much to ask? A phone call– ten little minutes out of his whole day? It’s not like he does anything on the road but sit around the hotel room watching television and eating out. Well, except Facebook, anyway. Obviously.
Oh, I could have called him back alright, but he was quite obviously busy– too busy to keep a promise to his wife to be sure. And why the heck should I make time for someone who doesn’t have any time for me? I shouldn’t.
I tucked the kids in and assured them with as much faith as I could muster that they could try to talk to him tomorrow. Mentally adding a snitty, “If he could find the time for us, that is.” Then I stomped downstairs and spitefully devoured some Oreos, by which I mean most of the bag, and wallowed in self-pity and self-righteous anger covered in chocolate. He knows how much it means to me to hear his voice every day. How lonely it is sitting here at home taking care of the kids, fixing broken water heaters, and eating leftover mac and cheese.
He’s out there in Funland eating pizza and having a great time with his pilot buddies while I [barely] hold it together here on the home front. He’s quite obviously having too much fun to remember that he has a family back at home that clings to every moment we can get with him– even if it’s just a text or 3-minute call. But hey, I’m just the wife.
Late that night I got a cheerful goodnight text, but I was far too irritated to respond. If you don’t have anything nice to say, after all… So I ate some more Oreos and stewed like a Louisiana gumbo on a cold winter’s night.
My fellow Pilot Wives! You get it, right? I’m not alone in this walk. You understand exactly how long and lonely those trips can be. You know exactly how much a text or call really means. You can surely see that he is guilty, guilty, guilty as charged!
Or is he?
He’s obviously just another good-for-nothing pilot who cares more about his own needs than mine.
Or is he?
I mean, he promised to call us and broke that promise.
Or did he?
Here’s the thing. It’s all about perspective and perspective can be a dangerously one-sided entity. That’s because perspective is skewed!
It based on our nature, and our nature is to protect ourselves, rationalize our view as correct, and judge a situation based our expectations and our past experiences. The facts are distorted to rationalize what we ascertain to be truth, and we see the situation through a lens clouded by emotions.
Were you ready to crucify my husband for his actions? Did you solidly lay the blame on him for he situation and stereotype him as a failure, bad husband, bad dad?
A typical pilot?
Sure! Very likely so. Because you only received the story from me and my emotionally skewed perspective. You only saw what I believed to be true. That is especially dangerous because by so doing I have further provoked you to add fuel to my raging fire! I have fed you only enough of the information to receive back exactly what I want to hear…that I am an innocent victim while he is a chauvinistic male jerk. And, by the way, that is exactly what I see so many of us doing every single day on social media. But that’s an entirely different blog altogether.
Look… If we repeat something to ourselves and have it repeated back long enough, eventually we will embrace it as absolute truth regardless of the hard facts. That’s how our minds work. It’s the beginning of the slow, deadly transition from love to resentment.
But what if we backed out to the aerial view and revisited the situation with a wider perspective…
What if you had known that he was working twelve straight days– that he had in fact given up his week off– so that he could make sure the bills were paid and the children had a nice Christmas?
What if I had first explained that his day had been anything less than stellar– laced with delays, maintenance issues, and a problematic crew?
What if I had taken the time to share with you that he had ordered a subpar pizza after a very long day because he was too exhausted to go looking for more worthy sustenance?
I approached him first. “Can you talk to the kids tonight.” Those were my exact words. Could they have been ambiguous? What if he shared his side of the story…and you suddenly realized that, in his mind, the ball was in my court, not his. That he understood it to mean that I was asking if we could call him.
So when he responded with ‘Give me 45,’ he was, to the best of his understanding, expecting me to call him back. What if you knew that as the time ticked by and the phone never rang that he thought maybe I had forgotten him. Perhaps he even stayed up later than he should have even though he was exhausted hoping to hear from us?
She’s out there in our warm, comfortable home eating a home cooked meal and having a great time with our kids while I [barely] hold it together. She’s quite obviously having too much fun to remember that she has a husband out on the road that clings to every moment he can get with her– even if it’s just a text or 3-minute call. Is that too much to ask?
The truth is, he had wanted desperately to talk to his wife and children after a hard day– to hear their reassuring voices if only for a minute, but he didn’t call them because he knows our schedule is hectic and that his wife is exhausted and he doesn’t want to add another burden onto her plate after all the sacrifices she makes for this career. What if she fell asleep and I wake her from the only rest she’s had in awhile?
So out of love he gave me space, dropped a quick goodnight text, and comforted himself with the hope that maybe tomorrow we could connect.
Ouch. The problem is…neither of us was wrong. It’s just that neither of us had the whole story either.
Perspective is EVERYTHING. The question then becomes, how do you avoid these types of episodes of skewed perspective?
Here’s something that I tell my children over and over and over again: “Assumptions are usually wrong and always dangerous. In fact they are a recipe for disaster. We take what limited information we have, stir in a nice big cup of our own emotions, sprinkle it with opinion, and serve it up with a great big heaping side of expectation. What we end up with is something like a Pinterest project gone insanely wrong! We have to stop assuming he’s always doing something wrong. Be intentional about NOT filling in the blanks. We don’t know what we don’t know. Instead, just ask him the question. Our minds love to seek out the darkness. Truth is light that drives back the darkness.
Emotions aren’t wrong. They are our natural, knee-jerk reaction to circumstances. To be human is to feel, and we all do that differently. However, using our emotions as a weapon against another person, especially a spouse or child, is absolutely wrong. Take a moment. Or a day. Or a week. Whatever you need. Separate what is fact from what is emotionally driven perception. Journal/write it. Pray about it. Do whatever you need to do to offload the floodgate of emotion and let the knee-jerk response pass before addressing the actual underlying issue… If there is one. Sometimes we even find that when the roiling emotion of the moment subsides…there isn’t really an issue there to begin with. But if there is, don’t stuff it down. Continue with the next steps towards resolution.
Social media is, in my experiences mentoring marriages, one of the biggest destructive factors in relationships today…well, besides the thermostat. But seriously, it is a beast just waiting to devour anything we offer up to it as a sacrifice. And boy do we ever. Never publicly demean your spouse to strangers. When we do this, we get exactly what we want – our egos stroked and our perspectives validated (no matter how skewed). Public forums full of salivating trolls are not the places of marriage resolution.
Choose your confidantes wisely and sparingly. Pick only a few close people who want your marriage to succeed and who will give you advice that lifts up you and your spouse and not destroy them as your outlet. Also, choose people who aren’t afraid to tell you when you are in the wrong too! And let’s be realistic…your mother, sister, friend may not be that person. You need someone who is going to thoughtfully consider both sides of the issue. An outside source such as a life coach or counselor may be the best option for an unbiased opinion.
Choose your words wisely. At the beginning of this blog, I told you a story– a completely true story. But a completely one-sided true story. Here’s something I have learned over my nearly six years of mentoring aviation marriages. There are always two skewed sides of the story…and the truth consistently lies somewhere squarely in the middle. If and when you do confide in someone, try your hardest to convey the most neutral version of the truth possible. Your mentor, pastor, counselor, friend cannot guide you to the best of their ability if they have a skewed perception of the situation. His side matters too.
Once you have removed the emotion, the negative influences, the assumptions; once you have prayed and calmed your spirit; once you have perhaps confided in someone trusted and received good, solid feedback; and maybe once you have taken a little time to breathe and recenter yourself…it’s time to reevaluate. Use these questions to guide yourself towards a mindset of resolution.
- Were my expectations fair?
- Was my communication clear or ambiguous?
- Did I make assumptions?
- Did I over react? (Nah, never!)
- How could we have handled it differently?
- How do we repair anything that needs repaired.
- Do I need to say I’m sorry? (Ouch)
- Do we need to pursue outside help?
Communication is, without a doubt, the number one way to avoid conflict in the first place. When and where and how we choose to address an issue (calling him in the middle of a preflight walkaround might not be the best choice for a discussion about his toilet cleaning habits) make a huge impact on the outcome of the discussion. Remember that texts can be easily misconstrued depending on how the reader perceives the message. Your spouse is not a mind reader, though we often try to force them to be. Men and women also do not think the same way. At all. The best communication will happen in a neutral environment where ideas and or concerns are presented in a clear, non-ambiguous manner. Be mindful of the body language, voice inflections, tone, and excitement levels you are portraying while talking. Our actions speak volumes over our actual words.
Communication is a two-way street. You have to listen to your spouse’s responses and feelings too! Think before you respond. Try to keep the emotion out of the interaction. If you need to step away and recalibrate before continuing, do that. When in doubt about what a comment meant, don’t assume. Ask for clarification. And most of all, remember that you chose this person to be your person. You are actually on the same team. Remember that once a sentiment or word passes through your lips, it can never be retrieved. Some of the deepest cuts are caused by careless words tossed out in a heated moment. The goal is reconciliation, peace, resolution, and continued love…not to leave the person you vowed to honor and cherish battered and bruised by your words.
Friends, perspective is the whole kit and caboodle. It really, really matters. Perhaps, it even matters tenfold when our relationships are marked by long blocks of time spent apart to assume, presume, and brew. Skewed perspective is the foundation for fragile, broken marriages. We need to seek to truly see one another with clarity and compassion. I encourage…no, challenge you to take baby steps– or heck, even giant leaps– towards a healthier, two-sided perspective. Your marriages will thank you for it.
I LOVE you, aviation family! Blue skies.
Angelia (a fellow Pilot Wife)
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