Scene: Harry is in the kitchen fixing himself a drink. Pricilla comes home, kicks off her shoes, plops down on a chair, and says, “Phew; what a day.”
Harry: “You look exhausted.”
Pricilla: “Exhausted is an understatement. I’ve been straight out since 6:30 AM when I got an emergency call from my east coast client.”
Harry: “Wow, let me pour you a drink. We have the whole weekend spread out before us to relax and enjoy.”
Pricilla: “Yeah, I can use one.”
Harry: “What do you mean?”
Pricilla: “I had to postpone the team meeting we were supposed to have today because Fred had a conflict.”
Harry: “Reschedule it ’till when?”
Pricilla: “It was such a pain. I had to get everyone’s buy in to come up with another time.”
Harry: getting impatient “Schedule it for when?”
Pricilla: “Tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM. Now don’t get mad.”
Harry: “We made an agreement to sleep late tomorrow morning and to go to the beach in the afternoon.”
Pricilla: “I know; I know. I don’t want to interrupt our plans any more than you do, but there was no other time that everyone could make it.”
Harry: Now angry. “We’ve talked about these interruptions many times. No exceptions. Isn’t that what we agreed to?”
Pricilla: “Yes, but..”
Harry: “No buts. Please let me finish. I hate to admit this, but it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even expect you to keep the agreements that we make. Your work always comes first. There is always an excuse why this time it has to be an exception. It seems that there are more exceptions than kept promises. I try to accommodate you. I know that your work is important to you and to us. But I have my limits too. My patience is not infinite. I’m not telling you this to hurt you, although it may. I’m not telling you this to punish you. We are not giving our relationship the time and attention it needs. I am feeling neglected and taken for granted, and I’m starting to feel resentful. I don’t want our marriage to turn into an arrangement of convenience like some of our friends have. I’m scared and worried, and I’m not willing to deprioritize our marriage in favor of other things including work. I think it would be a good idea for both of us to take the entire weekend off with no work.”
Pricilla: “I’m in charge of deciding what’s good for me, not you. If you want to take the weekend off, go right ahead. But I have plans.” And then she walked away into another room.
Harry got the message that Pricilla was not open to his feedback, so he backed off. Unbeknownst to him, Pricilla did take in his message. She noticed that she had been resistant to his feedback at first, but she reminded herself that Harry was not a self-centered or needy man. As she considered what he had offered to her, she trusted that he was attempting to reach her for her own benefit, her long-term health, and the well-being of their marriage. She walks back into the kitchen.
Pricilla: “You’re right. I have been overworking. You didn’t say it in so many words, but I know that you think I’m driven. You’re right again. I am, and I don’t even know where all this drive and ambition comes from. I want you to know that I was resistant to your feedback when you first brought it up, but I’ve thought it over, and I know that I need your reminders that I can be a flaming work-a-holic and that I need to get a grip on how much and when I work. And you’re right too about the utmost importance that we keep our agreements, no exceptions. I am willing to postpone the meeting I scheduled for tomorrow and have it next week even though we won’t have 100% attendance.
Harry was wise enough to let Pricilla respectfully know exactly how he felt. And after he had his say, when he saw that she was in no mood to come to an agreement with him, he was also wise to let her go off to contemplate what he said. Pricilla took the time to consider what her husband had offered to her, making a conscious choice to put the emphasis on her husband’s trustworthiness and concern for her well-being. It was only when her defensiveness settled down that she was able to engage in a productive discussion the second time around.
Harry turned into his intuitive sense of when it was time to take a firm stand and used it again to determine when it was time to let go so that Pricilla could have a chance to consider his remarks. This couple was able to move through this impasse with a productive outcome. The last remark that I heard Pricilla make to Harry was, “Thank you for caring enough about me, to be honest.” These are the ten words that can transform your relationship.