Rule #47: Don’t Take Each Other Hostage

We have a rule–don’t take each other hostage.

Here’s what happened two years ago:

Monica and I were in the car on the way home from work. Being a one-car family means spending the 20-minutes right after work in a small space together. It has its advantages, but you can imagine the disadvantages.

After several days in a row of complaining about my job, I noticed something–Monica didn’t seem to care. I could tell she wasn’t listening, and she looked as though she was contemplating a leap into oncoming traffic.

So, in order to save her life and verify my hunch, I abruptly stopped telling a work sob story right in the middle. And then the strangest thing happened…absolutely nothing!

She didn’t even notice I stopped talking! I mean, she didn’t even move. Her gaze stayed out her window, probably dreaming of her freedom.

This was all the research I needed. It was painfully obvious I was not bringing anything good to our relationship, and taking her hostage with my whiny sob stories only made her want to escape, so I vowed to stop.

Some days, though, I (and even Monica) get back in the rut. However, we found a way out. One of us says, “You sure are talking a lot about work,” and it almost always breaks the cycle.

My initial reaction is embarrassment of the “Oops, I did it again” variety, but it’s worth a little embarrassment to change a soul-sucking, brain-eating conversation into one that actually brings something positive to the relationship.

It’s not talking about work that’s the problem, it’s the way we talk about it. Is it helpful or hurtful? It’s pretty easy to tell the difference–just stop talking and see if anyone (including yourself) cares…I’ve noticed in the silence I can often hear reality sinking in.

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