No argument from me—in front of the spider web was far from my ideal situation too, but I was tired, and the lighting was better in the front yard than the backyard, and we already had engagement photos from the boat, then again, in New York by our best friend, Jenny Fu. David said he wished we were wearing pants instead of shorts, which I totally understood, then we laughed a little bit before going inside and eating our Sunday night dinner with his sister.
Truthfully, my goal was simply to give him something so that when he looks at his left ring finger, he’ll know that though we’re not married, I consider us to be partners in life and that I love him very much.
As the night went on, we started bickering a little bit—I was trying to film myself cooking and kept telling him to be quiet, then he told me to be quiet so he could film something also, and I was so, so tired from the day of cooking and my emotional health was drained. As we bickered, I finally said, “I did something really vulnerable today, and you reacted quite insensitively.”
David and I have been in couple’s therapy for the majority of our relationship, and I think it’s fair to say that generally, we both know that one person is never trying to hurt the other, but still, we miscommunicate from time to time. We tried but couldn’t really get to a place of feeling amazing with one another before bed, which, given the intimacy of the event, sure was a bummer.
On Monday, I woke up after he did, and he had already gone to the gym. I thought about our tiff and how, as we were going to bed, he explained how he doesn’t like surprises and how he thought we’d stick to the plan—we said we were shopping for his wedding ring together, and he thought he’d get to pick it out. What he said was entirely factual—we’d been looking, but there were so few choices that we couldn’t find anything even close to what we were looking for, so I took it upon myself to select his ring for him, and I knew that there was a good chance he might not even like it, but I wanted to get him a ring.
I’ve spent so much of my life looking at the romance displayed in movies or on TV, and while I “knew” that it was exaggerated and not to be expected IRL, I still thought a version of it should be within reach. After many therapy sessions, I’ve learned that that’s not really the case, either, and in a healthy relationship, we shouldn’t be looking externally to find out how we should feel about our own relationship. Everyone’s different and has different needs, and I’ve learned that working towards aligning on what matters while letting go of things that don’t matter is almost guaranteed to be a recipe for success.
I thought about how engagements are “supposed” to be full of ooey-gooeyness but more than that, how much I like the ooey-gooeyness. On my day, in Maui, I got my photos and a boat, and had two of my best friends along for the ride. After, we had a delicious and fancy dinner, which David paid for, and the night couldn’t have been any better. And the reason I got all of this was because I communicated to David that that was exactly what I wanted.
Then it hit me—last night was about David, and I messed it up. I got a ring that I hoped he might like, but you better believe I confirmed the return policy with the store before I paid. I also know David’s particular about photos, and in front of the Halloween decorations is the last place he’d want to do this in front of, and I should have shown him that by not trying to surprise him. If I wanted to do what he wanted, I would have carved out time for us to go to a couple of stores, given him the option to pick, and we could have selected the ring together, and he could have worn what he wanted to be photographed in, and the whole experience would have been exactly the way he’d have liked.
If you’re like me, you might not have grown up hearing the words “I’m sorry” often. Actually, it wasn’t until I started learning from Oprah and Maya Angelou that saying “I’m sorry” is one of the kindest and most generous offers we can extend to someone we care for. They taught me that an apology is not always about accepting blame, but it shows that we value the relationship enough to regret an action or statement that caused pain. It got me thinking about how cruel it is to sit and watch someone we love struggle with pain while our pride stands in the way of considering we’re wrong. It’s my belief that trauma bolsters pride and inflates egos, which keeps people from offering apologies, and while I’ve learned I can’t change others, I can change myself.
So, when David got home from the gym, I apologized. The day was for David, and I should have listened to what he’s been telling me for the past 11 years and honored what I knew about him. He accepted, while apologizing, too, and then we hugged and kissed, and we’re considering a redo.
A while ago, our couple’s therapist told us, “You’ve both changed your dance,” and when I heard it, my heart melted because it was just about the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I know it’s easy to let pride get in the way, but I do my best to put myself in others’ shoes and realize that while I’m bothered/hurt/disappointed/upset, there is another person involved in the situation and sometimes, it’s my job to show up for them—because I love them and because, while I was doing my best, sometimes, my best is wrong.
I see an apology as a validation, showing someone they matter. Conversely, when someone doesn’t apologize for something they did, it hurts while we wonder if we did something to deserve how we were treated, which, in a way, is traumatic. I don’t want to do that to people, and I think if we can all just be a little bit kinder, putting ourselves in others’ shoes, we’d live in a much more pleasant world.
I’ve heard many people say, “Well, that was done to me, so I’m doing it to him/her,” but I see it differently—if something was done to me and it hurt me, I’ll be damned if I’m going to repeat it and do it to someone else.
I recognize it’s a tall order and requires us finding inner strength, but with great effort comes great reward. I know when it comes to how I feel about myself, nothing makes me prouder than when I’m kinder than I need to be to people and that I value self-improvement so much.
With a desire to improve, we all have the ability to change our dance.