Digging My Own Hole

Something happened yesterday that made me realize how far off the mark I have gotten in my relationship with Monica. We were on our way somewhere, when she got very upset with the way I was making a turn onto a busy traffic street. I was more than a little upset with her reaction because I do not like to be criticized when I am behind the wheel.

I especially don’t like being yelled at and told I’m wrong.

Just a short way later, I was telling her about something and she interrupted me in the middle of a sentence to tell me that I was driving with my blinker on. She also made some other comments about my not paying attention to what I was doing and that I can’t even talk and drive at the same time. My temper rose up.

Rather than start a fight, I just told her that she was right. I can’t do two things at once and I would just stop talking. I clammed up hard, but I was mad. Then, as we got on the freeway, she made another comment about how I chose to handle going around a truck that was ahead of us. She was critical and sarcastic. That’s when I exploded. I used some choice and very nasty words, and when she tried to protest, I got even louder and told her exactly who was driving and who had to shut up.

Then it got very, very quiet in the car. It stayed very quiet until we got to where we were going and stayed that way the whole time until we drove home. You could have heard a pin drop. I fully felt that I deserved an apology. When we arrived in our driveway and I still hadn’t heard a word from her, I let her get out of the car and then just backed up and drove off and didn’t come home until the end of the day.

I drove up the coast and looked at the ocean and then went looking at a community service possibility at the local Rescue Mission. I noticed that my world had suddenly gotten very quiet. Although it was a relief at first, it didn’t take long before I got how alone I was without her. I was so used to being a “part” of another human being’s life, that it felt strange being on my own with no one to comment and no one to reflect against.

So I convinced myself that quiet was exactly what I was missing in my life and that I really, really wanted it. When I got home, I refused to acknowledge her or speak or look at her. She made it easy for me and kept strictly out of my way. We didn’t eat dinner together or go to bed at the same time. I waited until I was sure she was asleep before slipping into bed and making sure that I kept a good distance between us.

When I woke up early this morning, I realized that I was stuck. I was focused on Monica’s behavior, absolutely couldn’t handle it, and didn’t know what to do to change anything. The basic message was that she was who she was and that I was stuck in hell. Somehow, that just didn’t seem right.

So I got a sheet of paper and made a list. I titled it, “A Relationship with Monica”.

I listed the pluses and then I listed the minuses:

A Relationship With Monica


  • I like myself more with her
  • Centeredness
  • Good cook
  • Created a nice home
  • Helpful
  • Encouraging
  • Bright and Cheerful
  • Good social life
  • Beautiful
  • Intelligent
  • Takes good care of me
  • Wonderful with children
  • Makes sure I look nice
  • Does my laundry
  • Good hugger and kisser
  • Knows me sexually and takes care of me
  • Worries about me
  • Really takes care of me
  • We share values
  • Always dresses well
  • Looks great
  • Thinks I’m cute
  • Makes me laugh
  • Is trustworthy


  • She's critical
  • She's always right
  • She's sarcastic
  • Seems to have a need to make me "wrong".
  • She yells at me

I noticed immediately that the plusses greatly outweighed the minuses. That’s when something very basic came into play: I realized how much I loved and needed her, and at the same time I realized that I couldn’t do anything about anybody except myself! (Wait a minute – didn’t I already know that?).

So I wondered: What am I doing wrong? At first, of course, I didn’t feel that I was doing anything wrong. But then it started to come:

Things I do Wrong (That drive her nuts).

  • Forgetful
  • Illogical
  • Talk too much
  • Bad timing
  • Too focused on this website
  • Fail to notice when she’s stressed
  • Can’t accept her for the way she is
  • Allow things to build up
  • I get hurt too easily
  • I take things too seriously
  • I am arrogant
  • I don’t probe to find out what's bothering her
  • I shut down
  • I get angry first
  • I don't put things back where they belong
  • Then another list. This time I made a list of things I knew:

What Is

  • I think that I am not enough
  • I can change only me
  • I become outraged
  • I’m on a hair-trigger
  • I perceive and I define my own reality
  • I hate being disrespected
  • I fear turning into a man that is pussy-whipped
  • Nothing ever changes the way I handle things now
  • I think in terms of How Things Should Be
  • Sometimes I find out why she is behaving badly and sometimes I don’t
  • I am arrogant
  • My “child” takes over and is an angry child
  • I feel justified
  • I get a cheap thrill when I “lose” it and explode
  • I automatically shut down when she confronts me or interrupts me
  • I only have one tool: anger

And then the last list:

What I Need to Do

  • Understand that I am surrounded by my higher purpose
  • Understand that I am complete Now
  • I need to be more grateful for what I have
  • I can re-perceive and redefine my reality
  • I can be more consistent in determining Why (I can take time around why and be more probing and ask more questions)
  • I can assume there is always a reason
  • I can assume that she doesn’t want to hurt me
  • I can take charge instead of shutting down and getting hurt
  • I can realize that I have a lot of tools: Being an adult. Owning what is going on in my own life. Keeping a sense of humor. Using my own knowledge. Keeping a good attitude. Accessing a lifetime of wisdom. Staying engaged instead of shutting down. And remaining centered.

So we talked this morning and I told her that I realized that I was a large part of what happened yesterday and that I was determined to change. And I gave her some details from the above lists. Then she told me that she also realizes how she sounds sometimes when she talks to me, and that she doesn’t like it. We hugged. Today will be a good day.

©2008, Irv Engel

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One's life has value so long as one attributes values to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion., - Simone de Beauvoir

Irv Engel is a successful salesman, builder, husband, father, grandfather and friend. He loves to sing, dance and is currently taking an art class to learn water color painting. He is the creator and coordinator of the Relationship Training Course for Men. This book, The Real Deal: A Guide to Achieving Successful and Real Relationships, is the result of hundreds of hours spent writing down the lessons learned in a lifetime of marriage, divorce, re-marriage and raising four kids. He hosts free telephone conference coaching sessions in the evening or on weekends.The conference is a good way to find out about relationship coaching and to ask any personal questions around your own relationships without risk to your money or your privacy. E-mail him for phone number, access code and schedule. Irv and Monica live in Lake Forest, Calif. They have eleven grandchildren. They have celebrated their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.

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