Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Not You; It's Me.

How many times, in how many movies or tv shows, have I heard this?  It must be hundreds.  It's the ultimate break up cliche'.  It seems to be the universal easy way out, true or not.  In fact, it's usually understood by the audience to be completely false.

(I heard a more honest interpretation of this recently on Farscape.  "It's not you; it's me.  I don't like you."  Nice.)

It's about letting the person down easy, so as not to make them feel bad about themselves.  A way to deliver bad news in a good way.  Theoretically.

In a similar vein, we often hear or say the phrase "It's nothing personal."  Somehow we think that by saying this, what we say won't be hurtful.  But it is always coupled with something that could be hurtful.  And we usually assume the phrase to be a lie.  It's understood that "It's nothing personal" means I'm going to tell you something I don't like about you.

And if verbal communication weren't confusing enough, let's add in non-verbal language.  I know men want to believe this doesn't exist, but we women often hear it much louder than what you're saying.  You know, "actions speak louder than words."  And we do take those actions personally.

I postulate that we do so far more often than we should. 

Consider a recent visit to our marriage therapist:
Me:  When he continually blows off commitments that he's made to me, I feel like I don't matter to him.
Therapist:  Can I get you to consider that may not really be what it means?

Now, I don't think I shouted back the colorful expletive that I was thinking, but I can't be sure.  Temporary insanity is often a part of couples therapy for me.  Suffice it to say, my emotional response was  "Um . . . NO!"

But I've come to realize lately that it's not uncommon for me to feel hurt when someone does something that I should have known they would do.  It's in their nature.  It's who they are.  Maybe not forever.  Maybe they have the power to change.  But for now, it's who they are. 

I send an email to a friend.  He doesn't reply.  It was an important email.  I know he regularly reads his email.  He doesn't reply because I'm not important to him.  (See the natural flow of reasoning that makes total sense?)

In truth, this person is notoriously bad at responding to emails.  And when they are important he likes to think about them for a while before responding.  And although he has good intentions and always flags them for later response, follow through is nowhere near 100%.

It's not me.  It's him.

And frequently, people have thought that I was mad at them or there was some problem in our relationship because I didn't return their phone calls.  Not true.  I just stink at returning phone calls.  I hate the phone.  I hate calling people.  No matter who they are.  Returning phone calls -- not my thing.  It's me.  Not you.

So does learning this change my response to our therapist?  Does it get my husband off the hook?

*colorful expletive suppressed*

Um . . . no.  My awarenesses have their limits and husbands have their own set of rules.


DarthBillgr said...

Oh great! I'm screwed.

Luann said...

We all bring a whole lot of baggage to our social interactions. Some of it is good, some not so much.

I SO feel ya, sister!

I try to assume the people around me are motivated by a desire to lift me up. To be helpful and nice. But that sometimes they (specifically my husband) are just kind of clumsy at it.

I stress the try part of that. Sometimes my knee-jerk emotions are far more powerful than my reasoning skills and clumsy just doesn't cut it.

I work on controlling my thoughts and emotions, but it helps a LOT when I see him working on things too. The yoke is always lighter when there are two pulling on it.

Anonymous said...

@DarthBillgr: Not necessarily a bad thing, dude!! :D


Very well put.