Day 61: Communication and Fallen Ice Cubes

“So you’re just going to leave the ice there, huh?” N mused, referring to two ice cubes that had escaped the tray and found their way to the floor. I was in the kitchen preparing a bottle of ice water for our beach trip as he approached me. “Footprints too?” Apparently, walking in my sandals near the fallen ice had left smudges on the tile.

N was probably being playful, but his ill-timed comments struck a nerve. Only moments earlier, I had single-handedly cleaned the entire kitchen, including a sink full of dirty dishes. Now he was complaining about ice cubes? Exasperated, I told him that I couldn’t do it all. I apologized with a biting sharpness intended to inflict maximum guilt. After that, my mood went south fast. N attempted to be affectionate and make light conversation during our stroll to the beach. All he received was terse replies and body language colder than the ice melting back on the kitchen floor.

We eventually settled into our spot on the sand and laid quietly side by side. The K of relationships past may have let this anger passively build until it boiled over and ruined a perfectly enjoyable summer day. Instead, I told N that I wanted to talk and work through my bad mood. Anxiously forcing out the words, I explained that when he criticizes me it makes me feel resentful. N paused for a moment. “I was only joking. But when I make those comments, it negatively effects your emotions. I say things without thinking sometimes and I need to work on that,” he conceded.

And with that, my dark mood washed away as quickly as the ocean climbed the shore and reversed with the tide. N has always been great at reading my disposition based on the slightest shift in tone or facial expression. He also knows exactly what to say to help balance me when I’m on edge. I’ve learned that in a relationship, it’s important to be open about your feelings – even the silly, irrational ones (yes, I admit it). Laying next to N at the beach that day, I was reminded about the value of two-way communication. That, and the hidden danger of fallen ice cubes.

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8 thoughts on “Day 61: Communication and Fallen Ice Cubes

  1. singlerichgirl says:

    I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t have a successful relationship without good communication! Good work!

  2. irishkatie says:

    I just posted on your About page…then came here and started to read this and was like….oh noooo….

    But I am glad it turned out ok. I am glad to see you both can talk things out. Sometimes it will not work out as well and you will be mad a bit longer than you wish … but that will hopefully be the exception rather than the rule for you and N.

    And by the way, I did not think that you got upset was irrational or silly.

    And also … I love the way you write. The analogy with the ice cube at the end was wonderful.

    • Katie – You are so sweet and, by far, my favorite reader :).

      The funny thing is, this story is really the extent of the rare “fights” that N and I have. 99% of the time we get along famously, which I think is a reflection of our strong communication.

      Last night, N texted me a picture of an ice cube that he had accidentally dropped on the kitchen floor. Karma, baby! I couldn’t help but laugh.

      – K.

  3. Wait. I’m confused. So he admitted to a poorly placed comment and the resent you felt went away, but somehow, I didn’t see how this even remotely tackled your reaction or your emotions. The communication merely glazed over it all. This was not communication, at least not the kind of communication I have advocated for myself and others, unless the conversation you two had on the sand was more involved than what we just read.

    But then maybe that’s my problem. Maybe the “communication” that works is simply saying the words that make the problem dissipate, not the words that actually address the deeper issues. Maybe my affliction is recognizing the deeper issue when all someone wants me to do is accept half of the blame and move on. I approach deeper issues because it is in my nature to do so. I’m hard-wired to go that route.

    Maybe long lasting relationships are long lasting because of this cozy dance of avoidance.

    • I appreciate your comment.

      In this particular instance, there really was no “deeper issue” to discuss. I had simply been in a bad mood and reacted poorly to N’s ill-timed (but innocent) comment. The trap that most couples fall into is not discussing issues right away, then reacting poorly when conflict does arise. With the fallen ice cubes, I addressed the problem and N acknowledged my feelings and offered to be more sensitive in the future. I see this approach as collaborative, rather than one of avoidance.

      Now if the issue was more severe, a simple acknowledgment alone wouldn’t suffice. You’d really need to tackle the root of the issue. In a relationship, it’s all about knowing when to pick your battles. If something happens and it’s insignificant in the grand scheme of things (and won’t cause resentment later on), then it’s probably best to acknowledge what happened and move on. I hope my perspective makes sense.

      – K.

      • On the contrary, the story didn’t approach the ease with which your temper can be evoked. N was able to admit he could be more sensitive, but I also see that your resentment was far too easily triggered. I don’t think you see this in yourself yet, but I can. You must recognize at this point that you may have a tendency to walk a fine line. N essentially reinforced this behavior by way of appeasement, not real communication.

        So my point was, you have to work on how you control your emotions in response to a particular stimulus. If the reaction is disproportionate to the offense, then you know you have much work to do. His comment was innocent and you now recognize it as innocent, but in the moment, you did not. You may not realize it now, but your emotions are now primed to boil over at a later date. You are giving yourself far too much credit in the collaboration department.

        The fallen ice cubes have given you a chance to work on yourself.

        • I don’t disagree with anything you said. I think we’re all guilty of interpreting things incorrectly, or acting overly sensitive during times of stress. Luckily for me, this type of reaction happens few and far between. I’m pretty adept at recognizing when I’m simply feeling irritable. Conflict definitely poses an opportunity for self-improvement. I welcome the challenge.

          – K.

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