I'm sure you guys (all 5 of you) are on tenterhooks waiting for my update on last night's conversation? Right? Right? <crickets>
It was overall a productive conversation. It was not, by any stretch, pleasant or easy or comforting.
Overall he said he was "very surprised" by some of my feelings. He stated he had no idea I felt that way, and that maybe he just wasn't paying attention or maybe taking me for granted. Despite my best attempts to underscore that my comments were about my feelings and not negative comments about him, he called them "criticisms". And he got angry as we talked about it in more detail. His voice raised, pupils dilated, he looked agitated and upset. When I tried to explain that I was not criticizing him, he said that was how he felt, and I was invalidating his feelings, and how is that different from what I was telling him, because he could easily tell me that what I felt wasn't true.
Sigh. I reiterated that I was not invalidating him---I get that it feels like criticism when someone is telling you that you are not making them feel loved--- but I was just trying to reassure him that I didn't think our issues were all his fault or due to personal failings on his part, but more of a mutual problem caused by a failure to communicate our needs to each other.
He said he took the love language quiz, and got similar answers to me (high on physical touch and words of affirmation). We had the usual back and forth about this "but I DO hold your hand, YOU never reciprocate, yes I do, YOU don't ever hug me" and decided we both could do better in this realm. Again he tried to blame everything on "the kids"---no, I'm not buying it. Maybe you are having difficulty handling all the current responsibilities but its not the fault of "the kids", its on you to find coping mechanisms.
He stated that my ability to organize things and stay on schedule was valuable to the household and to him. that was in response to me wanting words of affirmation or acknowledgement about any positive attributes I had. Literally that was all he could think of. And then "but I love and appreciate everything about you". And then "but how do I know what you're good at or what talents you have?". I don't even...how do you respond to that?
I mentioned setting a time to "check in" every so often so things don't build up again. He said that "check in" reminded him of stupid work lingo and so we never resolved that, but I think I'll put it on my calendar to send him monthly emails about how things are going. I told him to also let me know how he felt things are going, and what was bothering him or what he needed from me, and he said "oh I don't need anything important. and what's bothering me is never important". I tried to explain to him that saying things like that was not a favor to me, and actually 1) made me even more reluctant to share my own needs and 2) deprived me of the satisfaction of making change/doing something that would make him happy. Not sure he got it, but maybe?
We talked about scheduling time to hang out during the week. He said he hated scheduling things, and couldn't we just see how we felt? And I mentioned that, well, we've been doing that for years and what we "feel" is that we need to work or do chores or watch Netflix and go to bed, so if we don't schedule time to talk and connect its not going to happen spontaneously at this stage in life. He reluctantly agreed.
I don't know. i think I accomplished step 1---figuring out the problem and step 2---communicating it to him, but I'm not sure what step 3 and 4 and on actually entail. And I don't know what's going to happen in the future. He definitely seems invested in trying to change things, but am I wrong to be bothered by the fact that he actually thought everything was fine the way it was until I brought it up? Or by the fact that this was actually NOT the first time we've discussed these exact same issues---we have discussed them in various ways at least 4-5 other times over the past 3 years?