Have you ever had one of those times when you thought you understood a person but then found out retrospectively that you did not? Has it ever happened that you felt you knew what a person was thinking and then you later discovered how wrong you were? Did it ever cost you the loss of a valuable relationship? That was what happened between me and my wife.
I met her in my last year of college and we were inseparable. I knew I would marry her from the moment I saw her. We were so used to each other such that we could complete each others’ sentences. Then we got married and it was pure bliss for the first two years. I knew I could never know another woman as much as I knew my wife. There was a ‘what do the folks at church call it’? A ‘koinonia’ between us. Things got better for me at work and I got promoted to senior vice-president of my company. That was when it all started.
My wife began to say things like: “I’m the only one who takes care of the kids around here.” I’d bristle and get angry and ask her what she meant since I was the one who provided for all their needs. She was a stay at home mum and never had to lift a finger. We had earlier discussed that we wouldn’t get a nanny for our kids and that she would raise them. I thought she was being selfish to demand for extra help with the kids just so she could go out with her friends more often. She’d keep quiet and not say anything. I didn’t know she was saying: “I need your help with the kids. They miss their father’s presence and sometimes a father’s discipline. We need you around more.” I never thought to ask her what she really meant because I felt I knew.
Then after a while, she began saying: “Tell me if you’re in love with someone else.” I was livid. How dare she question my integrity? My colleagues at work knew how principled I was. I was a deacon at my church and very committed. I wouldn’t even have sexual thoughts about another woman not to mention touching her. The fact that I travelled a lot was no reason to suspect me of infidelity. I was just doing my job. In fact, I’d have loved for her to come along with me on some of those business trips but someone had to stay with the kids. I didn’t know she was saying: “You don’t act like you love me anymore. I need you. I need your time, your presence. I need to feel your arms around me.” All this time she was talking, I never thought to ask her what she was saying because I felt I already knew and I even resented her for saying those things.
Two years after I was made Senior VP, my wife began to change before my eyes. She became quieter, withdrawn and weepy. I attributed it to the fact that she just lost her father but when she began to blow up before my very eyes, I could not ignore it anymore. Where was the size 6woman I married? So one day I said, jokingly I thought: “Honey, you need to get into shape. You’re beginning to look older than me.”
I was surprised when she burst into tears because I knew my wife was good at making jokes and even being on the receiving end of them. I didn’t know she interpreted it as: “You are fat. You are no longer attractive to me. I don’t love you anymore.”
I did not know what I had said and I believe she did not understand it either. Two weeks later, she sent me papers requesting for a divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences.
As I sit at my desk, I stare at the papers wondering how things got so bad. I called my pastor and as we went down memory lane, it began to hit me. The things she had said and how I had not really understood what she was saying all along. She had shouted and screamed from the rooftops but as it turned out I couldn’t hear her until now…when it was almost too late.
P.S: Have you ever had a misunderstanding with someone? How did you resolve it? Were both parties able to come to a place of mutual understanding?