In With the New

There is another apt episode of Seinfeld that comes to mind. Jerry is dating a woman who encourages him to express his emotions, particularly his anger. This is particularly tricky since Jerry is an ‘even steven‘, never too far up, never too far down – usually just right in the middle. So, Jerry gets angry at his girlfriend’s pestering. “That felt good” he said, and then the flow of emotions started.

He told Elaine that he loved her. Told George he was a good friend. Cried during a TV show while asking “what is this salty discharge coming out of my eyes?” Jerry went over the top with this new found skill. With the same girlfriend that wanted him to express himself, he started getting angry about every little thing. Ironically, she got tired of his constant expression of emotion and left Jerry.

He just didn’t know what to do with his anger.

That’s the challenge for the recovering passive guy. Well, at least this recovering passive guy. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t dismiss my anger. That I need to feel it, process it, and then move on from it. My first reaction is that I don’t want to be a husband that leads by intimidation or threat. I don’t want to be a wife beater. In response (after the laughter), I was told that there is a long way from me even carrying my anger too far to being an abusive spouse. Not likely to happen.

Expressing my anger is a tough new challenge. Being angry upsets people. Being angry is confrontational. Being angry will require taking your mask off and letting people see the real you. But, no one ever got hurt being upset and I’m all about living mask-free, so I now allow myself to express my anger. But it is awkward.

My wife doesn’t know what to do. She’s been dealing with a people pleaser for 15 years and now she has to deal with someone with an opinion, who is not going to be pushed aside and dismissed. Someone who is now putting on the mantle of leadership and not just striving for the absence of conflict. It is a tough adjustment for her as well as me. One that is often hard for me to keep in mind – she has a new reality.

My trouble at this moment is that I don’t know what to do with my anger. While I am experiencing it I don’t know how to put it aside in order to sort through the conflict in a constructive way. It is hard for me to, in the midst of my anger, to confront the emotions that my wife is dealing with. This is my latest test on the strength journey. Can I put her needs above my own in the moment.

This is like having driving an automatic for your whole life, then having to learn to drive a stick. Changing gears. It’s a better way to drive, better performance, better mileage, but it is tough to learn to change the gears at appropriate times (much less stop at a red light facing uphill!). I’ll learn and I’ll be NASCAR good at it, but for the moment it is very awkward and difficult.

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