Communication is the Key

I was reading a blog post by a police officer who described whether it was good or not good to talk about the job with one’s spouse, girl/boyfriend, or in my case, partner.

There is one school of thought that you should keep your job at your job and not talk about it at home. The officer’s line of thinking was the opposite, and is consistent with my own. That it, he said, and I feel the same way, that “holding back what happens to you at work will eat your soul and will be the demise of the greatest reward of your personal life — your marriage” (or in my case, all I’m allowed to call it is “my relationship” because I am prohibited from marrying the man I love. But that’s another story for another time….)

Further, he said, “Too many first responders equate their whole identity in being whatever it is they are professionally. All too often, we are guilty of paying more attention to our lives at work than the one at home.” He concluded that paragraph by saying, “It’s like cheating on your family.” That statement caused me to ponder, and agree very much with his profound insight.

While I am not a first responder, I can directly relate to what he said. I had a soaring career for almost 20 years with a respected national organization. I realize now in hindsight how “married to the job” I was. I lived and breathed that job every moment of every day. One may call that behavior “dedicated.” I learned later that being so dedicated was taking me away both physically and spiritually from my best half — my partner.

Bad things would happen on the job, and I would try to suck it up and say to myself, “I’m not going to burden him with that bullshit.” But I would dwell on that crap in my mind, and it would affect my whole demeanor in how I related to my best half, my family, and my friends.

I kept rationalizing, “I have a life outside of work. I deal with work at work and can leave it there, and have a life with my partner, family, and friends outside of working hours.” I was fooling myself. That was the biggest lie I ever told — and worse, I told it to myself so much that I believed it for 20 years.

Things came to a head with a major conflict at that job in late 2004. I was so angry and frustrated with daily garbage that when I came home, I unloaded my emotions in unhealthy ways. If my partner didn’t love me as much as he does, I’m sure he would have left me. But instead of fighting with me about my personal issues, he became the listener that he is and asked me questions in a gentle way to probe what exactly was going on. So I let it all out. What I had bottled up came flowing out in a torrent of yelling, screaming, and a lot of tears.

Sure, I made some mistakes and that led to this conflict at work. But my partner, being the loving, caring, man that he is, never once said that I did anything wrong. He defended me with absolute certainty that I was right and to hell with everyone else at the job who were making me so miserable. Within a week of finally opening up to him, I quit a job that was eating me alive.

My situation had gotten to the point of “my job or my life” and it was an “either-or.” There was no compromise. No middle ground. My partner never threatened to leave me, but made it clear that my behavior was making me very difficult to live with. But more importantly, he pointed out what I was failing to see — that my misery was affecting not only my mental health, but was making me that negative person that I never would want to be. He sort of held me to a mirror and said, “is this the man you want to be?”

He was so right. His intervention saved my soul, saved our relationship, and saved my sanity. Quitting a job that I thought I loved was the best thing in the world I ever could have done. And it would probably have happened sooner had I talked with him about it years earlier.

I am a fairly resilient man. I also know that my ability to bounce back to the man I want to be is absolutely dependent on communicating with the best reward of my personal life — my partner.

I communicate a lot with many people, but there’s nothing on the level of communication with your partner that is the same. Sure, my twin brother can read my mind and my senior pals are sensitive to share their wisdom. My siblings are close, listen well, and love me, “regardless.” It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people who “have my back.” But there’s nothing quite the same as your spousal-equivalent being there to listen, support, and … as I always say,

… show those you love that you love them.

I definitely agree with Motorcop: “Communication is key.” Keeping the dialogue going maintains a healthy relationship with your best half and maintains the integrity of your soul. Thanks, MC, for such a terrific and insightful blog post.