Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's okay to admit that you're not satisfied.

A couple of days after I started this blog, something completely unexpected happened. I'd just asked my wife to review a draft of a post, which I could tell she actually liked because she was still laughing when I left the room.  After I asked a few questions, and wheedled some more feedback out of her, she looked at me with her Serious Face™.  (if you're married, you know the one I'm talking about)  She looked at me, and she asked very quietly, "are you really that unhappy with your life?"

I had to stop myself from speaking for a couple of seconds, and make sure I gave her an answer that was honest, but also answering the right question.  You see, that question went to my man-brain, and in my man-brain I know exactly to what extent I am happy or unhappy with my life.  Being the author of this amazing blog, I also know exactly what I mean by each and every word, including the ones I make up.  So, to me, the natural answer was, "Yes.  Yes, I am exactly that unhappy with my life.  That's why I said it."  Fortunately, I'd been working on this whole Growing Up™ thing for a while before I began this blog, and that has included working on understanding people and communicating.  I'm not the world's greatest communicator, but at least I was able to see that oncoming train.

The problem for me, was that I'd been going on about all the changes I wanted to make, and all the while my wife was filtering everything I said, and everything she read, through her own internal filters.  (Men, this is normal.  Your wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, etc. all do this.  They think we're the wierd ones for not doing this, and they do the same thing with what they say)  What my wife was really asking me was something more like, "you've expressed all this dissatisfaction with your career and past life choices, and talked about not being where you want to be in life.  Does this mean that you have some deeper and more fundamental unhappiness?  How is it that this is new information to me?  Why didn't you let me know?  How can I help?  Is it something I did?  Do these jeans make my butt look big?  How many of these blog entries do I have to read before I can ignore them without being un-supportive?"  (Yes, my fellow men, most women can and do ask that many different and unspoken questions in 8 words or less.  Get used to it.)

After a few seconds to scan for any other unspoken questions I might have missed, I looked back to my wife with my best Reassuring Face™ and gave her the completely honest answers to the right questions.  "It's not that I'm unhappy with my life, it's that I'm really unsatisfied with some parts of my life.  I know I'm underemployed, and I'm not living up to my potential for us.  I haven't provided us with the kind of home you deserve, and I want to do better because I know I can do better, but you're the biggest ray of sunshine in my life, and I'm completely happy with you.  By the way, you look amazing in those jeans." (You may have noticed that I neatly skirted the issue of how many blog posts she has to read for me.  Once I give her a number, she'll be counting them down like the days till Christmas)

Explaining it that way made it all make sense to my wife.  She was able to see where I was really coming from, and probably gained just a little bit more respect for me in the process.

The important lesson here, is not that my wife looks great in those jeans, which she really does.  The important lesson here is that when you decide to start making big changes in your life, you're bound to be excited about them, and you're bound to want to share those with the people close to you.  (you may even want to share them with anyone who will sit still and read your blog)  However, while you're sharing them, you have to be careful that you communicate what they really mean to the people closest to you.  It really is okay to admit that you're not satisfied with your life.  It's good and healthy to say, "I realize that I'm not winning at _____, and I think it's time to do something about that."  But while you're doing that, it's just as important, to make sure the people you love don't feel left behind unless they're crazy, and leaving them behind is part of the plan; which you should also tell them.  But probably in a public setting...

...with lots of witnesses...

...and a get-away car....

The other side of the coin, is that while you have to consider the feelings of the people who matter in your life, you do have the right to be unsatisfied.  Whether it's your career, your butt, or your relationship that you're unsatisfied with; it's good and proper to spend some time figuring out which direction is the right one, and then working hard to move in that direction.  There may be a few bruised egos along the way, and you may have to back-track from time to time and eat a little crow; but the people who are in your life for good reason, will be the ones who respect you for the desire to improve.