by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP
Since I work in the Digital Department of our publishing house, I am often asked by people I work with to fix a computer problem. Typically I’m not the one who should be called for this since I am able to resolve only the simplest of technology issues. I noticed, however, a pattern that is quite amusing. In most cases, when a computer isn’t performing to expectation the problem is always the computer. Even when it is clear a person doesn’t know much about the running of a computer, it is unquestionably entirely the fault of the computer. People don’t seem to consider that perhaps they might have had something to do with the situation. Did I enter the correct URL, have I run my virus scans as scheduled, am I running too many programs simultaneously…. When I run into a problem with my own computer, my first step is to “Google” the problem and see if someone else has had the problem. In almost every case, I find a forum of computer geeks who have already tackled the problem. A long comment thread is left behind witnessing to their patient struggle to understand the problem, and to at least provide people with a workaround. The forum, I suggest, is the better model of communication for marriage. It is like the patient untying of a knot over time.
The persons who walk away from the computer, tossing a “Stupid computer” over their shoulders as they put in a requisition form to IT, are those who have very little investment in the situation. It’s not my problem is what they are saying by their behavior. We can easily transfer this way of approaching problems into our relationships, and in a marriage it can be especially poisonous. With little investment in communication, the other is to blame, or at least the other is responsible for fixing the problem. I’m not going to bother. It certainly couldn’t be my fault.
Ego would prefer that I don’t stop and consider that perhaps indeed I did contribute to the situation. Maybe I’m doing something, saying something, thinking something that is confusing, hurting, triggering the other. The commandment for communication in marriage that is so important is this: “Thou shalt be responsible for thyself.” When something has not turned out well, the most useful question to ask is, “What did I do or not do that helped cause this to happen?”
When you approach a situation with the attitude of responsibility three things happen:
A marriage that is lived in self-awareness and truth is a marriage that will be able to be healed over and over again. When you want to look deeply into yourself, the truth of the pain will be revealed to you, and you will discover at last the endless beauty that lies beneath the passing situation
- You assume a vulnerable stance that causes the other to be less defensive.
- You’re able to be more objective, saying how you see the situation and what you feel you contributed to it, signaling you’re willing to work together.
- You begin to see patterns in your communication together which gives you the power to change them.