Reconnaissance Articles

Drying Up The Water Torture

Ariel Anderton, Reconnaissance

You two have been together a while, doing life side by side and you have sort of rhythm, a way of doing things together. You really like each other, even love each other. Maybe you’ve even made the commitment in front of friends and family. But the more you’re around each other, the more there are some things you just don’t like about this person. And that’s normal because they are not you, they are them.

At first these things seemed trivial. But like Chinese water torture, they’ve drip drip dripped on you. The first time you thought “Oh. Huh. They do that way different than I do.” A few more times and it’s kind of irritating. You might even say something at that point like “honey, you know I don’t like it that way. Would you please do it this way?” But it keeps happening.

The drip is no longer a drip to you. It’s a choking rain. The perfect storm that will tip you overboard into fits of screaming and gnashing of teeth. What can we do about these buttons we push in each other that turn into drowning floods?

Go Bird’s Eye – Pick a time where the two of you can sit down and talk calmly and uninterrupted. Right after the last “drip” will probably not be the best time for this since you will be full of frustration and other colorful feelings. Agree to unplug all electronic devices, have the kids occupied elsewhere or in bed, and focus on each other. The key to this time is that it is not a blame session and that you let the “drip” be the bad guy, not your loved one. Talk about what the drip is until you both are on the same page. You’ll know when you’ve gotten on the same page when each of you feels like you’re talking about the same thing and show it by summarizing so in your own words. A simple nod that you’re listening is not going to be enough here.

You might be thinking now “we’ve talked about it plenty of times and usually ended up in a fight and nothing changed!” In that case, bring that up too. It will soften the topic to start with “I know we’ve talked about this before and had some fights over it but since it is still not resolved would you be willing to talk about this again?”

Dig for the deeper meaning – If it was just about the “drip” than the two of you could probably find a way to eliminate it a long time ago. But there is usually more to it. What does this “drip” mean to each of you? Give each other a turn to look at what this is. For the Drip-ee, there may be a part of you that feels uncared for by the Drip-er because you’ve already let them know it bothers you and yet it keeps happening. The Drip-er may not have realized this was the message being sent when they kept “dripping” or there may be another reason they’ve continued. The deeper meaning is usually what keeps this “drip” in place. The good news is that it also holds the key to make changes in the relationship.

Booby Trap the Button – After you two have thoroughly identified the “drip,” and heard what that means to each of you, you can be on the same team to find a solution that feels acceptable to both of you. Talk about how to catch the “drip” before it happens next time or add a consequence that will decrease its happening but carry more weight for the Drip-er if it does. Plan on an alternative course of action and give permission to both of you to put that into action whoever notices first. Since you’re agreeing on what will happen, the fight potential goes down. For instance, if you see the “drip” on the horizon you can sound the alarm with a ‘time out’ or bring in the consequence.

No one likes to feel dripped on or admit that they keep dripping. The “drip” dries up when you feel more on the same team about it whether it stops or a compromise is found. Understanding the meaning underneath and finding a plan that reflects that unifies the two of you again on that point that’s been hurtful and aggravating.