Episode 106: How To Express Your Feelings Without Arguing
I don’t mind sharing with women that I don’t take a salary, because that’s the truth. All the money earned is put back into the business and our non-profit. I’m choosing not to take a salary right now so I can pay for the amazing team of women who work for me to help with the Love Over Addiction: Stay or Go program and other new projects. I don’t mind sharing that for the first 4 years, I worked 60-70 hour weeks, for free. Maybe my salary will change in the future, and maybe it won’t.
But this woman’s shocking assumption that I was going to just hand over my balance sheet made me upset and feel defensive. So I spent the next few hours stewing and writing a very long email back to her.
The next morning, I asked my husband to read it. Afterward, he gave me a look of mild concern and asked if I was really going to send it. He encouraged me to have breakfast (Brian always makes family breakfast on Saturdays) and sit on it for a while.
So I saved my email and vowed not to do any more work over the weekend (to be truthful, I worked another five hours, but I still didn’t touch the email).
On Monday, I asked Megan, my amazing co-worker, to read my response. And you know what this wise twenty-something-year-old told me?
“Michelle, I don’t understand why you have to justify your finances to anyone.”
Ahhh…. she’s so right!
So I hit delete and moved on.
This “attack” didn’t require a response. If the woman was being rude, I didn’t have to be rude or defensive back. I could just ignore it and get busy doing the next thing.
So, what does this personal story have to do with you, my sister? I do have a point, I promise.
When our loved one treats us poorly by drinking after they promised not to, or using drugs when they JUST said this time they were getting sober for good, it can make us want to lash out, get defensive, or become unglued. It’s true! No one wants to admit that women can get angry, but this disease makes us feel that way. Anger is part of the package—let’s just be real.
So how do we respond in a way that best serves us?
We’ll use my example.
- Write down how you’re feeling. Write down the facts, and write down the truth. It can be in a text, an email, or an old-fashioned letter.
- Don’t send it. Get it all out, and then save it as a draft or tuck your letter away. Eat some breakfast, go for a walk, clean out a closet, make a date with a friend, or dive into work. Take a break from your negative feelings by doing something you enjoy.
- 24-48 hours later, reread what you wrote. Is it fair? Is it dignified? Does it make you feel proud?
- Ask someone else’s opinion. Ask the most balanced and level-headed person you know. Don’t send it to the feisty friend or the one who avoids conflict. Tell them it’s safe for them to be honest. You value their feedback. And spend time discussing it.
- If you’re still convinced that you need to get your feelings across (and that is totally necessary sometimes when it comes to relationships with the ones we love), then take a deep breath and send it.
Now, because I know you so well, my friends, some of you are saying, “How am I not going to talk to my partner for 24 or 48 hours? I live with them.” And here’s the answer: talk to them only about the housekeeping issues.
For example, who’s going to pick up the kids, what you need from the store, or when you’re planning on being home. Anything that has to do with emotions or feelings are off limits until you have decided to send or save your letter.
Remember, you get to choose what you say, when you say it, and how you want to communicate your feelings. Don’t let anyone rush you. Words are powerful. Hold yourself accountable for your words. Think them through.
Oh, and one more important thing: if you’re going through a divorce, ALL communication (or MOST) should be done in an email or text so you can save it, just in case. AND, in these circumstances, be extra careful what you say. Written communications and voicemails can be submitted to a court of law.
We have your back, sisters. Always and forever.
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Love Over Addiction is a private self-study recovery program just for women who love someone who drinks too much or suffers from substance use disorder.
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