The Red Running Jacket: A Story About Miscommunication and Unappreciation
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
Did I ever tell you the story about the red running jacket?
If you’re a client that I’ve seen in the past or in my facebook group: CTB & Mindfulness Meditation for Anxiety & Stress community group, you might have heard this story.
About 5 years ago, my husband told me that he thought I needed a new running jacket. Mine was a 20-year-old, worn out, shapeless, uni-sex jacket, with torn reflective tape.
I didn’t disagree.
He wanted to buy me something nice. And, he’s generally a great gift giver.
“Sure.” I said, “I quite like this one and it’s comfortable. But ok. If you buy me a new one, maybe get something in a “women’s fit”, meaning tapered, that doesn’t look like a tent. And, any colour except for red or yellow. I get so red when I run I don’t want to look like a tomato or draw more attention to myself. I’d like blue, or green, black, or brown, or even purple or pink. Just no red and no yellow. And, maybe something that hugs my body so I look like I have a figure. Tapered. Women’s fit.”
Teacher’s college taught me to repeat everything 5 times. It drives my husband crazy.
A few weeks go by, and I forgot all about the jacket. Until one day, I come home and see a jacket by the entrance. A red, unisex jacket exactly like my old one, just 1 size bigger and newer in – wait for it – RED!
“What’s this?” I ask.
“Your new running jacket”, he replied.
“Are you kidding me?” Was my response. “This is red and it looks like a tent. It’s exactly like my old one. Just frumpier.”
He looked hurt and shocked. “You had that old one for 20 years, I thought you liked it!” He said, “I ran all around town for 3 weeks trying to find you a jacket. The least you can do is say ‘thank you’”. He was mad.
“I never even asked for a jacket. You never listen to me.” I was so hurt and mad. My face was red, and tears were streaming down my cheeks.
“You’re always so unappreciative.” He hollered as he slammed out the door.
Now this fight was not about a running jacket.
This fight was about a deeper issue in our relationship. One that plays out over and over and over. Whether we are arguing about the bathroom counter, the colour of the grout, what to eat for Friday night dinner, or the stuffed half-bear ~ that’s a story for another time ~ it’s generally the same argument each time.
The point is, most couples get stuck in the same patterns over and over again, because it’s not about the thing. It’s not about the running jacket. It’s about the communication pattern and even more so, it’s about what was triggered in each person. Whether it’s you with your partner, family member, colleague, or child. It’s about the deeper belief that was triggered or poked in you.
For me, I felt like my husband just wasn’t listening to me. I thought I was pretty explicit. But it seems like he didn’t even hear me. OK, let me rephrase that into an I statement -- It’s not that “he didn’t hear me”, it’s “I didn’t feel heard”.
And, for him, he obviously felt unappreciated for all of his time and energy that he spent going to different stores and looking for the perfect gift.
This is the common pattern in my home. When you boil down the running jacket argument, the bathroom counter debate, the grout fiasco and the stuffed half-bear brawl – I often feel unheard and he often feels unappreciated. These are our core triggers that get poked.
How did we get to this point?
When you ask yourself, what in me was just triggered? What is this feeling of hurt, anger, sadness, etc telling me? You can get to the underlying belief that was triggered.
It's easy to focus on what you don't like or disagree with in your partner. But this focus on the problem will only dig you deeper into the problem. When you ask yourself these questions about YOURSELF, then you can get to the core beliefs that are triggered in you. This brings you one step closer to a solution.
So, I asked myself the questions:
What was triggered in me? What was poked? What are my feelings trying to tell me?
I realized I felt hurt, frustrated and unimportant. And, these feelings were trying to tell me that I felt frustrated with our communication. And I felt unheard.
Notice how I didn’t say, he did not hear me, or he does not listen. It’s not about him.
To learn about your own feelings and your own triggers, you need to own your feelings and discover what they are trying to tell you. Stay in the “I statement”. Acknowledge what YOU feel and what YOU think. Your partner is just the catalyst, but the trigger lies within you (and me).
My husband felt equally frustrated and insulted. When he took the time to explore what these feelings were trying to tell him, he realized he felt unappreciated.
Now, today we know this pattern. That when I’m feeling unheard it’s darn hard to appreciate his efforts. And, when my husband is feeling unappreciated, he kinda doesn’t want to listen to me. Round and round we go in this pattern every time we are triggered and triggering each other.
Now that we know this pattern, we each are tasked with stopping our own part in the pattern.
That means, for my partner to slow down and listen and to let me know that he hears me. And, for me to recognize that my husband’s actions are coming from a place of love and support. Its essential for me to show and share my appreciation of his efforts.
Just last week we got into an argument and my husband stopped everything and said, “I know, I know. You feel like I didn’t hear you. You feel unheard.” He repeated back to me, exactly what I was trying to express.
It was so easy in that moment to appreciate him listening and repeating my words back to me.
Argument diverted. And much easier to solve the problem. I felt heard and he felt appreciated.
OK, tell me. What is the common pattern that you and your partner, family member, boss, colleague, friend, etc get stuck in?
Don’t forget to ask yourself the questions:
What in me was triggered? What was poked? What are my feelings trying to tell me?
OK, click reply and tell me about the common pattern that you get stuck in. What are the beliefs and feelings that get triggered in you?