In all marriages, there are times when one spouse fails to decode the other, or perhaps somebody just says something harsh, critical, or sarcastic that angers or hurts the other person. At that kind of moment, your mate’s face may fall, or perhaps the eyes grow dark and the tone of voice grows icy. In other people, the body stiffens, the eyes flash and the tone of voice goes up a few octaves. When you see any of these telltale signs, be aware that you have probably stepped on your mate’s air hose, deflating the inner spirit.
When I introduce the air hose analogy at a conference, I ask the audience to picture a wife’s air hose leading to a big tank labeled “Love” because she needs love just as she needs air to breathe. When, through her pink hearing aids, she hears an unfortunate message in her husband’s words, that air hose can get pinched and her love supply cut off. That’s when she will find it very easy to come back with unfortunate words of her own, often angry words that are trying to tell her husband “I don’t feel loved right now.” But she doesn’t say it just like that. Instead she might say, “That was stupid! You always foul things up, and here we are again.”
Her husband, of course, has his own air hose leading to a big tank labeled “Respect.” And he needs respect just as he needs air to breathe. He probably meant nothing by his unfortunate remark, but when his pink wife heard it through her pink hearing aids, she was stung, irritated, or perhaps deeply hurt. Naturally enough, she lashed back, and when her husband heard her disrespectful words through his blue hearing aids, those words stung him, and his air hose got pinched as well. And from there the whole thing can escalate in a hurry. A cardinal rule for learning to communicate the Love and Respect way is to always remember:
WHEN YOUR WORDS STING YOUR SPOUSE AND CAUSE AN ISSUE, THAT ISSUE IS SELDOM THE REAL ISSUE.
The real issue is that words heard by a wife can sound unloving and words heard by a husband can sound disrespectful. And each can respond defensively with more words that sound unloving or disrespectful. And back and forth they go—right onto the Crazy Cycle.
When you and your spouse are on the Crazy Cycle, what you say and how you say it sounds unloving or disrespectful even when you don’t intend to sound that way. To get on the Crazy Cycle, you had to give a certain look, say some unfortunate word (like jerk or witch), or perhaps scream a little. Once you two are on the Crazy Cycle, whatever you say is bound to grieve or provoke the spirit of your spouse. But whatever your issue might be, it is no longer the real issue because you have reduced the importance of your partner. That is the real issue, and that is why all your spouse will hear at the moment is “You don’t matter to me. I don’t love you.” Or “You don’t matter to me. I don’t respect you.”
From The Language of Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.