Who’s Got It Harder? – Tip #107
Avoid at all costs getting caught into conversations that compare your lives. In our family we call it the ‘Who’s Got It Harder Game’. Have you ever really tried to compare oranges and apples? They both have a skin, seeds and are a fruit. The experience of eating each one is completely different and so are the lives you have had during an extended absence or deployment. It is easy to get caught up in the argument that you had it harder – at different times you both did. This is an argument that is not only a waste of time and energy, it will also never come to a satisfying conclusion for either of you.
When you feel yourself about to respond with phrases like; ‘Are you kidding me?’ or ‘You have no idea what has been like for me here.’ you are traveling down a path where no one will win and resentment will only continue to build. My advice is to come to the conclusion that my husband and I did which is: We will never be able to understand the struggles the other person had but we can talk about them. I remember once responding to my husband (who had been talking about some of his tougher moments while he was deployed) with, “Oh please, you had your laundry done, meals organized for you, no sick children to look after, house to clean, groceries to do, lawn to cut, not to mention you weren’t pregnant!”. He is one of the kindest people I have ever met and, of course, did not respond. It was the best thing that he could have done because hours later when I thought about how insensitive I had been (he wasn’t, after all, on an all-inclusive tropical vacation) I was able to come to the conclusion that trying to compare our experiences is much like apples and oranges and really a waste of the time we now have together.
* Talk openly about what you found hardest but avoid comparing situations (remember: apples and oranges)
* Before speaking ask yourself, “Am I saying this to prove a point?” – if you are saying it to prove a point then don’t (remember my husband who said nothing and made a very lasting point)
* When you are talking ask questions like – “What did you do next?”, “What did you do the next time that happened?” or “How do you think that happened?”. Try to avoid asking the feeling questions as often people who have experienced trauma or stress aren’t able to (or want to) talk about the feelings directly associated with situations and will often answer the feeling part if you ask them about what they did.
* Do not make any judgments about what they did or didn’t do. You weren’t in their shoes so you really don’t know what you would have done.
* At the end of any type of conversation that involves them sharing their experiences, thoughts or feelings, thank them. It isn’t easy to talk about things that bring back awful memories or times when you were at your lowest and sometimes a simple thank-you is all that is needed.
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Filed under: Military Family Support - Tips from the 101 Tips books, Re-integration Tips, Tips for Educators and Deployment Support Workers | Tagged: comparing, deployment, family, military families, re-integration, reunion, support |