A few years ago when I was still with my ex, I used to have this argument with him in my head. I would anticipate him saying things and figure out how I would respond. I’d have entire arguments without him even being in the room! Do you think I’m crazy yet?
It took me a long time to learn that the reason I was it was because I was hoping for an argument to get out the things I needed to say. I was afraid to be the instigator, but certain things were weighing so heavily on me that I was hoping for reasons to get them out. I wanted him to give me an opening so at the end of the day, I wasn’t the one always bringing up issues. This speaks to both an issue with me and him. I was too concerned with being considered a ‘complainer’, and he avoided confrontation at all cost, even if it meant we never talked about a single issue we had.
It went on and on. Even after we broke up I kept having them. If he called today, this is what I would say. If he forced me to tell him what went wrong, this is what I would say. It took months to get over doing this. Months of just letting those issues go, and realizing that being happy with myself was more important than teaching him a lesson. If he didn’t want to learn, it wasn’t my job to teach him. I’m happy to say that it’s been two years, and I’ve stopped having arguments in my head.
Yesterday I realized I was doing it again. For the past few weeks, I’ve been having arguments in my head with my business partner. At first they were conversations. I would go home and have logical conversations with him, all in my head. But after awhile my frustration with him grew, and I would wake up in the morning and immediately start having these arguments with him. They get me so angry! I work out my frustration by almost becoming hysterical at him, sometimes crying, and yet I’ve never once actually said anything to him. When I get to the office, I smile and go about my day like I’m not actually angry. How is this healthy?
I’ve become pretty good at trying to figure out what my body and mind is actually telling me. A few years ago I would have wallowed in my anger and frustration, but now I understand that my mind is having these arguments for a reason. Do I want to shout at him? No. I’m not a shouting kind of person. But these ‘play fights’ are happening because there are things I want to say. Things he needs to understand. This is not a romantic relationship, this is a business partnership. We rely on communication and honesty to work well together. Logically I should be able to sit down and have a meeting with him and figure out the best ways to run the business so I don’t run myself into the ground.
But here’s the catch. He’s not going to take it well.
My business partner is a very hard-working and high-energy type of person. When he’s happy, he’s interested in making the entire office happy. When he’s angry and frustrated, he wants us to be there to help him. Pretty much his mood is the mood he assumes the entire office is in. His life is all about him.
I’m the kind of person that always wants to help. But I’ve learned that I can’t help a person if the end result is my own wellbeing. I will sacrifice a lot for the people I love, but the people who love you don’t just take take take, the give as well. My business partner is a taker. He considers himself generous, but it’s so much work ‘taking care’ of him and he sort of expects everyone to just do it. In short, he’s selfish. It’s always about him, all the time. But he doesn’t think he’s selfish!
The other day he brought me flowers to the office to tell me how much he appreciates all the things I’m doing. I thought it was incredibly sweet. I love them. I loved the kind, sweet and caring gesture. In my head I decided I was judging him, calling him selfish. Maybe I needed to take a step back and reconsider him. But when I did that I realized that for him, this gesture was a band-aid. He saw that I was starting to get frustrated, and instead of helping me or trying to figure out that I just needed some support, he gave me a gift and walked away. I know in his mind he was doing something nice, and I recognize that. But it does nothing to actually sort out the problem. It’s a quick ‘in the moment’ fix. The flowers didn’t stop the arguments in my head. In fact, once I’d gotten over the initial joy at being given flowers and realized it didn’t change anything, the arguments got worse. I know that his kind gesture in his mind fixed everything, and he walked away without a care in the world.
I always try to see both sides of any argument. Where is he coming from? He thinks he’s working so hard, and he is. He doesn’t understand that I’m completely overwhelmed. I see him in his office working, so I shouldn’t judge. It’s not like he’s slacking off.
But here’s the difference.
We’ve opened a new office. Going into that office there were a million things that needed to be done. Phones, internet, electrical work, painting, printers, desks, computers… I mean the list goes on and on. When I look around the office now I see the walls I painted, the colors I chose, the wall my brother helped me build with the wood I stained. The plants I bought. The fast phones and internet I ordered and had installed. The hundreds of hours I’ve spent getting our finances together, keeping us afloat, dealing with the banks, taking out loans, paying our clients, working out a system. And branding!! I designed hundreds of logos before he picked one, the business cards, the website… I look around and realize that this is my office and mostly my company.
He was standing beside me the whole time, but he didn’t actually make a single decision. I did. Here’s what he spent his time doing. He got a couch for his office. He bought a massive TV and spent an entire day mounting it on the wall. Both of those things were totally superficial. We don’t need either of them to run this business or to set up a working office. They’re luxuries. He called me the day they were done putting up the TV and complained that he’d spent the entire day at the office and he was ‘exhausted’. I had to listen to him go on and on about it. At the end, I sort of said ‘that’s what it’s like starting a new business’. What I didn’t say was how little I cared about his stupid TV. I’m angry with him because everything he’s doing for the ‘company’ he’s really doing for himself and I’m left running the entire business.
Yesterday I walked in and there was a sticky envelope on my desk. I opened it and saw it was information for the TV. I asked him why it was on my desk and he said we need to file it. I stared at him for a very long moment before saying ‘and you couldn’t file it yourself?’. His response was he didn’t know where it went… because apparently only I know the secret spot to put all of our TV information for the hundreds of TV’s we have. (To be clear, this is the first one we have.) You can file it wherever you want!
These are the things I have arguments in my head about. I am not your secretary, I’m your business partner. I’m not your assistant, I’m your business partner. We used to have these meetings where he’s tell me what was stressing him out. ‘I’m stressed about the blinds in the office! They’re going to cost thousands of dollars!’. Trying to be supportive, I spent hours researching blinds and where to get cheap ones. In my mind they are not the most important thing. We only get sunlight in the morning, and the way we’ve set up our desks it doesn’t matter. But he kept saying it stressed him out. He’s losing sleep over it. He was also stressed about the company name. He was losing sleep over it. We have to figure it out right now because he’s so stressed out about it.
How many times do you think he asked me what was stressing me out?
I’m good at managing. When our partnership started, we know that I would be better at running the day to day, and he would be better at the big exciting ventures. That’s great! Having a partnership between two people who work well together with different skill sets means you can get twice as much accomplished. But that doesn’t mean that I do all the management, and he does all the exciting ventures. If I wanted to just be a manager, I could get a job as one and make a decent wage while having way less stress. What I want is to run this business together. What I want is for us both to take responsibility for what’s happening. When he needs something, he should just be able to find it. He should file things himself, so that he doesn’t give it to me. He should be able to figure things out on his own.
Instead of just getting angry in my head, I’m going to try and be proactive. Today I’m going to show him how to do the banking, so he knows. I’m going to file everything in the main filing cabinet and show him, so he knows. I’m going to put together a ‘how to’ binder so that he and anyone else in the office can easily do everything from ordering to locking up the office at the end of the night. When he says he wants something done, my first reaction is going to be to convince him that he’s totally capable of accomplishing the task himself. He doesn’t need me.
In the past it’s been brought to my attention that I am a ‘yes’ man. If someone asks for my help, I say yes. This is not a bad trait. In fact, it’s amazing! I love the person that I am and I love being the person people come to for help. But it can put me in a position where people assume I will help, and then I feel taken advantage of. It’s one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned to say no. Not maliciously or belligerently. But if someone asks for my help and I simply can’t do it, then I have to say no. If I’m so overwhelmed and busy I couldn’t possibly do it, I have to say no. Saying no stops me from becoming the dumping ground for everything that needs to be done.
Being able to