One morning my husband came home from work and surprised me with a piece of paper — a gym membership. I had been thinking about getting back into dancing, which meant I should start conditioning, which naturally led me to consider getting a gym membership. Still, I found myself surprised, or rather, shocked in that moment when I realized he had actually bought me a membership.
After a tiny bit of reflection, I realized I was not completely ready to commit to the gym despite having told my husband that I was ready. Yet, in that moment I thought, “When am I ever ready?”, and “When is there ever a ‘perfect’ time?” I decided to take this surprise in stride and set my mind on hitting the gym with him for the first time the following week.
So how did it go?
The first day was okay. I felt a bit shy and self-conscious being in an open room full of strangers who were sweating and grunting, and I felt like a pimple on a teen’s face: absurdly obvious. To be completely honest, I felt like a fool.
I have always felt that lifting weights was awkward and strange, and I still feel that way. I know it will help me get to where I want in terms of mobility and joint stability, but it is not my ideal way to work out. Still, the fact that my husband was there by my side and teaching me really helped.
By the second day I was feeling agitated. Not necessarily because of the workouts themselves, but because of certain things I was noticing in the communication between me and my husband.
As I mentioned, my husband was the one guiding me through the workouts. He would teach me the proper form for each workout, and in this process is where miscommunication reared it’s ugly head.
As my husband taught me, I quickly discovered that the intended meaning behind some of his instructions was very different from how I was understanding them.
For example, he told me to keep a straight back for one of the exercises, which I immediately tried to hone in on. Almost instantly it became apparent that I was not getting it quite right.
The look on his face combined with the lack of verbal confirmation told me something must have been off. My husband then proceeded to show me what he meant by a “straight back”, and it was only then that I was able to correctly understand what he had meant.
In that moment I became very aware of the potential disparity between what we mean and what is understood when we speak; the fact that we can understand words differently from how they were meant. For my husband and me, it was almost like we were speaking two different languages when it came to describing movement and our bodies.
So how did we get through this dilemma? Through two main methods:
- Modeling – My husband would show me what he meant by doing the proper form. I am a fairly visual learner so this really helped me.
- Verbal Cues – Words can be misunderstood, but they are far from useless. My husband would confirm and affirm me when I would have good form. Other times he would let me know that I was not hitting the right form, and then proceed to give me verbal pointers on how to adjust my form.
Modeling and verbal cues helped me to understand what my husband meant when he used certain words to teach me, but I still found myself agitated and having a strong urge to talk back to him. I was feeling combative rather than cooperative.
Something about the miscommunication was messing with me. I felt myself get angry in a split second. My reaction was very strong and quick, like a gust of wind that momentarily paralyzes you as you resist. I tensed and tried to hold myself together as the gust of anger passed.
I have come to realize that when I have a reaction that intense, it is most often not about the person or situation at hand, but more about myself.
So what was it? Was I angry at my husband or myself? What was I angry about someone else altogether?
I realized years of feeling misunderstood had somehow sprung up in that moment we had our miscommunication. My anger came from years spent being blamed for conclusions that came out of a need to accuse, the countless occasions I was reprimanded out of a lack of understanding, and the hopeless feeling of being stuck in a reality that I felt I had no control over.
The feelings that flared up in me as if my husband had ignited the fire were indeed not his to begin with. Yet what I wanted to do in those first few seconds was to hold on to that fire and take it out on him. So who or what was the firefighter who saved the day?
Well, once we finished our workout we walked to the coffee shop next door and grabbed some lattes. Yes, lattes saved the day.
I felt myself relax as we had a conversation and enjoyed each other’s company, and I found myself feeling so grateful in that moment: Grateful that my husband was sharing one of his favorite pastimes of going to the gym with me. Grateful for the surprises that had led us to that point in the coffee shop. Grateful for the things learned.
On the morning my husband handed me my gym membership I was expecting an experience I would not quite enjoy, but I gave it a chance and it has started to grow on me.
The gym and lattes are slowly but surely becoming a part of our routine. On my second day at the gym they became a lesson in communication and an encounter with a firefighter for the soul found in a cup.
Have you ever been in a situation where you realized there was a misunderstanding? What was your initial reaction to it? How did you try to resolve it? Have you encountered any unlikely heroes in your life? Share your thoughts and answers in the comments below!