Your complaints about other people tell you what you need to change in you

My husband and I are driving to cello lessons in Madison, because my son is going to a new teacher, Uri Vardi. Usually Carla would drive, because I don’t drive, and if my husband drives all the time then he will, effectively, be my driver. So I can either pay a lot of money for a driver or a lot of money for a divorce.

My husband will ditch lesson to play disc golf. He’s training for Amateur Worlds.

I am not interested in disc golf but I’m very interested in telling him how to practice.

I didn’t start playing volleyball until college, but I could compete with women who played their whole lives because I was better at practicing. I made it to the pro volleyball tour by making plans and executing them while everyone else just played match after match hoping to get better.

As a parent supervising practice for cello, violin, and piano, I focus my attention on learning how to practice most efficiently. (Tidbit: Spend more time on scales to learn the instrument the fastest.)

I want to tell him it would be like if the kids played songs instead of practicing scales. I don’t say any of that to him. But I’m telling you; it’s not my nature to simply be quiet.

We stop at the gas station right before the highway. We stop there all the time, as if we live in a home without food and wait each day for that moment when we can enter the oasis of gas station junk food.

My son comes back to the car with a turkey and cheese Lunchables. I tell him he’s throwing out the juice (red dye no. 40) and the cookie (Oreos are banned until the kids can tell me the reason for each ingredient) and the cheese (not only do I have my own definition of junk food, but I also have my own definition of kosher, and the kids can eat turkey that’s not kosher but they can’t eat it with cheese.)

I get a Starbucks Vanilla Latte. I was going to tell you that I will never get another one ever because they are empty calories and must be junk food. But just typing the word Starbucks make me want one, and I start wishing I was in another gas station. The kids don’t realize this kind of coffee is basically junk food, sort of like no one told kids in the ’70s that alcohol was a drug. Adulthood requires such secret privileges. Adulthood is difficult.

We pass a guy in a truck on a random farm and my husband waves and I ask “Who’s that?”

My husband says, “It’s the guy who tests our soil.”

“He tests our soil?”

“He used to. I don’t need him to analyze the soil. I can analyze it myself.”

“Oh,” I say, “Like no blueberries grow because they need acidic soil?”


“What else?”

“Well, he told me I shouldn’t plant orchardgrass because it’ll clump after a few years.”

I look at my husband. “Is that true?”

“No. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Our has been in the ground for seven years and he couldn’t even tell.”

“So what did you say to him?”

“I asked him if he know how long I’d had it in the ground.”

“That wasn’t nice. You trapped him.”


I tell him, “This reminds me: My brother is getting coaching so he can deal with his big promotion, and the coach told him don’t ask people why. Asking why is aggressive.”


“You ask the boys why all the time. You shouldn’t do that.”


“Actually most of the questions you ask are aggressive. You don’t ask questions to find out information.”

“Okay,” he says, “You’re right. I’m done talking about this.”

Humph. It’s not satisfying to hear that I’m right. I need it to be more heartfelt.

We drive. I look out the window, listening to ’80s music up front and YouTube videos in back. This is how our car always sounds. I have to develop an ability to not hear anything I’m hearing.

He says, “Who are you calling?”

“I’m calling someone who wants to talk to me.” I want him to say that he wants to talk to me. But he’s not the lying type.

I call Melissa. No answer. I call my brother who does not work in an office. No answer. My other two brothers work in an office. There is no one else for me to call except Peter who works for me full time, so it’s like it’s his job to answer the phone if I call.

I never call him, so he’s probably thinking that I must be lonely, but I don’t want him to know I’m lonely. So I talk about official business, like whether he learned how to edit photos for my blog.

He says he resized some photos from Brittney Wright. A food photographer who organizes food by color.

My son pipes up from the back seat: “I can do that in Photoshop. How much would you pay me?”

I tell my son I will pay him $2.50 per photo, and he says, “Oh, I didn’t really want a job. I just wanted to try one photo to see if I could do it. Can I have $1.25 to buy a gem for my Pokemon?”

There is a bad lesson here, I just can’t pick it out. I think the lesson is that when you are with your kids, have a friend who you can call so you don’t have to hear how your kids do not want to work for money.

I am still not talking to my husband as he drops us off at the cello lesson. He is excited for disc golf and has forgotten that I am in a fight with him.

I gave up on the silent treatment early in our relationship when, after a week of silent treatment, he called my assistant to tell her that she’s really done a great job of helping us and we’re getting along better than ever.

Why don’t I have something like disc golf that makes me not care if we’re not talking?

And why do I ask myself why? Its aggressive. I need to treat myself better.

I need to practice being good at marriage. I remember when I went to graduate school for writing and all I wrote about was my sex life, and the professor told the class we write about what we we yearn for.

Which means I am yearning for more conflict. I cannot get it from my husband. And I don’t even have a friend I can call to say, “I just called to say hi and engage in conflict.”

Practicing being good at marriage is really just practicing being a reasonable, rational adult. Taking personal responsibility means giving up the joys of passive-aggressive behavior.

It occurs to me that the reason people don’t practice is not because they don’t know the best way to practice. It’s because practicing sucks. It’s not the fun part.

I want to practice reading lots of comments on a blog post. I want to practice something that depends on someone else doing the work.

76 replies
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  1. cynthia woodyard
    cynthia woodyard says:

    OMG, you are amazing in so many ways! What a mind! Trying to say more would make me sound stupid, lol! Keep talking……..

  2. JoanneBB
    JoanneBB says:

    Here, blog post comment. I have nothing productive to add to the discussion, the idea that our complaints reflect on ourselves is resonating with me this morning so I will let my subconscious chew on it for a while.

    The blog photos chosen today are lovely, I particularly like the toast.

  3. Christine
    Christine says:

    I have been reading you for over six years and this is some of the best writing I can remember. Thank you

  4. Mark
    Mark says:

    A frisbee golf playing farmer? Only in Wisconsin!

    Be careful whom he plays with or you might end up with a bunch of pot plants on the back forty.

    • Blandy
      Blandy says:

      “Why?” asked when the asker is in true learning mode, or is open to new information, can be a benign question. In any other context it is a challenge — “prove it.” Nine times out of ten it’s the latter.

    • whiteiris
      whiteiris says:

      Asking “why” is specifically aggressive when not stating the intent on why you are asking why. It’s rude, it puts people on the spot and ultimately accuses them of being wrong without coming out and saying that, but it will still warrant the same reaction. Or not much of one, i.e. “a brick wall”

      Stating intent = non-aggressive
      Not stating intent = aggressive

      Yes, I am an expert.

      Stating intent = “Hey, so I have to ask, what gave you the impression the grass was freshly planted? It’s seven years old. Am I doing something right? Does it look new?

      Result = stimulating interesting conversation

      Not stating intent = “Why do you think it is new grass?”

      Result = Distraction from getting the answer you seek. Person is probably thinking. “Am I wrong? Is this not new grass? Did I screw up? How should I cover this up?”

      You won’t get much from people with aggression. Some people truly don’t care, in fact they want people to go away. So ask “why” based on what you intend to gain from knowing. If it’s to push others away, then aggressive works.

      “Why would you ask?!” hee hee

    • Joey Tan
      Joey Tan says:

      Let me help to answer.

      Asking why isn’t always aggressive obviously.

      It can be aggressive depending on the
      2)context and
      3) if you are pushing someone in a corner who is not ready or able to answer ie why are you stupid? Or why can’t you get this?

  5. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Great article Penny, but some of us ask questions just for the answers… My2centsworth

    Like, I was wondering what was wrong with your son’s previous cello teacher?

  6. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I think you have to be you and you have to accept your husband for who he is. So don’t stop advising him. It would make you explode anyway. But when he doesn’t take your advice, or is silent, why fight him? He’s just being himself. What was it about him that you liked in the first place anyway? Is he still that guy?

    I have a sneaking hunch that he hears you loud and clear and adapts some of your coaching into what he does, and then never tells you about it. Through your blog, autonomy seems super important to him, as does not revealing his inner processing/thinking.

  7. Shelly Cluff
    Shelly Cluff says:

    “Taking personal responsibility means giving up the joys of passive-aggressive behavior.”

    I love that line, it resonates completely. I find it’s true in marriage and also in parenting. Sometimes I want my kids to know they disappointed me without having to clearly be upset at them and know that I lost my temper. Being passive aggressive gives me a feeling like I’m doing things right when really I’m not.

  8. Heather
    Heather says:

    First — thanks for the music tip! I want my kids to play well, but really I want to play an instrument but make them instead because I don’t have time. Maybe knowing a quick way to get decent will inspire me to give it a go:-)

    Second — I know you get gobs of books to read and this is an old one anyhow, but based on my reading of “The Surrendered Wife” you are absolutely killing your marriage with all the advice to your husband — unsolicited at that. You may not agree with her marriage building advice, but it’s counter-mainstream so you will for sure appreciate that aspect of it. I personally love most of what that author says, so much so that I signed up for her blog alerts. By signing up, I was given a free invite to a 45-minute or so webinar (live feel, but I’m pretty sure was pre-recorded) which really was the hook for her much more expensive, all encompassing training. I pass this along as well as a friendly tool you may want to copy for your start-up:-) (Yep — I like giving unsolicited advice too! Sorry.)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I agree about giving advice. The criticism spouses give to one and other is not only hard to live with in the marriage but also hard to listen to– I notice myself cringing when I hear other couples complaining to them.


  9. Jen
    Jen says:

    “Taking personal responsibility means giving up the joys of passive-aggressive behavior.”

    I have been suffering through this practice for only three years, and it seems like an eternity. My husband never had the passive-aggressive conflict seeking habit, so he has no idea how hard it is !

    When I feel it coming on, I like to wallow in my thoughts about it, exploring the past, how it feels and the various situations that allowed me to learn and rely on this behavior. The memories bring me almost as much joy as the real thing, and I still get to learn a bit about myself – er…..get better at “adulting” with less drama. Passive-aggressive conflict fantasizing, I suppose.

  10. Adrianne
    Adrianne says:

    “Asking why is aggressive.” I’d never thought of it that way…but based on how a lot of people respond when asked for the “why”, that makes sense.

    Mind. Blown.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The big problem with why is it assumes you don’t see things eye-to-eye with the person you’re talking to. You don’t understand why something is how it is.

      When you are seeing eye-to-eye you would ask how or what so that you can move forward instead of stopping to question the status quo.


      • Tom
        Tom says:

        A former GF once told me “Why is an aggressive question.” She suggested that I ask, “How come?” instead because it is more gentle.

        I switched.

        But now I have a mentor who asks me “Why?” and “Why not?” all the time, and it’s done me a world of good. (My answer to both questions is usually “Because I’m scared I will be criticized.”)

        Then I realized that sometimes it’s OK to ask an aggressive question. One of those times is when you want to know “Why?”

        Of course, that’s not the case when you’re already convinced they don’t know what they’re talking about. Because you’ll be unable to listen to whatever answer they’re giving anyway.

      • Senait
        Senait says:

        I experience this a lot. Another reason why asking “why” is aggressive or even just aggravating at times (not if it’s obviously sincere) is because it feels like a lazy question. As if the person can’t be bothered to “be” with you and imagine why on their own – which is maybe just another way of saying what you just said, Penelope.

  11. Bridget
    Bridget says:

    I liked the tip about why being aggressive. I ask a lot of why but I see it as, once I understand the parameter and scope of a decision in relation to my role, I don’t have to ask questions any longer, I can just make decision that I am sure will be acceptable to my boss. I wonder if your brother was coached to say “tell me a little more about that idea,” instead? I see what you mean about attraction to conflict-wonder if you are in need of stimulation and conflict is your go to stimulation? I wonder if coaching your husband is more about working from home? It is harder to delineate when to turn on and off coaching. But basically it seems the entire context of the ride to Madison is control. Lovely state Wisconsin

  12. Rebecca Stafford
    Rebecca Stafford says:

    I was 48 hours away from leaving my abusive husband and didn’t even know it. The counsellor asked if my husband was passive-aggressive. I asked her what that meant.

    After she explained, I said ” I think I do that” – thinking of my snide jokes. Designed to (more) safely get even with him, and reclaim a sense of control in an out of control situation.

    More than 48 hours later – pleased to have escaped with my life despite having to abandon my life to do so – I was reflecting on my role in my abusive marriage.

    Why had I stayed 10 years rather than a month? Had I facilitated his abuse? I’m absolutely not claiming any responsibility for his behavior, but the sad reality is that we were co-dependent. I didn’t know how to be in non-abusive, healthy relationships.

    I concluded that I was more like my mother than I was comfortable with, particularly in the controlling and passive-aggressive departments (on the bright side, I also concluded I had more of her positive qualities than I’d realised)

    So, I’ve done some work around the less adaptive stuff. Life is MUCH better. Including, but far from limited to, a Gorgeous Man.

    I now have a bit of fun with my compulsion to advise. I ask people if they would like some SOLICITED advice.

    BTW passive-aggressive = bullying with a smile.

    Cool, thought provoking post. Thanks Penelope.

    • Amy
      Amy says:

      My soon to be ex-husband told me I am passive aggressive. I have been trying to find or read about others who became this way due to abuse. I am only passive aggressive with him. You saying it was a safe way hits home.

      • Rebecca Stafford
        Rebecca Stafford says:

        Hi Amy, may I offer you some solicited advice?

        Cool. Here goes:

        1. Best single resource I’ve found that addresses the widely misunderstood construct of psychological abuse is “Invisible wounds”, a book by Kaye Douglas. (Unfortunately the book focuses on male abuse of females. However, while male abusers often draw on historical patriarchal support, male and female abusers have more in common than most realize. So if abused men can stomach the book’s female bias – and they WILL need a strong stomach – it can still be an invaluable resource for them)

        2. I have some info on this on my blog. Link included below in “posted by…”

        3. If you have been in an abusive relationship, it’s highly likely that you have some dependency issues. If you want to avoid doing what I did – which was to jump from the above mentioned abusive 10 year relationship to an abusive four year relationship – you might want to get some help with processing what you’ve been through.

        I did do a LOT of work on myself, and am now, for the first time in my life, in a healthy loving supportive relationship. So hang in there.

        Very best wishes

  13. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’m in the process of (re)reading the book – ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Powerful Lessons in Personal Change’ by Stephen R. Covey. The material he covers which he relates to all aspects of a person’s life (work, family, parenthood, church, etc.) is directly applicable to your last few blog posts. As an example, Habit 1 is “be proactive” where he recommends testing the principle of proactivity for thirty days. “For thirty days work only in your Circle of Influence (which he described earlier in the book). Make small commitments and keep them. Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Try it in your marriage, in your family, in your job. Don’t argue for your own. When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it and learn from it – immediately. Don’t get into a blaming, accusing mode. Work on things you have control over. Work on you. On be. (which he also discussed earlier in the book). Look at the weaknesses of others with compassion, not accusation. It’s not what they’re not doing or should be doing that’s the issue. The issue is your own chosen response to the situation and what you should be doing. If you start to think the problem is “out there,” stop yourself. That thought is the problem.” “We are responsible for our own effectiveness, for our own happiness, and ultimately, I would say, for most of our circumstances.” “Samuel Johnson observed: “The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.” “Knowing that we are responsible – “response-able” – is fundamental to effectiveness and to every other habit of effectiveness we will discuss.” All of the above was taken from page 93. I bought the book about 25 years ago. It was before the Internet and I like to shop. When I went into the bookstores, I would treat them as my own personal library. I would roam among the various sections of the store; pick up, open, and read numerous books to see which ones sparked my interest. Then after doing this for a couple of hours, I would start to feel guilty and then say to myself that I needed to buy a book or two. So I have my share of books. And right now, I’m really enjoying this one.

  14. whiteiris
    whiteiris says:

    You’re on a role. Your email alerts this past month or so are gripping my shirt collar and dragging me to dive in. Like I always say, ALL women should have the guts to write like Penelope, so help us god. I also wanted to make note, primarily because I got ripped off by the internet years ago about the origin of a quote and learned this truth last night, and I won’t get over it!

    One of the best quotes reminds me of your theory on “practice.” You know it! All together now… “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle (NOT) It was actually by Will Durant, who wrote a pretty piece referencing Aristotle’s perspective.

    More info here:

    Point, being, Aristotle, Will Durant and I couldn’t agree with you more! I want to go out practice stuff now, thank you!

  15. Brandy
    Brandy says:

    So true. It’s challenging the person, but everyone I’ve ever worked with, including my father, asks why, every teacher too. In a social setting, it’s aggressive. In a work or school setting it keeps everyone on point.

    • whiteiris
      whiteiris says:

      Yup. Work, school, and even among friends family there is established unspoken intent. When there’s intent established in any form there’s trust, less apprehension.

      Random side note: “Comments” remind me a stoney talks. I’m from Colorado, what I mean is, it’s silly, the aspects we zone into and pull apart in our conversations.

      Why ask why? ;)

  16. INTD
    INTD says:

    “Which means I am yearning for more conflict.”

    Isn’t that what you use your coaching sessions for? :)

    But I love that your husband interpreted your silent treatment as a positive. Hilarious.

    And I think your heading alone is the challenge/take-home.

  17. Maria
    Maria says:

    When I want to talk to someone but everyone is busy, I call a farmer I’ve known for years. He’s 87 years old. I chat about what’s going on and conflicts I have. He tells me a story about the depression or when he was a shop teacher. Then he forgets the conversation. It’s great because if I have said too much, I can count on not having to worry about it nor about repeating myself.

    So my recommendation is for you to adopt an older person living alone and call them. They are less lonely, and you save on therapy.

    As for talking to YOUR farmer. I learned to talk to my dad about things he was interested in and my dad would go from silent to talkative. You don’t need to tell him what to do. He’s not a client. Just use word that trigger conversation based on his interests then find commonalities to subjects that interests you.

    Or take a Dramamine when getting in the car. By the time you wake up from your nap, you will have arrived at your destination.

    • Joey Tan
      Joey Tan says:

      I agree with the idea of having one or two older people to call when needed. I have 3 of these in my personal collection.

      1) a 55 year old hermit in sherwood forest who has been misdiagnosed as schizo
      2) a 45 year old gay hermit who is an author and plays many instruments and is diagnosed with many mental things
      3) a 50 year old creative person

      Now….all of them are not deemed normal by societal standards but are the wisest people I have ever know. The reason why it works is because these people are old enough not to judge,get shocked or have egos and there is never any guilt for not keeping in touch or making small talk when I do not need them in my life (aka when things go well) but they are strong pillars with a lifetime warranty.

      So definitely yes to finding older humans who have the maturity and wisdom to just get it. With no drama and no egos and no bullshit.

  18. Chris
    Chris says:

    I have started using the phrase “help me understand” instead of asking why.

    “Help me understand the thinking that led to you getting pepper sprayed while skating in DTLA on an Sunday afternoon.”

    Maybe that is passive aggressive instead of flat out aggressive.

    You can call me. I’m always up for conflict.

  19. Evy
    Evy says:

    I live in a retirement community. A positive effect is that when I say things that are extreme or inappropriate, people either don’t hear or don’t remember what I have said. Many older people would be delighted to listen to you.

  20. Quinton Hamp
    Quinton Hamp says:

    I love the way that you are honest about the contradictions that move us forward. How you call yourself out mid-paragraph.

    It makes me wonder how many times I judge others without judging myself.

    About the contradictions that run rampant in my own life.

    I’m going to go have another one of those orange drinks with alcohol, now. We’ve told our children that some drinks — like coffee — are only for adults. But I think the orange drinks are confusing the matter. Because they look like orange juice.

    And juice is something children drink.

    But they are in bed so it doesn’t matter.

  21. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    “Why” questions directed to anyone about themselves are pretty bad. They come across as accusatory, so everyone hates them. Plus, you never get a useful answer from it. Not gonna lie; in moments of frustration I’ll sometimes use them on the kids I work with , but I’m trying to stop since it’s pointless aside from putting the poor kid on the spot.

    Funnily enough, most people seem to love “Why” questions if they’re about someone else, like, “Why do you think Shannon threw that fit the other day?” It’s easy to try digging around in other people’s motives; not so much one’s own.

  22. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    “Asking why is aggressive.” I had to teach myself to ask why and how more often so that I can understand people better. If I know why and how they did something, I can help them with their problems, if any. Thanks!

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Just last week I was talking with someone who was explaining Jung’s concept of opposites. It was only a very, very brief explanation.

    However, many things in your post reminded me of the concept. Perhaps you could look into it. See if it applies.

  24. Joey Tan
    Joey Tan says:

    Did you deliberately mismatch the title of this blog to the content so that we can ask why, and question who is now the passive aggressive one? The reader or the writer.

  25. MBL
    MBL says:

    If you are looking for conflict I can hook you up with my cousin’s number. He is an ENTP and will argue about anything with awe-inspiring conviction with zero grounds for his certitude. Unfortunately, when he finds out he was wrong while attempting to prove that you were wrong he will “apologize” with “Well, so I guess you were basically right.” It isn’t very satisfying, but in my head I think “Basically. If by ‘basically’ you mean ‘exactly’…then yeah.”

    Isn’t Melissa’s boyfriend an ENTP? Maybe you could call him. :D

    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Seconded, get yourself an ENTP. They’re the actual worst, but Penelope might enjoy one. – INTJ

  26. MBL
    MBL says:

    Hey, you linked to Matthew’s blog! And right in the middle of his post was
    “I emailed Welter’s and asked why.”

  27. Joey Tan
    Joey Tan says:

    Not at all.This is my natural state of calmness.

    Now….WHY would you even think that of me bitch? WHY would even say I like conflicts and suggest that I become a bf snatcher, you shit stirrer you!

    OK….I am zen and lovely.

  28. Christiane
    Christiane says:

    This post made me realize that I usually ask my boyfriend the wrong kind of Why questions. Specifically, something along the lines of “Why would you think that’s a good idea?” Subtext: “when I specifically told you the contrary three weeks ago, and I am always right and why are you even thinking for yourself”.

    The horrible part is that my dad always asked us those aggressive questions when we were kids – “Why is dinner not ready? Why are you making noise? Why are you not in the car yet?” and the worst, when we started a question with “But I thought…” – “Why do you even think!”

    Needless to say it made us feel like shit. Yet somehow I interiorized it and do the same. Ouch. Thanks for helping me see this, Penelope.

  29. Ann
    Ann says:

    I laughed out loud when I read …….”I gave up on the silent treatment early in our relationship when, after a week of silent treatment, he called my assistant to tell her that she’s really done a great job of helping us and we’re getting along better than ever.”……very Rodney Dangerfield. Someone is going to use that line in a stand-up comedy routine.

  30. says:

    This was so entertaining.

    1. I quit starbucks for 2 weeks. An unintended consequence was I quit working out. As a WAHM with limited adult interaction, I realized the energy I get from the social interaction fueled the workouts that followed immediately after returning home. $5 buys me a lot more than an overpriced coffee.

    2. Imaginary conflict is almost as good as the real thing. You control how they respond and consequence free. I do this all the time while driving. After making sure I didn’t accidentally butt dial someone.

    I once read research imaginary arguments were beneficial, and your brain can’t tell the difference between this and a real argument.


  31. Robin Fishbien
    Robin Fishbien says:

    The Silent Treatment story is so perfect. It totally made my day. Hubby is sleeping…. 8 just walked the dog….his task..I’m trying to read this excerpt to him and he is not appreciating the complete accuracy and hilarity of the story.
    Thank you!

  32. Elise
    Elise says:

    This was really entertaining. I have a genuine question. Was it meant to be fun? (I thought it was but I’m not sure if it was intentional).

  33. Marisa
    Marisa says:

    “It occurs to me that the reason people don’t practice is not because they don’t know the best way to practice. It’s because practicing sucks. It’s not the fun part.”

    Yep. And it’s the ones who actually enjoy practicing who finally get good at it. They practice every spare moment because it’s fun, not exhausting.

    Same with marriage. Ideally, it can be a safe, fun place to practice relationships & your best self. You work on yourself & your spouse supports with love and forgiveness.

    Unfortunately, most of us tend to turn that around and work on our spouses instead. That never flies for long.

  34. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I keep trying to figure out how to tell you this story. I really wanted someone to argue with, a person I didn’t know so I could not care about pissing them off. One night, while practicing my voyeur skills on Face book, I found a pompous doctor. Problem: he was the boyfriend on my friend I hadn’t seen in 14 years. The following summer I arranged our vacation to visit his work (the zoo) and we “ran into him”. Now I have a wonderful side hobby arguing with his boyfriend when I feel annoyed. He is an estj, so you know he will never be wrong. X)

  35. A reader
    A reader says:

    Sorry I cannot chime in with the chorus. Observations
    1) do you have any idea how many times you’ve mentioned you played professional volleyball. It’s not lost on me you never mention your ranking. Is this your way of letting people know you were once in good shape or that you were once focused on something? I’m not saying you aren’t now but you bring up this far past history ALOT.
    2) you do not appreciate your husband. He’s like a dad to your kids. He works like a dog. He’s cute. Gee wiz. That whole post where you acted like a domestic violence victim. It’s so clear you’re the one who wants to fight. It’s something you seem to feed off. Maybe your husband merits more respect and privacy than you’re giving him.
    3) you don’t seem to be able to differentiate between need and expectation. You have an old post where you claim post partum depression and being alone and you sent your then spouse and child away. Did your other son NEED school and activities at age 3????? Sounds like school was bad too. Why not all do something as a family while the kids were young? Park mall etc. you made what seems to me a bizarre needless choice. You said your spouse was unemployed. And you hired a sitter while broke! Clearly you cannot make sober choices and you paint things in a way to make you sympathetic. I couldn’t sympathize. It sounded like too much of what YOU wanted was on your husbands shoulders. Your dreams for your kids shouldn’t lead you to dictate so much to your spouses and to put your own well being and your spouses second to the kids achievements and activities. Note I didn’t say happiness.
    4) I am happy to hear your sons excel in music but it’s a little nauseating how self congratulating you are. As your friend noted your kids are your career. What will you do when they’re grown?

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      Funny, looks like my comment got deleted. Guess the “transparency” isn’t all there after all.
      With all your talk of social skills and EQ, are you going to teach your sons how to pick non-abusive partners?

  36. May
    May says:

    You remind me of my friend who I also think is an ENTJ when it comes to this passive-aggressive issue. I often accuse her of coming off as aggressive and wishing to pick fights with her SOs. I am pretty sure she also asks the aggressive “why”s to interrogate intentions and get the other party to justify themselves.

    She agreed that she does enjoy picking fights or “debating” as she would say, but was surprised that she came off so aggressively. Even with a smile, you can see the furrow in her brows when she’s asking questions, as if waiting for a chance to retaliate with her own opinions.. but she thinks she is just being expressive/engaged (or even bubbly/magnetic about it!).

    Do you think you might also have this issue?

    Maybe an INFP’s whys come out softer and less aggressive on the other hand.

  37. Jim
    Jim says:

    Great insight on practice. In my experience the difference between a professional and an amateur is dedication to repetition.

  38. Julia
    Julia says:

    “Practicing being good at marriage is really just practicing being a reasonable, rational adult. Taking personal responsibility means giving up the joys of passive-aggressive behavior.”

    Practicing being good at marriage means practicing sacrificing for your spouse. It doesn’t sound like you need more conflict because you’re writing about it, it sounds like you’re writing about it because it’s on your mind and it just happened. Try putting yourself in your husband’s shoes and making him feel like he’s good at marriage! You’ll both benefit.

  39. Amy
    Amy says:

    Money quote IMO:

    It’s not satisfying to hear that I’m right. I need it to be more heartfelt.

    Damn, did that hit home to me.

  40. Libby
    Libby says:

    I really appreciated reading through this post. You’re so real — and your subtle, raw sense of humor is incredibly authentic. I sound like a cringey “fan” so I’ll stop now, but your words really do resonate with me. I’m just entering this so-called realm of “adulthood,” which means that it’s time to start practicing “being a reasonable, rational adult” and “giving up the joys of passive-aggressive behavior.” And you’re right — practicing sucks. But who’s to say it has to? You an I — we have control over what “practicing” means to us and how we want the process to transpire for us personally…right? At least that’s what I’d like to believe. Always, thanks for the post :)

    xx, Lib

  41. Charlene Ross
    Charlene Ross says:

    Every time I read your writing I kind of hate you, because you’re such a great writer. Like, so great. And you’re right, the things that irritate us most in other people are the things we don’t like in ourselves. (Wait, does that mean I’m a great writer too? HA! :) )

  42. Diana
    Diana says:

    If you ever want to call and engage in conflict, I am available. Normally I would charge, but for you–free!

  43. Yael
    Yael says:

    “Taking personal responsibility means giving up the joys of passive-aggressive behavior.”
    That is what is so hard about our owning up to and practicing our “adulting”. I admit I, myself, fall fairly short of the mark on this score pretty regularly though I am getting better at calling myself out on it.
    And I must say, How right you are about this last part, also. I hate to practice (never mastered an instrument, just as one example).
    “It occurs to me that the reason people don’t practice is not because they don’t know the best way to practice. It’s because practicing sucks. It’s not the fun part.”
    “Adulting” is not fun. But your blog certainly makes it way more entertaining and a lot less lonely than it would feel without you voice.
    Thank you!

    I think taking personal responsibility

  44. Fiona
    Fiona says:

    I am curious to know your thoughts about why Ahmet Bozer of Coca Cola retired so soon at the age of 55 and only a year into his new role. We are sick of hearing love stories of these people’s careers and not the truth. Just like we had to endure Sheryl Sandberg’s insincere stories about how wonderful she manages life and work and all else until her husband passed away.

  45. Rosemarie Barrantes
    Rosemarie Barrantes says:

    Sorry I was laughing at some part of this blog. It’s fascinating how you made the negative positive. I’m practicing to write, found your tutorial on how to make blogs the easiest and finally I am going to write a blog I’ve been wanting to do it like forever. Thank you. You’re beautiful and your mind.

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