Julie and I had our first fight.
It may seem a bit melodramatic to “announce” this, but it really threw me for a loop.
We were driving to her parents house about an hour from where we live. As I was driving, she was reading through some of my notes from our latest presentation. She stopped for a bit and stared at me, then went back to reading. When she was done, she took out a pen and started making notes on my notes!! Wtf?!?!
I looked at her and asked what she was doing. “I just put some ideas in here about how you could present this.
I gingerly asked, “what are you talking about?”
“Well, for example, this part where the PowerPoint says, ‘it’s not that easy’ I suggested that when you get to that point, you gesture to the panel so you know you have their attention.”
Now, when we give these presentations, we typically reserve a conference room at the hotel we are at and for 12 hours we go through our presentation over and over. Then, I go to my room and stand in front of the mirror for at least another 2 hours and do my parts again. My notes on the sheets were simply my way of letting myself know when I’m supposed to stand up and take over.
I have to admit, I was a little offended. Upset that my beloved wife felt it necessary to “groom” me before sending me out in the big, ugly corporate world.
I chuckled and sarcastically said, “okie dokie then”
“Hey, I’m just trying to help!”
It dawned on me that we were both getting a little overly heated so I suggested a momentary truce. “I didn’t mean to snap. How bout we just talk about this after dinner? The last thing I want is for us to walk in to your parents house arguing about something petty”
“I don’t think it’s petty, but I agree.”
With that, she put my notes back in my brief case and we sat in an awkward silence the remainder of the trip.
When we got there, her brother and S.I.L were already there and so was her aunt who had flown in from Georgia. As the typical holiday pleasantries were exchanged, the tension between us faded.
I sometimes think we still feel like we have to be on the defensive around her family. We know that they love Julie and are trying to accept our marriage but some days it’s two steps forward and one step back.
After dinner her dad came up to me with a drink. “I heard you landed the contract in Amarillo and that now puts your firm in a position to bid on the toll project here?”
We chatted about work and he explained that he had played bridge with an engineer that works for a firm in Chicago. A huge firm that I have tried to maintain a good network with just for the sake of moving home, full time.
As the conversation went on, I started to feel more relaxed. Less on trial and under a microscope. As a mechanical engineer, her dad and I do have some common ground. A place that we can meet that my orientation has no bearing.
At one point, I noticed that little H had come over and fallen asleep while playing with my phone. I excused myself, picked her up and put her in their guest room to sleep.
As I was turning around to leave, Julie was standing between me and the door. I smiled at the way she had this determined look on her face. I wasn’t sure what it was from, but it always makes me want to kiss her. And I did.
She smiled at me and said, “ok. Maybe you do know what you’re doing in these presentations and I need to butt out.”
I laughed and asked if saying those words tasted like vinegar when they came out of her mouth!!
She kissed me again and swatted my chest as she turned to leave the room.
We spent a little more time with her family then left to head back home.
I asked her in the car if she wanted to revisit our discussion from earlier or if she had decided she had learned what she needed to.
“I speak at a lot of things. I’m always presenting so when I saw your notes and they were minimal, I freaked a little. I wanted to help you. That’s all.”
I explained that I appreciated her wanting to be a part of what I’m doing but she needed to trust that I am really good at my job. Good enough to be just as successful in Illinois as I’ve been in Texas. “However, feel free to jot down whatever notes you like. Just keep in mind, I will probably ignore them.”
Why am I bringing this up? Easy. I am not the same person I used to be.
Just a few short years ago, if my ex had tried to critique my style of presentation, I’d have gotten angry and blown up. I’d have let it turn into a debate of epic proportion that would have bled into our holiday.
Am I different because Julie brings that out in me or am I different because I subconsciously realize things like this don’t matter?
Whatever the case, I’m pretty happy with the outcome of our first confrontation.