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Our Ketchup Story

Janine:  I used to read into everything Ken said - well almost everything.  If he made a simple comment, I often took it as a personal criticism, even though he didn't intend it to be.  We still talk about the day, years ago, when he said, "Gee, we're almost out of ketchup."
 I assumed he was pointing a finger at me and accusing me of not paying attention to every detail like I thought "a good wife" should.  (I know - as I look back on this now, it seems ridiculous.)  For some reason, I had the misconception that we were in some sort of competition with each other and that I had to prove I was a capable, responsible person.

Ken:  That evening (after I mentioned we were running low on ketchup), I noticed Janine was extra quiet, and there seemed to be something wrong.  It would have been easier to just retreat, but I didn't like the sour mood and wanted to know what was going on.  So, after receiving a bit of the cold shoulder treatment, I asked Janine what was bothering her.

Janine:  It took me some time to process what had happened and why I was bothered by Ken's ketchup comment.  I explained what I THOUGHT he meant by his statement.  He then explained there was NO hidden underlying message.  He just noticed we were almost out of ketchup and stated the fact - nothing more than an observation.  I guess I had such a fragile ego that I took things WAY too personally.  I realized later how my past experiences and family of origin stuff had muddied the waters.

We all bring our issues and baggage with us when we enter marriage.  How can we sort through the web of feelings and miscommunication unless we reflect and drill down to get to the root of what's going on?  That's what we needed to do that day.  Since then, whenever Ken makes an innocent comment and I get defensive, he says to me, "Is this another ketchup bottle issue?"  Then I stop and realize he's not criticizing me.  He's simply making an observation and I don't need to take it personally.

Ken: The Moral oaf the Story:  Communication. Communication. Communication.  Ask questions.  Seek to understand.  If you THINK your spouse is sending you a message that rubs you the wrong way, ask for clarification.  Don't assume (or IF you do, assume positive intent).  This isn't an easy problem to fix, and we're still working on it.  BTW, we usually have 1 (or 2) back-up bottles of ketchup in our pantry, so if you run out feel free to stop by.  

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