Using Code Words

This is part of a newsletter I received  from Chris and Jen Coursey of THRIVE TODAY. Their ministry focus is on developing life skills which help us interact with others, graciously.

The other day my husband, Chris, innocently walked into the room with a request. I am normally delighted to see my husband, and I frequently like to help. Unfortunately for him, this was not one of those times. Our sons had just arrived home from school. I was in the middle of preparing snacks, helping with homework, and prepping dinner. Chris, caught in the whirlwind of his own workload, walked into the room and did not notice the “I am maxed out!” signals on my face and in my voice.  

 I honestly do not remember what he asked me, but I lacked the emotional capacity for one more thing. Simply, my brain was full!

 At first, I tried to understand what he was asking. Then, I just reacted and became frustrated. I quickly chirped, “I don’t have the capacity for this right now, please talk to me later!” Sadly, my tone was not what I would have wanted. Instead of kindness, it conveyed, “You are not seeing me right now. Can’t you tell I’m busy? I NEED SPACE!” Surprised by my intensity, my husband graciously backed off and left me to complete my tasks.

 After my dinner preparations were stabilized and the boys were settled with their snacks and homework, I searched for Chris. I quickly apologized for running him over with my intensity and agreed that my tone was “less than ideal.” I was able to help him with his task, then I returned to my mission of dinner and homework.

 Once I reacted, Chris knew what was happening and gave me space. When I can recognize that the request or conversation is too much for my emotional capacity, I can convey what I need. Usually, this means I need a break, which makes interactions go more smoothly. On his end, I appreciated that Chris respected my request.

This “backing up” increases trust and provides safety in the relationship.

Does this sound familiar? Regardless of our life situations, agreed-upon code words can let the other person know, “This is about me, not about you. Please do not feel rejected, but I need some space.”

Do you have some respectful code words that you use?

I have a few code words to share with people who find themselves in abusive relationships—next time.




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