I’m a die hard Dan Savage fan. When I heard that Hump Fest (Savage’s curated amateur porn film festival) was coming to Colorado, I bought tickets that day. When I told my partner I had purchased tickets for us, he broke the news that he was out of town that weekend.
I was disappointed, but had no intention of missing it. “I’m still going,” I announced.
He was a bit taken aback and wondered who would take his place accompanying me to a porn festival. We negotiated and landed on two of my close friends he was comfortable with.
As the date approached, I learned that my friends had invited others. I didn’t share this news with my partner, figuring it was out of my control. The day before the show (which was the same day he was leaving town), he texted me that he had run into a mutual friend who asked, “Are you going to that porn event with that big group of people?” He was upset that I hadn’t told him that my plans had changed and that others were going as well.
Over a series of texts I became defensive, saying that I was not responsible for my friends’ actions and had no control over the situation. I was really angry and felt that I had been wrongfully accused.
I am lucky that I have a trusted friend who I can turn to for advice in sticky situations. I was certain I was right and that my partner was out of line; I was sure she was going to help me stand up for myself. I sent her the entire series of texts so she could see for herself just how wrong my partner was.
She replied, “You aren’t going to like this, but you are in the wrong here.”
I was puzzled, but read on.
She explained to me that a relationship requires you to consider your partner’s feelings even if you don’t agree with them. My partner had expressed discomfort in my going without him. It wasn’t up to me to decide if my partner was being overly sensitive. The fact was, I made an agreement with him, and even if I was no longer able to hold up my end of the agreement, I had a responsibility to tell him about the change in plans and ensure that his feelings were accounted for.
My friend was thankful that I sent her all of the communication. She highlighted the fact that if I had tried to tell her the story, I would have naturally sided with myself and she would not have seen what really happened.
What she read in the texts was healthy communication from him, and a lot of defensiveness from me. I was 100 percent wrong in my assessment of the situation. I am thankful that I now know how important quick repair is and I was able to apologize.
In short I wrote him a note. “Shit. I made a mess of this. I’m sorry. We had an agreement and I blew it and then didn’t take responsibility. I am sorry I didn’t account for your feelings. I should have talked to you the moment I heard others were coming and asked if we could renegotiate our agreement. I would like to know how I can make it up to you and if there is anything I can do to make you feel safe with me going. I am willing to not go if you don’t feel safe. I’m sorry.”
His reply was gracious. “Thank you. I of course want you to still go. I just want to know that when we talk about something I don’t have to worry that it might change, and if it does change you will talk to me about it again. Have fun tonight.”
Being wrong sucks.
There are two important lessons here.
- Make sure you have friends who are willing to tell you when you are wrong. All couples should have an outside advisor that is willing to steer us back to our own part of the conflict. Most friends think it is their job to side with us during relational difficulty, but most of the time what we really need is for someone to show us what we are missing. John Gottman calls these people friends of the marriage.
- A quick apology has the power to heal. I wasn’t able to apologize until I understood my part. Once I understood that I was in the wrong, I was able to apologize. Apologizing takes practice; don’t underestimate the power of apology.
For the record, Hump Fest is a hilariously fun time. I recommend it, whether you go with a big group of friends or your intimate partner.