If you think you're fat...
When my husband and I had been going out long enough for me to feel pretty comfortable with him, I had a bit of a whinge to him one day.
"What's the matter?" he asked. "Are you alright?"
"Oh, I'm a bit miserable. I just feel so fat," I said with a morose face, pointing at the mirror in front of me. "Look, I've got to hold my tummy in to look any good, and my jeans don't fit."
He looked at me. And then at the mirror. And then back at me again.
"Well, if you think you're fat," he said, "do something about it."
I was aghast! He wasn't supposed to say that. He was supposed to reassure me that, no, in fact, I wasn't anywhere near fat, that I was completely beautiful and worthwhile and a great person and that no-one would ever see the bulge in my tummy, and anyway, that he didn't care. Also, he was supposed to magically get rid of the bulge just by saying these things, so that in fact, I wouldn't be fat any more.
We had words, I'm sure. But the fact that I can't remember what they were, and I can remember what he said first up means that he was in the right.
To begin with, I wasn't really interested in solving my fat problem, although I was complaining about it. And let me be honest, I wasn't making it up. I actually was too large around the middle, and I knew it. But I didn't want to do the hard work that I knew would go into fixing that problem. Instead, I wanted an immediate feelings fix.
I did feel miserable, but I was pinning it on the weight issue rather than working out exactly where it came from. If I'd been more honest, I could have followed the bad feelings back a little further and worked out where they came from, but that seemed like too much work too.
So instead of telling the truth about my feelings, I connected them to an issue that I didn't really want to deal with and started complaining so that someone else would make me feel better. All I wanted was for the bad feelings to go away, but I didn't want to do any of the work that would have solved either of the two problems.
My husband was right. These days we follow his advice. If we think there's a problem, we try to do something about it rather than just look for feelings to be soothed. It's the harder way, but it works a whole lot better.
So much of our communication is said in half-truths and wishes. We really need to say what we mean, and what we need, and then we need to take the action to make the changes we need to do.
More truthful and honest would have been some more casual version of this conversation.
"What's the matter? Are you okay?"
"Not really. I have been feeling down. I think it's connected to not getting my assignment in on time. I always feel like a bit of a failure when that happens, because I have high expectations for myself. When I feel down, I often start to eat more than I need, and afterwards I feel worse because I know that I'm not at the healthiest weight I could be."
"Yes. I think I need a hug. It would help me feel that I'm not alone, and I'm ok."
"Now. If you think you're fat, do you want to do something about it? We could go on a walk together..."