In a communication class in college, the professor had a book on a shelf near my desk entitled, “THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT!” about “relationship conversational styles.”
I never read it, but when I’d get bored, I’d stare at that book and others on the shelf, and that title always intrigued me.
I mean, how many ways can that phrase apply? That’s not what I meant literally? Not what I meant by my tone?
Not what I meant when I made a joke after you told me you loved me for the first time????
Um, moving on.
Jon, the guy my friend Jennifer married, found his own way to use the “that’s not what I meant” phrase.
Instead of saying, “That’s not what I meant; HERE’S what I meant,” with a comforting clarification, he chose the “That’s not what I meant; I’m actually a huge asshole” – route.
Jennifer and Jon were both young and got married after a year of dating. Jennifer followed him around the country for his job and tried to make the best of her new surroundings.
They had their problems, like most marriages do (um....so I’m told), and when another move presented itself, a move to one of the coldest states in the entire United States (that also doubles as most number of hay bales per capita), Jennifer wasn’t 100 percent on board.
Jon was fuming when Jennifer wasn’t jumping up and down and taking off all her clothes about the opportunity.
How could she be so unsupportive??? GAW!
What was this, a “partnership?”
“Well, let’s just get a divorce then,” Jon said matter-of-factly.
This was the second time he threatened divorce in as many years, which is not something you just wave around in the air like a drunk girl with a cigarette. (um...so I’m told.)
Jennifer didn’t talk to Jon for the rest of the night and slept in the guest room. The next morning, Jon came in to talk.
“Look, that’s not what I meant,” Jon said. “I was just really angry and wanted to say something that I knew would hurt your feelings the most.”
TALK ABOUT A PRINCE CHARMING!
“Well you succeeded,” Jennifer said, still in the guest bed.
A pause. And then he left to go to work.
The conversation was over.
WTF??? Was that supposed to be an apology?? Was he supposed to get brownie points for being self-aware of his shittiness??
Perhaps an “I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry. Let’s go to counseling,” would have been better.
(Or even better, I need to go to counseling.)
Because no one wants to be married to someone so childish that their brain goes to a place where they deliberately 100 percent on purpose say things to be hurtful.
And then ACKNOWLEDGE IT with seemingly no remorse.
They ended up getting a divorce – Jennifer’s call – and it was done as matter-of-factly as Jon’s tone when he dropped the D word.
Wait, maybe I’m not being fair. Maybe that’s not the tone he meant.