A few weeks ago, Kep and I watched Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk episode, Becoming Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Part 1) and WOW is that a great conversation about marriage.
It’s so great, we’re stealing a page from their relationship playbook.
In a nutshell, there was a pivotal moment that launched their communication before they got married. The day Jada told Will to shut the f*#@k up was the day he was willing to break it off with her. Growing up in a violent home, he refused to create a space that allows profanity and violence. Period.
From that moment on, and after many books and courses on nonviolent communication, they say they haven’t cursed or raised their voices to each other when they fight for 20 plus years.
“Then what do you do with the emotion that comes when you’re angry???” Jada’s mother asked, shocked.
My thoughts, exactly.
Jada:“You really have to discipline yourself. For me, I had to handle that within myself to see,Ok, what are you really angry about?And then come to peace. And THEN come to Will when I can actually have a conversation. Because really, you’re not communicating when you’re talking to each other in anger… Go cry. Go curse. Go kick a tree. And come back when you’re calm and peaceful.”
Will:“I pre-planned the things I would say when I was in that space. I’m impaired. I can’t be loving right now. I can’t be kind right now.So, you have to let me go, and when I come back, I’ll come back in a way you deserve me to deliver myself to you.”
I remember a fight Kep and I had about 5 years ago. His anger was spilling into meanness territory and my hurt was growing into hit something/someone anger. I told him I needed space. I jumped in my car, slammed the door, and drove 5 minutes to my “office” in Red Rock Canyon – a small dirt parking lot off a fire-road looking into layers and layers of gold, brown, and red canyon.
I pulled out my notebook and I wrote and wrote and wrote all my hurt and rage. SO many swear words. So much frustration and tears spilled onto the page.
It was UGLY, what I wrote.
And that’s what made it beautiful.
I was taking care of myself. Listening to myself. Accepting all the emotions coming forward in that moment – anger, hurt, confusion, frustration, righteousness...
I even wrote the fantasy that was forming in my mind. What would it feel like to keep driving? What would it feel like to NOT be married? What would it feel like to be FREE? I wrote that word several times.
I won’t lie and say it felt freeing right off the bat, writing so honestly. So uncensored.
It felt pretty scary. My inner critic was freaking out. It made me feel terrified that I’d go over a line. I couldn’t say THAT.
But couldn’t I? In that moment, that’s exactly what I was feeling.
WHO SAYS I’m not allowed to ever have “impure, rebellious, not-a-good-wife/woman/person thoughts?”
Once I recognized it was my inner critic, not ME, who was scared, I ignored him and kept going.
These were my human, messy, not always light, love, and lovely in-the-moment thoughts.
“The more I wrote, the more I became a human being. The writing may have seemed monstrous (to some), for it was a violation, but I became a more human individual because of it. I was getting the poison out of my system.”
And in that moment, I recognized that I had enough writing practice under my belt to be able to write THROUGH the “You shouldn’t write that / feel that” and lean into what was alive for me in the moment.
In allowing those feelings, I tasted a profound freedom that had nothing to do with my marital status and everything to do with unconditional self-love and acceptance.
And then, as if a violent storm suddenly cleared, I felt calm.
I could see HIS side of things in the fight.
Eventually, I felt relaxed enough to return home and strong enough to offer an apology for my role in the conflict.
When I walked in the door, he greeted me with a soft face and strong hug. The time apart helped him get back into balance, as well.
Too bad we haven’t implemented this time-out technique in the years and fights that followed, though!!
This Red Table Interview revealed for us a blind spot and brought into focus a better way to communicate and connect. I’m grateful that Kep and I rebound well. We don’t go to bed angry, ever (thanks to him). But yikes, when we allow those intense emotions to swirl between us before we give them our individual attention and understanding, yelling and tears quickly follow.
Is it weird to say I’m actually looking forward to our next fight?
I truly hope I remember to say, “I’m impaired, let’s connect later.” Or “I’m going to take some time to think about what you just said and come back with a thoughtful response.”
And you can bet I’ll be turning to my trusty notebook to release and/or make sense of the intense emotions that arise.
Have you worked with this particular time-out technique Jada and Will Smith use? Or with full-on, uncensored emptying of your rage / sadness / hurt in the notebook? How’s it working for you? I’m endlessly curious about intimacy and matters of the heart.
Want to write?
Take a pen & prompt journey:
2. Keep your pen moving as you write the thoughts, feelings, and images that arise. Don’t stop to think or edit. Don’t try to stay on “topic.” Follow where the prompt wants to take you.
3. Accept ALL that you write -- the pretty + ugly; absurd + boring. Discover what wants to be felt, known, expressed, released...