I love the movie Groundhog Day. Fascinating concept. Hilarious. Bill Murray at his best. And (I recently realized) it contains a profound lesson on how to have a happier marriage.
Something really rare happened to me the other day – the Boss hurt my feelings. I hurt her feelings regularly (albeit never on purpose). But me? My feelings hurt? Ha!
Why so rare? Many reasons. She’s generally a very nice person. I have an extremely healthy self esteem. I’m very forgiving. I’m hard to anger.
But it happened. She did something and it hurt my feelings. The details don’t matter. But it happened, and I know it happened because she apologized.
It took me a little while to get over it. I thought for a long time about what I was going to say to her. I wanted her to understand and respect why I was hurt. I wanted to convince her to make some changes in how she communicates. I wanted her to change the assumptions she makes about me.
But then I realized none of that was going to work. I learned long ago that it’s almost impossible to get someone to think like I think. To get someone to actually do what I want, to change their behavior? That’s an absurd notion. I can’t change the Boss. The things I took issue with, they’re not new. They’ve come up before. They’ll come up again.
Like Groundhog day.
In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character, Phil, lives the same day over and over again. I’ve seen it estimated that he re-lived that day for as long as 30 years. During that time he faced inevitable realities. A boy he saved falling out of a tree would never thank him. An old homeless man would die that night, no matter what food or shelter or love Phil gave him. And the woman he fell in love with would likely never love him. No matter what he did to try to change those people, to change the situation – none of it worked. He couldn’t change people. He couldn’t change how they felt or what they did.
He could only change himself.
And that’s what I realized. I can’t change the Boss. I can’t tell her how to think or how to act. I don’t have the right. Nobody does. And it won’t work.
What I can do is change how I act. How I communicate. How I approach situations. That’s what I can control. That’s how I can make the situation better. That’s what Phil did. And eventually, in changing himself, he changed his outcomes. At least some of them.
When I realized that, I thought back to the disagreement we had. I thought about what I said and what I did. I asked myself “could I have approached it better?” The answer was yes. The answer is almost always yes. Next time we run into those issues, I’m going to try something different. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try something different in the future. If that doesn’t work…. well you get it. I won’t give up. I’ll keep trying a new approach until I find one that works. She’s worth it. The fact that I’ll even have the opportunity to keep trying is more than I deserve. I’m looking forward to it.