So often when we are feeling angry or resentful and our partner asks how we are we resort to that dreaded word: “FINE!” In addiction counselling there is a well-known adage: when clients say they are feeling fine the retort is usually “FINE stands for F****d up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional”, which is a lovely way to outline how loaded “fine” can be. Fine is one of those words that can be used like a weapon. We know that depending on the tone with which we say it, we can garner a particular response from our beloved. But do we really want to be so controlling over the way we communicate with our partner?
Fine can hold decades of resentment and unresolved issues. You know the way it goes; they say or do something that triggers an ancient resentment and rather than discussing how you actually feel you just say “fine.” What I want to ask you is why? Why does it feel more comfortable to say fine than to honestly state what you are feeling? Perhaps the issue has been discussed ad nauseum without anything changing so you are at the end of your tether? Perhaps you are aware that the tone of your “fine” is in some way going to change their behaviour? Using this weapon only serves to perpetuate the issue. But maybe that feels more comfortable.
There is another useful adage stemming from addiction counselling which goes like this; “sh*t stinks… but it’s warm.” While there is a problem and it is creating pain or resentment, perhaps there is something comforting in the story to which you cling? Maybe holding on to that old stuff makes you feel more powerful in the relationship? Or that it protects you from ever becoming truly intimate or vulnerable? And therein lies the problem. Never stating what is actually going on prevents you from ever really knowing and seeing the other person. Asking yourself these hard questions can crack you wide open into a minefield of feelings, so take caution. But if you are brave enough, dig a little deeper into why “fine” became an acceptable response when you feel crappy.
Try doing something different. Next time you find yourself wanting to tersely respond to your partner with a curt “fine”, take a moment to actually feel what is going on for you. Check in to find out what real feeling exists. Is there some anger there? Resentment? Sadness? Disappointment? Then name the feeling you are experiencing, and own it by saying “I feel (insert feeling word here).” The relief for the other person may even be palpable as they realise that they have not this time been trapped with a dishonest word, but actually get to experience you in an honest way. It may even open up a dialogue that changes the dynamic. Changing the way you communicate can have deep consequences for the relationship and create an more honest and open style of relating.