Over the holiday’s I heard the classic Christmas song “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” The original recording by Jimmy Boyd was recorded on July 15, 1952 when he was 13 years old. The song describes a scene where a child walks downstairs on Christmas Eve to see his mother kissing "Santa Claus" (his father in a Santa Claus costume) under the mistletoe. While with extended family my 22-year-old nephew told me the true meaning of this song. I was flabbergasted when I realized I had given this song the wrong meaning for over 50 years.
I had interpreted the meaning of the song through the false conclusions from my childhood. I never saw my parents show affection or even kiss. So when I heard the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” it was filtered through the dysfunction of my childhood and I concluded it was about being unfaithful. I was dumbfounded when I realized the true meaning of the song that daddy was Santa Claus.
I have noticed how couples emotionality leads to misinterpreting things that are said between each other. I often find myself asking clients “What meaning are you giving that statement?” Recently in session, a spouse made a factual comment. I observed her husband becoming defensive and offended and asked what meaning he gave her comment. He responded saying she had rejected him. I asked her if she was rejecting him and she said no. He was able to see that her comment went through his filter but was not based on what was true but rather a false belief he held.
People form conclusions based on experiences they encounter in life. Often these conclusions are false and the result of others behavior towards us, and no fault of our own. Healing involves discovering what is true about me apart from my experiences and reframing events in light of this truth.
In our interactions with others, it becomes necessary to ask ourselves what meaning I give something said to me and is it true. One thing you can count on in marriage is conflict. Whether it is not shutting cabinet doors, drinking milk from the carton or leaving dirty clothes on the floor there will always be something to complain about. We create distance when we become offended by something our spouse says or does and give it meaning it does not have. Choosing to not be offended necessitates that we exercise empathy and ask ourselves “why would they say or do that?” “What is the true meaning of their words or action?” By asking these questions we begin to enter our spouses world and hear their heart.
If we believe the best about our loved ones, then we can begin to discover why certain behaviors bother us. When upset I often ask myself, “Why is this triggering me? When do I remember feeling this in my youth?” Then I look to be sure I am not giving it meaning it does not have. If I am unsure, I ask the other person why they said or did that. If we can begin to operate from a position of not being offended by our spouse, then conflict will only be conflict and not mean I am not loved, respected or valuable. Remember, Santa was daddy.