by Gladys Diaz
I started my career as a teacher. I absolutely love knowing I’m making a difference in the lives of the people I teach – whether they be children, other educators, my own kids, or my clients. Helping someone discover something new that changes the way they see and understand things is one of the most rewarding feelings for me.
There is one person in my life, however, who doesn’t quite appreciate me “teaching” him: My husband.
See, for years, I didn’t realize that I was spending a lot of time trying to teach my husband how to eat healthier, dress better, or express his emotions in a more calm way. I didn’t realize that every time I began a sentence with “You should…,” “You shouldn’t…,” or “What I would do is…,” he was cringing inside! Why? Well, first of all, because, usually, he hadn’t asked me for my help! All of that unsolicited, “helpful advice” was coming across as condescending, and, while I thought I was coming from a helpful place, all he heard from me was criticism and correction – like I was trying to fix or change him.
And, you know what? He was right!
The truth is that, while I used the cloak of trying to be helpful or giving my honest opinion, when I gave my husband unsolicited advice, it was usually because I thought there was something he could or should be doing differently. Rather than respecting his way of doing things, I felt it was my duty to let him know how he could or should do it differently or better (a.k.a. my way).
Once I began realizing just how negatively this was impacting my relationship, in that my husband was withdrawing and resisting everything I suggested (to the point where it seemed he was purposefully doing the opposite of anything I said), I began making a real effort to think before speaking and to be totally honest with myself about why I felt the need to say something. Was it really about sharing my opinion – my unsolicited opinion – or was it because I was trying to change his mind about how he should do something. Once I began to catch myself, I was able to see that a lot of the time, it really was about me wanting him to do things my way. And it was costing me big time when it came to the intimacy in our relationship.
So, does this mean that as women in a relationship we never get to say what we think, how we feel, or what we want? Not at all!
My husband and I now have an agreement that if either one of us wants coaching or would like the other’s opinion, then we clearly make the request by saying something like, “I’d like your opinion…” or “I’d really like some coaching.” This request is crystal-clear and it helps both the person who is requesting the advice or coaching and the one doing the listening, because now, if I’m the listener, I know that there is a different way I should be listening to what he’s saying. If he’s not requesting my advice, I can just be a generous listener. And, even then, the only way I can really give my opinion or coaching is if I’m really listening to him and listening for what he is asking. If I’m only half-listening, or only thinking about what I’m going to say, chances are that what I end up saying may not be relevant to what he’s shared. And, even when he asks for my opinion, I like to ask him what he thinks first so that I can see what he’s already thinking of doing. This gives me the opportunity to be supportive and respectful of his ideas, because, ultimately, he’s going to want to make the choice that feels right to him. Notice how I said that the choice feels right to him, not to me! (smile)
I wish I could say that I never revert to “teacher mode” anymore. That I’m completely devoid of the need to want to correct or tell my husband how he might say, do, or approach something differently. The truth is that now and again, I do tell him how he should drive, what I think he should say to an employee, or why I think he’s hit a plateau on his weight loss. The truth is that I’m not perfect, and that the need to be right does creep up every once in a while. The difference now is that I can recognize when I’ve done it and I’ll apologize to him. And, sometimes, when I’m really being aware of my speaking, I may even catch myself as I’m doing it, and I will immediately stop myself mid-sentence and apologize to him for trying to tell him what to do. Usually, he’ll respond by giving me that smile that says, “Thanks, Babe!” (I love that smile!).
On the next blog post, I’ll be sharing some very specific statements that can use to share what you feel, want and think in such a way that it doesn’t come across as teaching, fixing, or trying to change the man you are dating or in a relationship with!
So stay tuned for Friday’s post!
Comments? Questions? Let us know below! We love hearing from you!
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