by Gladys Diaz
Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, and, at our house, I love making a big deal when it’s someone’s birthday by celebrating “Birthday Week.” During this week, the person gets to choose what we watch on TV, what we eat for dinner, and, basically is made to feel special all week long by everyone else in the house!
Well, Sunday night, I almost ruined Birthday Sunday for my husband. The boys had misplaced the remote control for the TV (again) and were arguing about it in the playroom. It was already late and past their bedtime, so my honey and I were ready for our “alone time,” so we could watch our shows and relax together.
When I saw that my husband was getting upset at the boys for arguing, I jumped in to “help.”
(Mistake #1 – Offering Unsolicited Help: Stepping in “to help” without there being a need or a request for it. This sends the message that you feel he is incapable of resolving the issue on his own. Instead, trust in your partner’s capability to resolve the situation himself. If he needs help, he’ll ask for it. By the way.. he probably won’t.).
The truth is that there really wasn’t any reason for me to jump in to “help.” My husband had the situation handled. I jumped in because didn’t want him to be upset with the boys (especially on Birthday Weekend) and I just wanted the arguing to stop. Now, even though these might be “good reasons” for stepping in, had I stayed on the couch and allowed him to handle things, it probably would have been resolved right away.
Instead, I jumped in and noticed that, the more I tried to “help,” the more angry he was getting. At first I thought he was angry with the kids, but, in retrospect, I can see that he must have felt like I didn’t trust him to handle the situation.
I did an exercise I do with the kids that helps them to remember where they last saw and held something, and, the remote was found!
(Victory #1 – Resolving the problem. This was short-lived, however, because of Mistake #2!)
Now, if I’d just left it at that, everyone would have felt happy, relieved, and the situation may have been over. However, for some reason, I simply had to make sure that I emphasized (rather loudly) that this is what you should do when you can’t find something.
(Mistake #2 – Proving I’m Right and You’re Wrong: This is an ego-driven need to prove the other person wrong. While there may be a sense of “victory” in having been “right,” essentially, there is no “winner” in this situation because your partner is left feeling as if he’s wrong or in some way “lesser than” you.)
Then, to prove my point further, as my husband was talking to the boys about them being responsible so that they don’t lose things, I butted in again to mentioned that things in the house don’t get “lost”; they simply get “misplaced.”
(Mistake #3 – Wanting to be “Right” AGAIN: This adds salt to the already-tender wound. By correcting or contradicting your partner, you once again disrespect him by pointing out how “right” you are. There is no demonstration of support or encouragement for your partner, which can leave him feeling upset and alone).
Well, that did it.
My husband yelled, “Okay, things in the house don’t get ‘lost,’ they are ‘misplaced! Is that better?’”
Now he was in an official funk…and so was I.
I was upset at myself for getting involved, sending the message that he couldn’t handle a simple situation, and that I was the one with the “right” solution. I saw how disrespectful and condescending I’d been. I was ashamed and angry with myself, especially since that’s not the way I am committed to treating my husband.
I wish I could say that I immediately apologized and that we were soon in a snuggly, blissful space, but that wouldn’t be true. It took me a while to get to the point that I could forgive myself enough to apologize to him. I made a first attempt to apologize, but I have to admit that it wasn’t very sincere. It came from a place of trying to “fix” things. I think he could tell, because he remained cold.
A little while later, I noticed it was past midnight (we always try to be the first to wish the other a Happy Birthday). I moved closer to him on the couch, looked him in the eye, and said, “I’m sorry I disrespected you, and I know you’re upset. I just want to say ‘Happy Birthday.’”
He leaned forward, we kissed, and I snuggled up next to him and said a prayer of thanks. (smile)
In the past, I wouldn’t have apologized. I would have made it seem like it was not such a big deal and then made him wrong (again) for not forgiving me right away. Now, even when it’s hard, I choose to apologize – because that’s something I can be responsible for – and give him space to work through his own feelings.
(Victory #2: Sincerely Apologizing. It’s not always easy to admit when you’re wrong. However, if you can put aside your pride and realize that what’s more important than being right, staying angry, or pretending like nothing happened is restoring the intimacy in the relationship, then you also recognize that it’s really a small price to pay. And now you’ve got a win-win situation going!)
Having a loving and intimate relationship isn’t about perfection. You may not always say or do the right things.
So what can you when you’ve made a mistake that impacts the closeness and connection in your relationship?
You can continue to focus on becoming your best self.
You can forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness along the way for those times when you don’t reflect the best side of yourself.
And you can recommit to restoring intimacy in your relationship.
In doing all of these things you can be confident that you are on the path to creating the happy, loving, intimate relationships your heart truly desires.
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