Have you had this experience? You are angry about something, and spout off. And then you realize that what just came out of your mouth – – – well, you sound Exactly like your mom or dad. Oh, No! You cringe. And wonder “How did this happen?! I was Never going to be like them.”
Here’s the trouble: We might want to be different from our parents. But studies show: If we don’t learn new and different ways…Guess what happens? You’re right! We do the exact same stuff we hated as a child.
So if you are looking for a better way, here are two important tips:
- Check your assumptions.
- Put it in context. (Compare what’s bothering you to the whole relationship.)
What is “Checking your Assumptions“? It just means to listen to what you are thinking. What are you assuming about why they said or did something?
This is critical to know. Why? Because whatever we think about his/her words and actions will create our response.
Here’s a quick example: You’re driving. Your spouse gives you a driving tip. If you assume “She’s always telling me what to do.”, you’ll get pretty steamed. But if you assume, “She’s trying to look out for me. Don’t need it, but that’s what she does. Because she wants me, not my life insurance.”, your reaction is very different.
Let’s take this concept to parenting: What if your husband tells your 12 year old son, “You are lazy.”
Well, that’s judgmental and not helpful. But we can make it worse. We can assume “He’s always attacking our son.” Then we’ll be judgmental right back: “You are always picking on him.” “No, I am not.” “Yes, you ARE!” and it goes downhill from there. We demonstrate for our son “How not to have a successful marriage”.
OR – We can Check Our Assumptions.
That negative assumption pops in. But I mentally declare “STOP!” before I open my mouth. I deliberately shift to a positive assumption. “He’s trying to help our son have a successful life.” Different, isn’t it?
Now I calmly ask, “What do we need done?” “Taking the trash out.” “Son, pause that game and get the trash outside Now.” “Ah, Mom!” “Now – or no video game.” (Sound of trash being taken outside.) Problem solved, calm house, happy family.
Once your assumptions are under control, the second tip is:
Put it in Context.
What does Put it in Context mean? Simple. Just means you compare whatever’s bugging you to your relationship as a whole.
Here’s how this tip can work to your benefit. Let’s say Your spouse drops his/her dirty socks near to the hamper. Not in. Just near.
At this point, you could make a big, nasty deal about it. Start yelling and screaming, or whatever you do when you’re upset. Yep, you sound like your mother/father. Whoops!
But you want a happy marriage, and know that’s not the way to get there. So instead, you’ll use these two tips.
You’ll see those socks near the hamper. First, Tip One: Before you speak, you check your assumptions. Maybe it’s “That’s the way he/she grew up.” or “Must not be a big deal to him/her.” That helps.
Now Tip Two: You Put it in Context. Compare that “socks on the floor” issue to your relationship as a whole.
Think about what your marriage is generally like. In other words, how does your spouse treat you?
Imagine you are lucky enough to have a spouse that loves you, and delights in showing you. Your spouse has a great sense of humor. Smart. Faithful. Demonstrates attraction to you. Cooks. Has a good job. Surprises you with little “just because” gifts. Sincerely compliments you. Shares household and child-rearing duties. Wonderful to be with. You get the idea.
And they don’t get their socks into the hamper.
How many of you would be willing to have such a spouse, knowing you’ll be the one putting the socks into the hamper?
Yep. It is pretty universal. “Me!” “Me!!!” “Heck, Yes!”
We’re the one bugged by the socks on the floor. So with Tip Two, we just pick up the socks and let it go. You have put those socks in context of all the good going on. Tip Two can make your life more delightful. Your fabulous partner’s little flaws become “no big deal”.
(If you’re saying “BUT IT IS!”, well, there are wonderful books and excellent therapists to help us understand that belief structure. I encourage you to seek them out. Our past can have a powerful impact on us until we understand why we believe what we do. Been there.)
These two tips can make a profound, powerful and positive effect on our marriages – in fact, on all our relationships. So if you are looking for two tips that are an amazing “fix” – changing relationships for the better – here they are:
- Check Assumptions
- Put it in Context
And then notice how much better you’re getting along…and how much more you are enjoying your marriage!