We all have a way of doing things that for us feels right. Often we can’t understand why anyone would consider doing things differently. We can easily build a case as to why our way is the “right” way. As well, doing things any other way can feel uncomfortable. It can even make us feel a bit insecure.
We all know there are many, many “right” ways of doing things. When it comes to stepping back and allowing someone else to do something their way though, suddenly there’s only one right way and it’s our way. Does that sound familiar? Often our immediate response is to tell the other person they’re doing it wrong. We want to step in and do it our way, which makes much more sense to us. What happens in a marriage when we always insist on doing things our way?
If you’re the person who is being told your way is “wrong” most of us take it personally and feel criticized or sometimes, ridiculed. If one of the ingredients of a strong, healthy marriage is to accept and love our partners for who they are, we definitely don’t feel loved and accepted when we’re continually told our way of doing things is wrong. The message we get is: “I’d love you more if you did things my way”. That feeling builds and often moves on to resentment or makes us feel defensive. It can change the climate of the relationship, dramatically.
When it came to the kids, I have to admit, I felt my way of doing things was the “right” way. After all I had the educational background around child development and as I’m a woman, I naturally knew more. That attitude just got us into trouble. I know my husband often felt he just couldn’t do anything right. One day I woke up and decided to just let go of some of things I was complaining about. A voice in my head told me our relationship was far more important.
I’ll give you an example of something I decided to let go of. My husband likes junk food and in my opinion he eats too much of it. When he took the kids out on his own, they would often come home with a very sugary drink or some kind of junk food, or they had again just been to McDonald’s. It bothered me a lot because it wasn’t aligned with how I felt we should all be eating. Why did I let go of something so important? As I was the one making all the meals, and providing the between meal snacks during the week while my husband was at work, I was confident that most of the time, our kids were eating very well and the food they ate on the weekends, in the long term wasn’t going to hurt them. Our kids are now in their mid twenties and both have a very healthy diet. They both in fact seldom eat food that is bad for them.
I remember observing a couple with their young child once, in their home. The mom had very definite ideas around parenting and the dad’s approach was quite different. I remember watching the dad playing with his three year old son on his knee. He was bouncing him around and his young son clearly loved every minute of it. The mom was angry because she thought her husband was being too rough and it just wasn’t right, in her opinion. I pointed out that the interaction was healthy and fun and completely appropriate. It helped to bond the two of them. I later learned that virtually everything the dad did with their son prompted a disapproving response from his wife. This was having a profound effect on their crumbling marriage. I coached her around letting go of wanting control all the time. Some things are worth standing firm on, but many are just not worth the risk to your marriage. Our kids want us to be happy together. It’s what gives them their sense of safety and security.