I admit it.
In the past I’ve made a comment or two (or three or four) to my husband that if I were caught on camera one would think think:
(Gasp!) O.M.G. What a b*tch…!
And let’s be honest: I know you’ve been there too because what else are you complaining about with your girlfriends when the topic of husbands come up? However, what’s giggled over “Ladies’ Cocktail Hour” does not negate your part in how you communicate to your husband. No matter what frustrations you feel, the only person you can manage is you. That said, here are 5 examples of what not to say and instead what to say:
1) What’s wrong with you??
Honestly, the above is comparable to chopping off his penis.
Saying it in a laughing, fun gesture is one thing, but when you respond with the above because your husband forgot to pick up the milk on the way home, I can assure you that he’ll never ever offer to pick up the milk again.
HEALTHY RESPONSE – Attacking someone with words is really you acting out your feelings. If you feel frustrated that he forgot “the one thing” you asked him to do, instead try this: I know you’re not trying to forget, but I do feel frustrated that it happens. Will you please do try to remember next time?
2) What were you thinking?!
When your husband comes home from work and shares with you how a deal of his backfired, my guess is that he’s looking for some compassion and support and not a devaluing attack.
HEALTHY RESPONSE – You don’t have to agree how your husband handles certain situations, but if your husband didn’t ask for your opinion then it’s better to keep your “what the f*ck was he thinking” thought to yourself. However, if he did ask for your opinion then simply offer another concrete solution. Try this: Well if it were me I probably would have done __________.
Keep it simple and non-critical.
3) That’s ALL you did??
In a perfect world our husbands would read our minds in the most symbiotic, magical way. But that’s not reality (nope – not happenin’ ladies). You’re allowed to feel frustrated that he didn’t execute a task the way you would, but vomiting your disappointment all over him will get you no where.
HEALTHY RESPONSE – Your husband said he was going to help you straighten up the kids rooms while you were out. You come home to find his definition of straightening up the kids rooms is the sheets are pulled up to the top of the bed and the toys are are all pushed up to one side of the wall. In your head you’re thinking your 6 year old could do a better job straightening up. However, one hopes that you also realize that you were not as specific with what “straightening up the kids’ rooms” means. So instead try this: I realize I wasn’t specific about where the toys should go and how the beds are made, so next time I’ll be more specific. Thanks for your help though – I really appreciate it.
4) Stop touching me.
Hubby wants to get sexy times on and you’d rather stick needles in your eyes after the child screaming, work stress day you’ve had. But guess what? You’re allowed to feel that way and you’re allowed to select the pause button in response.
HEALTHY RESPONSE - Instead try this: (give a kiss/hug in return…come on, he needs something) Honey, I just need a bit of time to decompress from the day so that I can really be present with you.
He’s not stupid – he’ll get the hint without you making him feel like a total reject. The only caveat is this doesn’t mean you get a free hall pass for the week: You’re just as responsible for your sexual relationship as he is so #1, do what ever jedi mind tricks you have to do to get present for sex and #2, it’s your responsibility to let him know when you’re ready and able.
5) You’re pathetic!
Ladies, this is so not cool to say to anyone. How old are you??? Kids say this to other kids when they feel angry, hurt, sad, disappointed, etc. Own your feelings and communicate them like an adult.
HEALTHY RESPONSE – Your husband just said something to you which sounded attacking and critical, but the last thing you want to do is get in the sand box with him. Be the adult and be direct: I feel hurt when you talk to me like that. If you’re upset about something that I did then talk to me like an adult, but don’t push me against the wall with your words.
And that’s it. Be respectful. Be an adult (not a fire breathing dragon) and be smart.
You’ve been feeling lonely and disconnected from your husband. You finally have the guts to approach him and share your feelings. You begin to emotionally strip yourself naked as the tears start to well up and you explain how unhappy you feel in the marriage. As you continue to lament he looks at you like a deer caught in headlights saying nothing which causes you to feel worse. Your palms begin to sweat and you feel like a hot mess as all you can hear is the screeching of your (what feels like a) never ending ramble. Suddenly, you stop talking and wait for him to respond. You look at him, he looks at you, you look at him, he looks at you. You desperately want to hear his thoughts but the silence feels like a slow Chinese torture. As your body is about to burst from anxiety you exclaim: WHY AREN’T YOU SAYING ANYTHING??!!
He is immediately startled via your attack. He pulls his body away and exclaims: BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T ASK ME TO!!
You respond: What are you talking about?! You’re just sitting there staring at me like I’m pathetic! YOU THINK I’M PATHETIC.
At this point your husband has either (A) left the room, (B) called you crazy and then left the room or (C) explains what’s really going on inside that noggin of his. So for the purposes of this post, let’s go with (C).
He stares at you with disdain (because he has no idea where your atom bomb came from) and says to you: You’re talking to me, right??
You nod your head YES.
He continues: Well obviously you’re upset and need to talk to me, so guess what I’m doing???
You think, you wonder, you can’t think of the answer so you ask him: What?
He answers: I’M LISTENING!!!!!
(That was you just shooting yourself in the foot)
I have had countless women in my practice who will talk about their husbands and say something like, “Well he doesn’t care about me the way he used to and I know he hates X, Y, and Z about me.”
To which I reply, “Well did he actually say that to you?” and 9 times out of 10 their answer is: NO…but that’s what I think!!
Ladies: If you try to read your husband’s mind as opposed to finding out what he’s thinking, then guess what?
That’s right – it’s a painful downward spiral from there.
So if you really want to be smart, don’t assume anything until you’ve truly checked it out with your husband.
Relationships and marriages are work in ways we never imagined and they challenge us to look at our own foibles, fears, and personal struggles deep within. I have seen people push through intense pain and disappointment in their marriage, yet come out the other end to find their relationship on a whole new level. So whether you have been married 1 year, 10 years, 20 years, or even divorced with a strong faith in the next chapter in your life, take a look at How to be Smart in Your Marriage Daily:
1. Listen better
I mean really listen – I call this “listening with attention.” Think about how your body language looks like when you are listening to your boss at work, a small child, or if you were on on a first date. You are engaged, making eye contact, not distracted. You are showing the person on the other end: What you are saying is important to me. This is how you should be listening to your partner when he speaks to you. Show him that you care.
2. Be more patient
He isn’t you and he never will be. Just as your job is to understand you, it sure would help if you took the time to understand his own process when it comes to life, connection, intimacy, etc. The more you understand him, the easier it will be to accept his different wiring.
3. Learn to let things go
Nope. He’s not perfect and neither are you. We all will make mistakes in any relationship and it’s key to learn how to pick your battles. Be judicious and bring up matters only when it’s truly worth it.
4. Be more present at home
With social media, the internet, TV, and mobile gadgets we now live in an age where folks are more disconnected than ever. When the day ends, are you still plugged into your phone, TV, computer, etc. where you are unable to connect with your loved ones? You know your part when it comes to this matter so own it and take the time to connect with your spouse without distractions.
5. Make focusing on YOUR part a top priority
Why? Because the only person you have the power to change and be accountable for is you. The more you focus on your partner’s actions, the less you are able to react to a situation in a smart, mature way. When you and your husband get locked into the you did this and you did that dance, then you both might as well jump into a pool of mud and start flinging wet dirt at each other. In other words, the blame dance will only make things go downhill and then some.
So for the sake of the relationship, be smart and practice the above 5 tips daily.
One of the most common communication pit falls I see in my office is when someone expresses their feelings in an attacking way as opposed to owning their feelings. For example, let’s say that you and your husband are not seeing eye to eye when it comes to some serious parenting issues. You are at the point where you feel frustrated and angry because you feel like he just doesn’t give a damn about your thoughts or opinions anyway. You exclaim to him: Well I know you don’t care about my opinion anyway!
Right now is when you just shot yourself in the foot.
Using the above example, you didn’t own your feeling at all. Instead, you made it about your husband by pointing the finger at him and making an assumption about what he thinks or feels about you. The result is that he will probably feel attacked and more than likely shut down. Hence, leaving you to feel even more angry, frustrated and still feeling like he doesn’t care about what you have to say. Yes, you are no caught in a vicious hot mess of a cycle that will only get worse if you continue to communicate this way.
So what’s the more constructive approach? It’s actually pretty simple.
Instead of: Well I know you don’t care about my opinion anyway!
Instead say: I feel like you don’t care about my opinion.
Boom. Simple and honest. You’ve now paved the way for a much healthier conversation where (fingers crossed) you will feel much more understood.
So be smart and own your feelings… because playing the blame game will never never ever ever ever ever help!!
This isn’t the first time I’m writing about the topic of enabling.
Because unfortunately, we women do it — a lot.
I consistently see women allowing a husband, boyfriend, partner, etc. to not take any responsibility for their part in any given situation. Sometimes the situation is obvious and sometimes the situation is subtle. Regardless, my hope is that these specific posts will become an empowering source for you to keep stepping out of the enabling trap with your partner so that not enabling becomes your new norm.
Today I share with you advice (which all of you can gain from — not just working mothers) when it comes to taking on any burden in your marriage where your husband is absolved of any responsibility. Below is advice which I was honored to give in the recent book I Love Mondays: and Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms by Michelle Cove (a great book by the way):
“As mothers, we are the masters of keeping the ship’s engine running smoothly and effectively, all while multitasking till we’re blue in the face. Hence it is our innate ability to spring into action when a child is in need. However, we shoot ourselves in the foot when we displace that innate impulse onto our husbands, who call in a panic because little Johnny threw up all over himself. Ladies, I have three works for you: stop enabling him. It’s one thing if he’s calling you because the house is on fire (literally), but it’s another thing when he needs to call ‘mommy’ to rescue him from being the other parent.”
The author responded to my quote with: He really will figure it out.
She’s right, but as long as you keep jumping to the rescue, we won’t have to do a damn thing. So be smart and let him figure it out.
p.s. – if you buy the book, my quote is on page 84
Whether it’s in your marriage, with a friend, at work or with you children, we all have times where we allow our emotions to push us to act out very intense feelings. That’s said, here are 3 examples of what you may experience and ways to connect to your emotions so that you don’t completely lose yourself:
1) Physical Visceral Sensation – Let’s say you and your spouse are talking and he says something that was not very polite. All of a sudden your body starts to feel as if a hot pulsating liquid is running through your veins starting at your feet and going straight up your neck and into your eyeballs. Or your stomach feels like a boiling pot that’s about to explode. These are both very common somatic reactions that some women feel when either not feeling connected to their anger or (without knowing) not feeling confident to even feel or express their feeling.
Solution: Well, your body is clearly screaming to you “I AM SO F***ING PISSED!!!!!!” so for god’s sake listen to your body! Every red siren is going off and it’s your job to honor your feelings and understand them so that you can communicate appropriately. The alternative is to become that overflowing boiling pot you which would create a huge hot mess. Definitely not smart.
2) Hyper critical comments – Come on…no one likes a nit picker and I know you don’t like constantly harping on your husband every time he doesn’t make the bed resort style (he made the frikkin’ bed so be happy). So if it’s not like you to be snipping at every move that he makes, yet you’re obsessed with every move he makes, then maybe it’s time to pay attention to clue #2. Maybe your not-so-normal critical comments are really about underlying anger you’re feeling toward him about something that has nothing to do with how he makes the bed.
Solution: Once you recognize and hear your snipping voice, STOP. You literally need to stop, sit, breath, write, etc. Do something that will help you to get into touch with what you’re really feeling before you engage in conversation. Are you really feeling sad, dismissed, hurt, undervalued, frustrated, etc. Once you connect with your feelings, you are in a much better place to communicate effectively. Nit picking will only push him away more, where as if you own your feelings he just might hear you. Smart.
3) Zero Interest in Sex - Oh how I wish I could collect a dollar every time I heard a woman complain how sex with her husband is the last thing on her mind while simultaneously not feeling very appreciated byhim. Ladies: if all your life you’ve had a healthy libido and suddenly one day (poof!) it’s disappeared, (pending there are no physical issues or immediate crises) then chances are you’re feeling something and I’m going to guess it might be anger.
Solution: It amazes me how so many women automatically feel more attracted to their partner once she has had the opportunity to work through her anger in an appropriate way. So if sexy times have been completely void, then it’s time for a serious check in with yourself about what you are truly feeling. Otherwise you end up depriving yourself of one of life’s simple pleasures (yes…sex). Journal, mediate, talk to a friend, talk to a counselor, take a walk alone, etc. etc. Do whatever you can do to connect to the feelings. Once you do that, be brave and take advantage of what could actually become an intimate moment by sharing with him what’s troubling you in the marriage. Own your feelings and ask him to just listen. If all goes well, then here’s an extra tip: HUG. Yes, hug for at least 10 seconds. Get that oxytocin (bonding hormone) flowing and in no time your friendly libido will be back and ready to go. (Smart smart smart smart smart, right?!?)
As women we like to talk and when we text, we like to text.
MARY: Hey girl! Are we still on for dinner tonight? Where should we go!!? OMG I’m so excited to catch up – SO much to tell you! What about the Sushi place we went to for your birthday last month? Yay/nay? 7:30? xxooxxo :)
JANE: Hey you! YES. So so excited to hang tonight! The Sushi place sounds great! 7:30 is perfect and I’m SO in the mood for Sushi. I already know what I’m going to order…great idea…Can’t wait - see you soon! xxoo ;)
Cut to Jane’s text exchange with her husband:
JANE: Hey honey! xxoo Omg – I can’t believe that both of the kids were up at the SAME time last night – ughhh – I’m exhausted. So I forgot to remind you that I’m having dinner with Mary tonight – sushi – if you want me to bring you anything back then text me – if I don’t get a text from you, then I’ll just assume that you don’t want me to bring you back anything. How’s your day going??
If so then please know that he’s not ignoring you. You asked him a question – he gave you an answer. He did read the other details you shared with him and there was no direction saying “as soon as you’re done reading your wife’s text, please send her a break down of your day as well.” He’s processing your text in a concrete and literal way – he’s not blowing you off. So be smart: Don’t interpret his lack of words as a meaning for how he feels about you. It just is what it is and nothing more.
After all…he has a penis and you have a vagina. Enough said.
It’s a metaphor I use with my patients (especially couples) when one is so angry with the other that he or she is ready to throw their hands up in the air yelling “F*** it!!” and just walk away…far far away with no interest in even considering another solution.
Now I’m not saying don’t have feelings. It’s perfectly normal to feel angry, sad, hurt, frustrated and even hopeless in the moment. Having the feelings and acknowledging them is absolutely okay…it’s what you do with them that makes or breaks the moment.
Let’s say you’re having a tough week: You’re getting over a cold, your work has been exhausting, your toilet just overflowed because one of your kids decided to flush their mini Beanie Unicorn down the toilet, and to top it off you’re two days out from your monthly visit from “Aunt Flo.”
You’re clearly not interested in anyone else’s “problems.”
As you’re standing in the kids’ bathroom holding the sopping, disgusting, wet Beanie Unicorn your husband enters the room and explains how angry he feels that for the umpteenth time you (in front of the kids) criticized how he was disciplining and how condescending your unsolicited remarks are. At that moment you feel your blood starting to boil from the bottom of your feet up through your legs into your belly and up into your chest. Suddenly you throw your arms into the air and yell, ”FINE! I’m DONE!!!” and with fury you chuck the Beanie back in the toilet and storm out.
Hmmmm…you know what you just had? Yup – a tantrum.
Look: you can feel furious. You can feel beyond frustrated. You can even feel painfully exhausted and wanting to fall to your knees and cry, but emptying the water from the bathtub doesn’t mean you should empty out the baby as well. You can take a time out and excuse yourself to be alone for 5 minutes, but chucking the Beanie Unicorn back into the toilet (which you just plunged out along with other awesome things which only belong in the toilet) is really not cool.
Have you ever seen a child focus with all their might to build an extraordinary tower of blocks but after one piece falls to the ground they flail their arms and legs into the tower knocking it down while screaming with hair pulling frustration?? Well my friend, that was you as you chucked that magical little unicorn into the toilet and slammed your bedroom door behind you. Furthermore, you now have to deal with your husband’s frustration which just went from a 5 to a 10+ because of your not-so-smart tantrum. Plus think about the modeling you are giving your children. Again: not so smart.
So when you feel your entire body begin to boil to the point where you can’t see past your own eyelashes, that is your cue to STOP. PAUSE. Take a deep BREATH and say to your husband, “Please give me 5 minutes alone so I can calm down and not turn into a crazy person and then I can hear you.” It’s unlikely that he’ll fight you on it and if anything you may have just earned an extra point or two where coming back to talk may not be so bad. Ladies do yourself a favor: No matter how hard you’re working on your tower of blocks, if some of the pieces begin to fall don’t just kick the whole thing down. Instead pause, take a deep breath and simply put each one back one by one by one.
Be smart and choose the road leading to the deep breathing adult and not the road leading to the tantruming child.
(p.s. – the magical unicorn will probably thank you)
I should have cleaned up the house today.
I should have spent less time this week watching mindless television with my husband.
Dammit, I should have exercised this morning because then my brain would have worked better and then I definitely would have cleaned up the house which I really should have.
I should have have woken up earlier and then I would have cleaned the house.
I should have been smarter about it.
I should have planned better for it.
I should, I should, I should, I should, should should should should, could could, would would, blah blah blah blah blaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…
Is this you?
Do you allow yourself to get sucked up by The Shoulds just like a little, bottom of the barrel sea fish that gets violently swallowed by a terrorizing shark?
If the answer is yes, then do yourself a favor: Knock it off….NOW.
Seriously people, you need to cleanse yourself of The Shoulds because THEY DO NOTHING FOR YOU except keep you from actually living your life. Think of some sadistic, abusive “thing” living in your house rent free….clearly, that would be wrong – beyond. Well my friends…so are The Shoulds.
So maybe this new year is the year to just dump those parasite, blood sucking shoulds.
P.S. – If you really want to take my advice to a whole “therapy-esque” level, then ask yourself this: Who in your family passed The Shoulds down to lucky you? Because just like criticism is a learned behavior, so are The Shoulds.
Ucchhh…just get rid of them already.
Given that today’s world is full of excess more than ever, I think we all struggle (hi…I’m one of them) to “take in” the simple and authentic joys of every day. That said, I recently heard of a study where people who wrote down what they are grateful for felt 25 percent happier after ten weeks than those who did not. So…I started to make a list.
Even in the midst of tantrums, piles and piles (and piles) of paperwork to always rummage through, disgusting dirty fingerprints all over my living room walls, or some kind of crisis, I am finding that when I reflect on and add to my list I feel more present, a little calmer, and a little more grounded.
Here is just the beginning of my list….
3. My marriage – it forever challenges me in ways which only help me grow
4. Listening over the monitor to my son and daughter have a conversation – just the two of them
5. Laughing with my husband so hard that my stomach hurts
6. A rewarding occupation as a therapist
7. My own therapist (yup…and I am beyond grateful)
8. My office
10. Kirkland baby wipes (aka a mom’s best friend)
11. My girlfriends
12. My close colleagues who are also my friends
13. A morning hike
14. A good comedy
15. My children’s teachers
16. A swimming pool on a hot summer day
17. A quiet morning to myself
(and the list grows and grows and grows…)
Today, try to make a list of your own or create one as a family or with a loved one. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday full of love, happiness, health and good fortune.