My husband, Tom, and I both desire to be helpful to each other, but there have been times when it felt like our spouse was being pushy instead of helpful.
For example, one night, Tom and I were discussing what our passion or calling in life was. What excited us, and how could God use that? It began with me asking Tom a lot of questions like: What excites you? What do you enjoy doing that God could use as a way to reach out to people or meet a need? My intention was to be helpful to help him explore new ways God might use him. But it soon became apparent that all I was doing was making him feel inadequate and confused. Then he turned the conversation toward pointing out how controlling I can be. I listened and said it would be helpful if he could give me a specific example. So, he brought up a situation that had happened that day at lunch. We were with our adult disabed son, Shon, and his aide. Shon ordered a three -course meal, but then said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to eat it all. I then shifted into problem solving mode (also known as my Mom mode) and the conversation went something like this:
Me: “Instead of the ice-cream sundae, you could get a muffin and take it home.”
Shon: “But I haven’t had a sundae in a long time.”
Me: “Then maybe you could just eat part of your meal, take the rest home, and have your sundae here.”
There may have been one or two more exchanges, and then Tom spoke up good-naturedly and said, “Just let him eat his lunch. He can decide later.”
I laughed and said, “Sorry Shon. Do whatever you want.”
He ended up eating the meal and taking a muffin home.
Tom said it didn’t bother Shon because he’s used to it, but it sent up a red flag for Tom.
My intention was to help Shon come up with a solution. I was not trying to manipulate or control him. I saw my husband’s point, however. It’s best just to ask questions that help the person discover their own solution.
A little later in our evening conversation, Tom brought up my writing and started suggesting various ways I could go about publishing it. I knew he was intending to be helpful, but for some reason it felt very pushy to me.
Our conversation drifted onto other topics, then we headed off for other activities. I pondered what we discussed, wondering why we both felt the other person was pushy or controlling, instead of helpful, and wondering what the solution was.
It came to me that what we were each feeling was disrespected. We subconsciously felt that the other person was thinking we weren’t trying hard enough to develop our potential, when in fact, we were feeling a bit confused and overwhelmed relative to how to go about it. We wanted to develop our potential, but we hadn’t yet discovered a solution that felt right to us. Once I had identified how we were feeling, the obvious question was: What’s the solution? How do we encourage each other without coming across as pushy or controlling?
My answer is this: Follow the other person’s lead. Wait until they express an interest in an idea, and then explore it with them.
Pray with, and for them on their idea, and brain storm with them. But keep them in the driver’s seat!
I am trying to come alongside Tom’s ideas about certain church projects. I told him he can give me in-put on things I write, and then wait for me to ask his opinion on how to share it. In fact, it is generally good for all of us to refrain from giving unsolicited advice unless it is truly necessary! That’s a difficult but worthy pursuit!
When we are feeling pushed or pressured, let the other person know. Recognize that their intentions may be honorable, even if their actions annoy or offend us. It’s also good to ask for clarification to make sure we didn’t misunderstand them.
- Keep our ears open. Be aware of the ideas and feelings our spouse mentions.
- Let them lead in discussing those ideas. Get a feel for what they are, or are not, comfortable with. We shouldn’t push them out of their comfort zones. Let them decide what steps to take and when. Be their cheerleader and prayer warrior, not their coach.
Change is a life-long process. But with the Lord’s help, all things are possible!
Be encouraged! There’s hope for all of us!
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