Someone came to me upset with her husband. I mean, really upset. After months of exhausting overtime work and a busy sports season with the kids, they had a day free for some much-needed time for just the two of them. The kids were going to a sleepover with friends, so the day (and night—wink, wink) was clear!
Her husband Dave was going to help his friend with a move for a few hours, then they were going for a long bike ride (a special thing they hadn’t done in a while), then have dinner at their favorite restaurant. She was even planning on a special “dessert” at home (ahem, another thing they hadn’t done in a while!). But Dave’s friend had a crisis and the move ended up taking all day, so there went the bike ride. By the time he got home, he fell asleep for a nap and she couldn’t wake him up for dinner. After how much they needed this break, she was furious that he didn’t care enough to ensure they got it. I could practically see the steam coming out of her ears!
Has something like this ever happened to you? Wait… why do I even need to ask? Of course it has! Every single one of us has been very disappointed by our spouse from time to time. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story! Before you escalate an argument over a failed night out (or a vacation turned sour or “you said you’d pick up the kids today!”), try practicing these three things:Every single one of us has been very disappointed by our spouse from time to time. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Click To Tweet
#1 Put yourself in their shoes—just for a moment
While it’s completely okay to be disappointed, I encouraged this woman to try to look over the day from his point of view before she assumed he didn’t care. Might it be that he wasn’t simply ignoring a much-needed opportunity to be together? Might it be that he wasn’t being a jerk and not caring enough? Instead, could it be that the months of overtime and a long move took a toll, and he was just wiped out?
Granted, he didn’t pick the best time to catch up on his sleep, but chances are that he was looking forward to the bike ride and the night out as much as she was. Keep in mind, too, that he was helping a buddy move, not out carousing on the town. It is totally understandable that she would want him to spend his precious, non-overtime hours on her, but it is also worth acknowledging that he was doing something generous for someone else. In other words – he sounds like a generous man. Perhaps she could decide to be generous, too. Which leads to our second point.
#2 Look for the most generous explanation possible
Whenever we’re disappointed by our spouse, it’s essential to look for the more generous explanation and act as if that is the real one – because it probably is. In my research for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, the happiest spouses refused to believe the worst of their mate’s intentions, even when they were legitimately, truly hurt. If we think, “He knew how that would make me feel, and he did it anyway,” that translates to “he doesn’t care” and it’s downhill from there. But changing our assumption to “I know he loves me; he must not have known how that would make me feel,” or “this was just a really hard day, and he’s disappointed too,” will make everything about our response different.Whenever we’re disappointed by our spouse, it’s essential to look for the more generous explanation and act as if that is the real one – because it probably is. Click To Tweet
And thankfully, that is not just wishful thinking! More than 99 percent of people deeply care about their spouse! Even in struggling marriages, they care. Yet a huge reason why they struggle is that one or both partners don’t believe that fact.More than 99 percent of people deeply care about their spouse! Even in struggling marriages, they care. Click To Tweet
#3 Talk it through—but assume the best, first
Going back to the fuming wife, she can address this with her husband—and definitely should address it if it’s become a pattern with him. But she should do it from the assumption that he wants time with her, just as much as she does with him. Assume that he wants to make her happy, rather than he just doesn’t care. That will undoubtedly change how she speaks to him – and how he responds.
My recommendation for this particular couple? Perhaps it’s time for them to call a truce, ask for and offer forgiveness, book that sitter. . . and maybe plan that dessert after all.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average, clueless people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge demonstrates that kindness is the answer to pretty much every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.