It always makes me laugh. Multiple times a year, someone will come up to me at an event and say, “Did you have a microphone in our kitchen yesterday?” or “Were you listening in on our conversation in the car last week?”
One woman told me, “I get your articles, and the joke in our household is: ‘Shaunti, can you please get your microphones out of our house?’”
I laughed and said, “Clearly there’s a story there! What do you mean?”
She threw up her hands. “It is uncanny. My husband and I have a certain kind of discussion or a particular type of heated argument—and then it seems as if a blog post about that exact topic will come out the next day!”
Since I promise I am not tied into your home security system, and don’t have listening devices in your car . . . what is it about this information that seems to apply so directly to our everyday interactions in our relationships? And why does that matter?
Something surprisingly important is going on:
Creating great relationships doesn’t take rocket science!
When Jeff and I investigate key factors that improve relationships, we’re essentially just digging out the truths that are “hidden in plain sight” and showing that it matters and why it matters. But once you know that stuff—you can help yourself. And that fact changes everything.
For example, perhaps you are feeling caught in a hard relationship cycle of unhappiness or arguments that seems a bit hopeless. Feeling like it is going to take two years of counseling to get to the bottom of it. But often, it is simply because you’re doing the same damaging thing over and over again—without realizing that it’s damaging! Or even that you’re doing it!
At one event, after I shared some key truths about men from my research, including about their hidden worries and self-doubts, a woman came up to me at the book table. Looking a bit shell-shocked, she said, “I had been so mad at my husband when he would say ‘Fine, you handle the kids’ rather than stepping up and helping. But until just now, I also had no idea that my husband was probably questioning every day whether he measured up as a father or a husband. I can totally see how I have completely shut him down by constantly, constantly questioning why he did this with the girls, or telling him he should have done it some other way. I wasn’t just letting him be a dad who loves his daughters and will parent differently.”
Once you have some simple but crucial knowledge, often you see a clear, simple way forward. Then you make a few key changes—and everything changes.
Once your eyes are opened, you see these truths everywhere. And as they hit home, you see more and more of what needs to change.
Another woman told me this:
“You clearly have a microphone in our car. Just a few weeks ago my husband and I left a work party where we’d had an argument, and on the way home we were discussing what had happened. He thought that I didn’t appreciate him and said I had embarrassed him in front of his colleagues. I hadn’t intended to do that at all, but he was really, really upset with me and I just didn’t understand it. I thought he was overreacting. Then literally two days later your blog came out about something that had happened with you and Jeff, where you were at a party and you’d accidentally embarrassed him in front of a crowd. Suddenly, I got it—I immediately understood. And I was able to apologize to my husband from a place of understanding for the hurt that I didn’t intend.”
Her husband’s hurt came because of that under-the-surface self-doubt that I mentioned earlier, and his sense that all of his colleagues now “saw” that his wife didn’t respect him. He thought, If my wife, the person who knows me best, doesn’t respect or appreciate me . . . why should they?
Suddenly, she got it. And she was mortified. She told him how much she did appreciate him—but realized, as the days went by, just how infrequently she showed it! And how often she seemed to signal the opposite, whether by teasing him in front of a group, or by contradicting him in front of the kids. She told me that from that “aha” moment on, it was as if she saw everything so much more clearly—and knew exactly how to change it.
Once you see this for yourself—you can help your spouse see it too!
We all know we can only change ourselves. But if we’re being super honest, most of us have wished we could change our spouse! “I wish he realized how much that bothers me.” “If she really cared about me, she wouldn’t ____.” And so on.
Thankfully, having our eyes opened to all these truths also gives us ways to talk about them with our spouse. Once we’ve worked on ourselves, and on interacting with our spouse in the way they need, most of the time our spouse is feeling so much more cared for that they are also much more open to learning new things themselves!
When facing relationship challenges, know that you are not alone!
The research findings and relationship truths that Jeff and I share—whether it’s in person at an event, or through a book or blog post—are common to all of us. They apply to our everyday interactions . . . even your most recent discussion or argument.
The bottom line is this: when facing relationship challenges, know that you are not alone. Let’s keep working together to understand, put to work, and share these truths with others, and to nurture healthy, happy relationships! And while I don’t have access into your actual conversations, conflicts, and heated discussions, I’m always willing to hear from you about what topics you’d like to hear about next! Click here to submit ideas!
And if you are interested in having Shaunti speak on kindness for your workplace, church, school or community group, please contact Nicole Owens at email@example.com.
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More from Shaunti’s Blog:
- Solutions for Sarcasm? Yeah, Right. (Nix the Negativity Series, Part 3)
- From Grumbling to Grateful! (Nix the Negativity Series, Part 2)
- Always Suspicious of Your Spouse (or Others)? Here’s What To Do! (Nix the Negativity, Part 1)
- 7 Date Night Do’s and Don’ts (Part 2)
- 7 Date Night Do’s and Don’ts (Part 1)
- Broken Trust in a Relationship? Here’s What To Do