Is Your Perception of Your Husband Hurting or Helping Your Relationship?

solitary husband

Author Karen Jones gives you advice to help you re-think everyday problems with your man. 

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Oh, the trouble you’ve seen with your man…

You want him home for dinner with the family at 6:00, and he usually ends up staying late to finish up at work.

You want to go out to a nice dinner but he says “no” way too often.

You like to have things organized, planned out, and to know what to expect, and he just keeps encouraging you to “relax and take it easy”.

You start to share something that has upset you, and he quickly jumps in with the logical solution to your problem.

You think the kids should be more protected, he thinks it’s awesome that your eight-year old son wants to jump off that ledge.

It’s a constant and ongoing issue in your relationship.  Why is it that he appears to keep doing things that are not what you want from him?

And as soon as you ask yourself “why does he do that?” your mind will come up with an answer.  And it’ll sound something like this: He doesn’t really care about me.

Which, if you’re like so many women, leads right to:

  • Wounded feelings
  • Being angry and judgmental of him
  • Retaliation
  • Withdrawal from your connection with him

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What if I told you that in many cases, probably even the majority of them, what you think it means when he does/doesn’t do something is not even CLOSE to what’s going on? That your hurt feelings, and all the rest of what happens like an avalanche right afterwards, are all caused by your perception of what happened.  In other words, your own invented story about it.

Now, before you go nuts here, let me start off by reminding you that you cannot help doing that.

It’s not your fault, even if you are doing it to yourself.

Why is it not your not your fault?  Because you’re telling yourself the same “story”…

  • that was told to you when you were growing up
  • the media is training you to believe
  • all your girlfriends are telling you

I’ve heard a phrase to describe us humans that I think is great. We are meaning-making machines. We interpret and assign meaning to everything.  Instantly.

If we use the analogy of having glasses with a prescription lens in them, then what we really see – clearly – is going to be completely determined by that particular prescription.  But since it’s what we see – and we don’t see anything else – then it must be true.  But it’s not THE truth, with a capital T.  It’s just YOUR truth.

You have a choice about what you perceive.

So let’s see how this works with that list we already talked about, where the old glasses saw “he doesn’t care enough about me”:

You want him home for dinner with the family at 6p, and he usually ends up staying late to finish up at work.

“Wow, he is such a dedicated provider for our family – he’s even willing to sacrifice what he would really love, which is to be with us for dinner every night.”

You want to go out to a nice dinner, he says “no” too often.

“Wow, I feel so safe knowing that he’s committed to our future being financially secure.”

You like to have things organized, planned out, and to know what to expect, and he just keeps encouraging you to “relax and take it easy”.

“Wow, I love that he can be so supportive of me, and to help me balance the part of me that is always doing, doing, doing.”

You start to share something that has upset you, and he quickly jumps in with the logical solution to your problem.

“Wow, he hates to see me upset, and wants to solve the situation as fast as possible, so I can be happy.”

You think the kids should be more protected, he thinks it’s awesome that your eight-year old son wants to jump off that ledge.

“Wow, I love that he’s such a fun father, and is teaching our son about trusting himself to take risks.”

In each of these scenarios, can you see that it’s at least as likely – if not obviously way more likely – that these are the actual motivations behind his actions?

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So here’s my advice to you:

If you’re committed to your relationship thriving, always choose the most generous, kind, loving perception of why he might be doing (or not doing) something.  Assume the best motive and intention.  Start there.

Simply put, this means that no matter what your man is doing that you find displeasing, you work to find the best possible reason, motive or cause for it.  My one caution: make it feasible, or you’ll deny yourself the power of choosing a perception that alters your emotional state in a positive way (so: no Martians kidnapped him, okay?).

Your new, “feel-good” program

1)    Next time you’re getting in trouble with your perception of him, take a breath (or two or three) and ask yourself what explanation for him you’re working with…be honest with yourself.

2)    If your perception could be anything other than your auto-response first one (here’s a hint: there are always other perceptions that are just as legitimate), and it would help you feel better, play around with choosing one that works.

3)    Keep at it until you feel better.

4)    If you just can’t “get off it” this time, make yourself a promise that next time you find yourself seeing your husband in a negative light, you WILL work at finding a positive spin to whatever he’s doing.

It’s ultimately all about feeling better, since when you feel better, you act more in alignment with your highest and best self.  This man, your wonderful partner, is in your life to help you learn to be your best self; he is your perfect teacher!

If you want to be successful in a relationship, as I trust you do, it takes learning how to do things that nurture compassion and trust between you and your man.  Bringing a generosity of spirit to the way you choose to perceive what he’s doing (or has done), is a powerful way to bring you closer to what you want.

 

Photo Credit: Flickr/ latteda

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About Karen Jones

Karen Jones has been studying relationships between men and women for over two decades. She founded The Heart Matters, a relationship coaching and training company, in 1997, and published Men are Greatin 2007. In addition to being passionate about the work she does, Karen adores spending time outdoors with her husband, Craig, the love of her life.

Comments

  1. U.S. Army Persian Gulf 1991 says:

    (So here’s my advice to you:

    If you’re committed to your relationship thriving, always choose the most generous, kind, loving perception of why he might be doing (or not doing) something. Assume the best motive and intention. Start there.)

    Karen, this is great advice. I explained this concept to my wife in different words over twenty years ago. We had a misunderstanding, and I asked her to remember that I had the interests of the woman I promised to love and cherish and the children I willingly assumed responsibility for on my mind AT ALL TIMES. I told her that just as she herself did, all my actions and all the decisions that I made were with the family in mind; and I asked for her to keep that in mind before she assumed anything about what I may or may not have meant or done.

    I asked her to believe of me only what she believed of herself; and it meant the world to us.

    Thanks for this article.

    • “I asked her to believe of me only what she believed of herself; and it meant the world to us.”

      I LOVE what you wrote,and I appreciate that you took the time to share your experience. You did a brilliant job saying things in a way that could get to your wife’s heart, and have her shift. Bravo.

      I think it’s tough for men to hold their space when faced with their woman’s judgment, or anger, or negativity. I get it. And, of course, the best thing to do is just that.

      Thank you.

      Karen

  2. Oh, Karen. You’re forcing me to rethink just about every complaint I’ve made in my home for…well, forever. This is great advice. Adjusting my own perceptions and attitude will probably make things much more harmonious around here. It’s probably easier said than done, but I’ll give it a try :)

    • Hi, Prudence,

      I’m delighted with the effect the article had on you – and thanks for letting me know! I have no doubt things will be more harmonious, and you may find that it gets pretty easy to do, with a little practice.

      I’d love to hear how you make out!

      Karen

  3. Karen,

    It sounds good what you said in your article, and I certainly could apply your advice in some situations… However I would find it difficult to apply it in situations where my husband does not get involved in the domestic chores or does not spend time with me but surfes online, meditates or runs (instead?)… I know, all those activities are not necessarily bad as such but they take him and his attention away from us… We hardly spend more then five minutes on some days talking and if we do, it’s limited to the most necessary topics (around our son mostly…). I find it difficult to be happy just because he gets his exercise or meditates when things are not done, we hardly find opportunity to communicate, be together etc. What is your advice on that…? Thanks, Maggi

    • Hi, Maggi,

      Thanks for jumping in to the conversation! I would actually say that even in your situation, which sounds like it has the potential to cause lots of frustration (and hurt feelings!), it’s still a place where you could practice telling yourself the best possible story about why your husband’s doing what he’s doing. So, for instance, is he an insensitive ass for working out when you’ve got so much going on, or is he making sure that he’s fit and strong enough to protect and provide for your family? Is he insensitive to your needs, or is it that you may not have been clear enough about what you need and what it means to you? (And yeah, you may find that hard to believe, but it’s an area where SO many women get in trouble – assuming that things are so obvious that it MUST be a case of his lack of interest, because he SURELY can’t be that obtuse!).

      I’d really recommend that you think of a two-stage approach here: 1) shift your perception to one that allows for more loving feelings from you and then 2) have a conversation about what you need, what it looks like, and what it means to you when you have it.

      Karen

    • Maggi,

      I agree wholehearted with Karen’s advice. It’s the same thing I’d tell your hubby if he asked the same question.

      It’s impossible to have a productive and trusting discussion if the truth in your feelings includes anger, resentment, and frustration. Shifting your perception and energy into a loving and appreciative one will go miles during the discussion.

      However, be careful to NOT talk in “hint” language. Be direct. Be clear. Make your desires and expectations known without wishy-washyness. Get close to him. Touch him. Make burning eye contact. At the same time you are making it clear that expect more help and more time with him, you are bathing him in your appreciation and sensuality. If these are non-negotiable values for you, treat them as such and let him know it….without threat or ultimatum. Tell him you know he wants to be your man. Give him a reputation to live up to. With strong feminine support…he usually will.

      You deserve better and he needs to know it – in the most loving and respectful way. You get what you accept.

      This is standard advice for the men I work with. Goes both ways. I can not be done however, with the wrong perceptions and energy. It’ll blow up in your face.

  4. Perception is certainly something that changes the equation not only in marriage but everything else. But I disagree with this: “This man, your wonderful partner, is in your life to help you learn to be your best self.” I don’t think we choose partners to help us be our best selves, but to love us as we are, and this strikes me as somewhat condescending to “the little women.”

    • I think anyone who has no desire for improvement is not a good partner material. We should all expect growth from ourselves and it is therefore reasonable to expect growth and improvement from your partner.

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