Relationship Skills 101: What If You Have Some Great Suggestions for Your Partner?
Last week, I wrote about the value of listening to your child when she struggles with a challenge. I reminded parents that trying to solve your kid’s problem is not always a good idea—they lose out on a problem solving opportunity. I know it’s hard to do. Our natural inclination is to want to “make it better”. But sadly, even most child-sized problems can’t be kissed away. But the same thing is true in adult relationships! Joe doesn’t understand why his wife Mary doesn’t want her grammar corrected. Why, doesn’t she want to improve her language skills? She feels insulted and he feels hurt. How can Mary think that he wants to slight her?
A few weeks ago, I came home to a great dinner that my wife prepared. Since I am the usual cook, I was delighted. I had some great suggestions for Diane on how to improve on her chicken recipe. Gee…How come she wasn’t pleased when I gave her my terrific ideas? One night, I was talking to Diane about some work challenges. Really, I was just thinking out loud and bouncing some ideas off of her. She made some pointed comments about what she would do, if she were I. Guess what? I wasn’t too appreciative about her intelligent remarks, even if they were fine suggestions. There you go. Being right isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. In fact, no one appreciates a “know it all” or a wise guy (or gal). I love asking older married guys who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary how they managed to stay married so long. They don’t hesitate, and they all say the same thing—“Do as I’m told and keep my mouth shut”. They all laugh. But it’s not funny. We can learn something from these wise old coots. But what does their advice really mean? Here’s my interpretation (remember I have only been in a committed relationship for 40 years!):
- Say yes, whenever you can. Don’t be stubborn just for the sake of having the last word. Getting your own way isn’t as important as you think. Giving creates good will. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stand up for what is really important to you. But mostly, adults can’t even remember what they were fighting over!
- Don’t always say what you think. Now isn’t it important to communicate your innermost thoughts and feelings? Not really. If it’s important, yes. But then again, how many thoughts do you have that are really significant?
- Listen. Look at your partner and really take in his words. Give her 100% of your attention! Don’t be glancing at your phone! Give your beloved all of your concentration.
- Keep your smart ideas to yourself. I had so many ways that Diane could improve that chicken recipe! I am sure that it would have improved her culinary skills too! But she wasn’t interested in my nifty ideas. At that moment, what she wanted to hear was how thankful I was to sit down to such a great meal!
- If you have some suggestions, ask your partner if he is interested in hearing your great ideas. Sometimes, yes. But mostly, no. If your partner wanted to know what you think, she would probably ask you.
Yes, you guessed it, keep your unsolicited advice to yourself. What’s your secret sauce for marriage?