When you catch yourself feeling hurt because someone didn’t do, say, or react in a way you would have liked them to, it might be time for you to take note that you are “holding a manual” for that person. In coach-talk we call having an expectation of how someone should behave “holding a manual” for that person. When they choose not to behave the way we want them to, we find ourselves giving them the silent treatment, yelling at them, or holding resentment towards them. That is holding a manual and also thought of as having expectations.
Culture can give us certain expectations to uphold—for example, we are taught a mom should be loving no matter what, a dad should always want to protect his family, and children should obey their parents. We, as women, may also have expectations toward our husbands. I have thought much about this, as I have held many expectations for many people in my life, my husband, too. I’ve thought, “my husband should support me, he should believe in my dreams and compliment me often.” The manual I want to explore about dropping is that of our husband. Once we can drop the manual our relationship with ourselves and them will improve.
Let’s explore a favorite movie of mine, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Toula wants to do things her way, discovering what makes sense to her for her life. It isn’t easy as the Greek culture is embedded in her family and stepping out of it will be a challenge. She doesn’t want to completely let it all go, she just wants to make her own path and do things her way.
During a conversation with her mother, Maria, she is told, “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.” Although this is funny, and I still laugh when I hear it, its humor does not detract from it’s the relatability of this statement to many women. I want to suggest that allowing your husband to be who he is and you to come to the table with your suggestions could be a way to promote unity as a couple and drop the idea of wanting to control one another.
A book I recommend reading to assist with this is The 5 Love Languages. Read this not so you can tell your partner what you need, but so you can meet yourown needs. When we are demanding or expectant of others to meet our needs, we will never truly see them for who they really are. Why? Because we are so busy trying to change them to what we think they need to be for us.
Ask yourself the questions, “Do I really know what I want? Do I meet my own needs on the regular?
Once you know your love languages you will know how to talk to yourself and the way you need to treat yourself. When we have met our own needs, we are able to show up for our spouse with our cup full and we give because we truly want to and not from a place of expectations.
Over time, in his own time, your spouse will begin to give to you in ways that might not be your language, but you will see the effort and appreciate him all the more. It’s that much more beautiful when a husband decides to do the dishes, even when it’s not how we do it, not because we told him to, but because he decided he wants to.
I still make requests; in fact, I make a lot of requests. But, I don’t hold on to them with expectations. Dropping my husband’s manual is a process and a process I believe to be worth working on daily. When you drop the manual, you are allowing your husband to be who he wants to be and loving him for who he is.
Boundaries are important for us to have and understand. We don’t necessarily need a lot of rules in our lives. If we build up too many walls, we run the risk of isolating ourselves from people and opportunities. Keeping in mind that what you value is important to you and that is the reason you create boundaries. A friend that is always late when you value time, having a mother show up unannounced when a priority of yours is keeping a schedule, these are a few examples of boundary issues.
Clearly expressing boundaries needs to happen when a boundary that you hold has been crossed. When someone does something that infringes on you, emotionally or physically, it is not automatic that they know they had crossed a boundary. Most of us don’t know what other people’s boundaries are. Take a look at my blog last week as it explored the topic on creating principles and priorities. Knowing what you value in life will help you set healthier boundaries.
Here are a few tips to remember when you feel it is time to set a boundary due to events that are interfering with your principles:
Creating a boundary when frustrated, mad, or angry is not the right time. Get your thoughts down on paper and decide what you would like to say from a place of love and peace after you’ve had some time to think. It can make all the difference.
Make the request and let them know what act they are doing that is infringing on you. Then share with them the consequence if they choose not to comply with your request.
Here are a couple examples of things you could say once you’ve decided on a boundary:
“The kids and I love it when you come to the house, that is why I am asking you to call before you come over so I can make sure it is a good time for us to have you. If you do not call the door will be locked if you show up unannounced.”
“I know that you run late, at times, and I am looking forward to having lunch with you. Just know that if you are more than 15 minutes late, I will be leaving. I won’t be mad; I just won’t be waiting longer than that.”
Lastly, I want to talk on the topic of eliminating people from our lives, as this is not a way of creating boundaries. There are occasions when people are physically and mental harmful to you and in those cases removing yourself might be best. However, I do want to offer you a thought; what if those who cause the most frustration in you are really here to help you grow? Instead, try to ask yourself, “what can I learn from this relationship, how will listening to this person allow me to grow?”
The key to healthy boundaries is in the request and in the follow through. When you follow through with what you find to be important you are showing respect to yourself and respect to others through your communications. If creating boundaries is new to you, realize that creating boundaries now could be challenging or they could be liberating…the choice is yours.
I was coaching a client and gave her an assignment to write down her top 5 priorities for her next session. At the start of the following session she shared those priorities. Then I asked her how her week went. When she described to me what she did with her time it became apparent that not one of her priorities was represented in her daily activities.
When I relayed my observation to her, she was shocked and said she hadn’t even realized she wasn’t including her priorities. Now to her credit this is not uncommon. In fact, I would say it is more common than not common, as I am guilty of this as well.
Just like my client I have found myself feeling a little frustrated because I was not accomplishing things that I had thought were a priority. What I found was that until I became clear on my Principles or what I value most and realized that priorities change depending on my current goals, I would always feel frustrated by this. Making sure my priorities aligned with my principles helped eliminate the guilt of feeling like I wasn’t accomplishing the important things. It also helped me focus on creating a life around what mattered most.
Let me explain further…
We have a desire that this person, place, or thing needs to be a priority. We have thoughts of what we think should be our priorities then we have daily tasks that sneak in if we don’t have a clear view of our principles. Unless our thoughts are matched to our principles then to our priorities, we can get stuck. We often find ourselves going in circles on the infamous hamster wheel, getting frustrated and not getting the results we want because we are so busy doing task work that isn’t based on our principles.
For example, I value Time. I used to think Family and Community were two of my main Principles, but these are not within my control. When I dove deeper into creating a life on purpose, I discovered that valuing something not within your control, like other people, is more of a priority and not a Principle. I then clarified my top three Principles to be Time, Health, and Spirituality; all three of which are within my control.
In Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People his first three habits all have to do with the “inside job” or managing your mind, personal vision, personal leadership, and personal management. This book is a good example of building a foundation of your Principles before creating your priorities.
But what do these priorities look like? Completing my weekly schedule on Sunday evening is a priority because of my Principle of Time. As I fill in my calendar, I add in time for grocery shopping, meal planning and exercise. Some examples of priorities that represent my Principle of Health would be spending time with my husband on a hike, taking our dog to the dog park together, or going for a walk with a friend.
My Principle of Spirituality is represented by tasks such as scheduling time for meditation/prayer, reading scripture or other materials and sharing what I learn with my boys or husband, and doing some service work or giving to nonprofit organizations that I support.
Everyday tasks such as work, paying bills, housework, car maintenance, etc. are also penciled into my calendar, but these are just mundane tasks that need to be completed. Because I value Time so much, I make certain to not “over-pack” my schedule and leave “blank space” for those unexpected things that can happen. If I don’t plan for it, I will become subject to it.
Once you decide to be clear with your values and prioritize tasks accordingly, along with taking the time to purposely work on your thoughts, your world will become a more peaceful place. Instead of trying to fit people and activities in based on reacting to others’ priorities, create a life based on your principles and priorities, thereby creating a life on purpose.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them – Mathew 7 :20.
It is the little things that we do consistently that add up to what our life becomes. We decide if the little things, or habits, we do are a good habit or a bad habit. One way to determine if a habit is good or bad for you is to look at the net result from that daily habit and ask yourself, “Will this make me a better person long term, or am I seeking immediate and temporary gratification?”
I am, and always have been, a big reader of self-help books. One of the first reads that really stuck with me, even though I didn’t quite stick with it, was The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. It is a book of 10 scrolls which offer an almost spiritual guide to the philosophy of salesmanship and how to be successful in both your personal and professional lives. The scrolls where written and created to help retrain your thinking by reading them one at a time for 30 consecutive days, three times a day, and then only after you did that consistently would you move on to the next scroll. I was 18 when I first read that book. I wanted to become the master of my own thoughts and hoped this book would help me with that. I still have this book, and from time to time will pick it up and read the wisdom in its scrolls.
Another book I am looking forward to reading and would encourage you to read is Make Your Bed by Admiral William H McRaven. I mention this book because it is about the little habits in life and the application that make the difference. Check out his various speeches on YouTube! They are definitely worth viewing.
It truly is the commitment to self and the application of small habits that becomes the key to change. Finding information in some great books like those I speak of above, I was only absorbing the information and not really committed to applying said information on a regular, habitual basis.
Here are 3 tips I would give on making the switch from lackadaisical information absorption to purposeful application of the information you accumulate:
Don’t go in blindly. Change will affect you and others around you. Sometimes others are not excited about your change because change is scary. Not everyone will be as excited as you are about the changes you are making. Being aware of this obstacle is important so you can create your strategy to overcome and pull through it. Keep your focus and stay committed.
Remember to observe. Intentionally observing what it is we are thinking about and why we are thinking that way is so important. It is through this purposeful and objective observation of our thoughts and looking at them as pure DATA that we can begin to react with less emotion and find reasons that matter to us for long term success, rather than just reacting in the moment.
Stick to one change at a time. We are so good at adding more to our plates. We get excited and want everything to change right now. This is where I would advise caution and patience. Contain yourself to one change for 30 days. Practice, practice, practice. This can make life more bearable. Then after 30 days add another change, again something small, for the next 30 days, and so on. This will provide both yourself and others around you needed adjustment time to the new change.
Even if you have made little choices that are not serving you, you can, if you are willing to experience the discomfort, change it, just by one little thing that you do daily, one day at a time. I’ll end by looking to the Al-Anon slogans #keepitsimple #onedayatatime #easydoesit #justfortoday. Be patient and kind to yourself when seeking to change.