From my husband’s perspective, I’m sure the question seemed like an innocent one. “Why didn’t you put the bag of dirty laundry in the suitcase?”
I immediately felt put down and became defensive. I really didn’t think about where to put the bag of dirty laundry as long as it got to where it needed to be — back in the car so we could continue our trip.
Aaron Anderson, a marriage and family therapist in Denver had this to say about beginning a sentence with “Why didn’t you. . .?”
He says, “Never begin a sentence with ‘Why didn’t you. . .?’ As harmless as this question seems, there’s a presumption behind it that your partner should have known better In other words, your criticizing them for not being smart enough, not knowing better or not thinking it through. You’re questioning their intelligence. The same is true for asking, ‘What made you think that?’ You’re essentially asking your significant other to read your mind about what you think they should have done differently Let them have their autonomy and make their decisions. You don’t need to criticize them for their decisions, even the bad ones.”
David, my husband, and I talked about this and came away with a better understanding of why this was upsetting even though that wasn’t his intention. Well, as we travel this journey of marriage, we are constantly learning and this is a lesson we hope from which we can grow.
About ten years into our marriage, we went through a very difficult time. So we went to counseling. For us it didn’t work. Why? Because we came with these attitudes. I was thinking, “If the counselor could just fix David everything would be fine.” David will tell you he was thinking, “Straighten her out and we won’t have any more problems.” Well, we now know that’s a formula for disaster and after several months the counselor told us, “This marriage isn’t going to work and dismissed us.”
Well for us it took a heart change and it took the Lord to change our hearts. Once we came to know the Lord and began applying His principles to our marriage, things began to change. . . oh, how they changed for the better. We know the difference He can make make in a marriage and that is the reason we do this ministry today. David and I began our spiritual journey together and for that I’m grateful. However, if one person is willing to make a true heart change with the Lord’s help, often things can turn around. See when you change, the marriage can change. To begin though you have to lose the “My spouse is the problem and when he or she changes things will get better” mentality. There is no doubt your spouse has issues too, but one must understand that the only thing you can change is yourself. Easy? No. Possible? Yes.
Mentoring couples is one of our favorite things to do. I’ve got to admit, however, it has reinforced those things we need to do and has helped our marriage probably as much as it has helped the couples with whom we have worked.
Today while my husband was telling me something, I stopped what I was doing, looked straight at him and listened to what he was saying. Many years ago, I would probably have continued on with what I was doing and hearing him, but not engaging with him. What has turned this around for me is hearing my husband ask couples during our mentoring sessions, “How many people do you know who are really good listeners?” Then, he goes on to tell them he can count on one hand how many he knows. He concludes with telling the couples, “You can be that good listener for one another.” Ouch! That got my attention. See I want to be that one person for him because I now know how important it is to him.