I’m holed up in Starbucks on a freezing December afternoon. With latte in hand, I’m reading Boundaries in Marriage*, a Christian book about creating a healthy marriage. Do unto your spouse as you would have them do unto you, a marital version of the Golden Rule, just jumped off the page and hit me in the face.
How do I know what is best for Rich, my husband? Well, the book teaches to step into his shoes and be on the receiving end of what I dish out… Uh…yeah… So, every time I feel frustrated or ready to criticize, I need to pause and think about how it would feel if I were on the receiving end of what I’m dishing out. I need to reflect on the effects of my behavior on him.
Since I’m quick to see what is missing and name it, my growing edge is to learn how to name it in a way that doesn’t attack or blame him…say it in a way that is mindful of being in his shoes, of being on the receiving end of what I’m doling out. Jeepers, if I approach things this way I’ll probably end up dropping most things as I’ll realize they don’t matter, that I’m just looking for an outlet for pent-up frustration and Rich is handy. I hate the thought of this last bit, but may be…
The book teaches that, at times, this approach doesn’t always lead to a warm, fuzzy place…at times it means thinking about what is best, even if it is difficult. For instance, it mentions arranging an intervention for an addicted spouse, an uncomfortable move but one in their best interest. Or, confessing sins or hard truths, in the interest of honesty and real intimacy.
At other times, this idea manifests more mildly, like not blaming one’s spouse, but simply stating how something makes one feel and what one plans to do about it (i.e. I feel frightened when you yell at me, next time it happens I will leave the room until we are able to engage in calm discussion.)
With Christmas approaching and no cash in pocket, maybe this can be my gift to Rich. Empathy in action, even in marriage. Well, well, Merry Christmas my dear…
*written by Henry Cloud and John Townsend