By Beth Demme
“If only!” I cried at my husband. “You say you support my ideas, but you don’t really want to help me.”
I was frustrated with my husband over a project we were working on together — this blog, actually. Since my husband is a computer-programmer-genius who runs a tech company, I expected him to wave a magic wand and make my imagination come to life through technology.
You know, snap his fingers– Voilà and Presto, it’s done!
For weeks I had been asking for his help. He kept asking me questions and directing me to take additional steps. For weeks I felt like he’d been dodging the project.
As the days rolled on, our mutual frustration grew. A chasm opened up between us and one night, I fell off the edge. He asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner and I proceeded to explain to him all the ways he was failing me as a computer programmer … and as a husband.
At the end of my sob-filled rant, I actually fired him. (As a programmer, not as a husband.)
The chasm broadened.
As I marinated in my anger, I replayed some of our conversations from the previous week. Just like in the NFL, the replay showed things I hadn’t seen at first. I heard him say:
- I love your idea.
- Everything in our business is really busy right now and I’m worried we won’t get all the work done.
- Let’s hire someone who speaks the right (computer) language to help you.
He even said, “there’s no budget for your project. Spend whatever it takes.”
The replay showed me the ugly truth — I had rejected or ignored all of his ideas while thinking “if only he would help me.” I even fired him! From the replay I could see that I needed to look at my own actions instead of focusing on my husband’s.
Isn’t it crazy how we do this? We focus on what other people are saying or doing, instead of looking to ourselves.
We think life would be “better” if someone else changed.
If only my neighbors were friendlier, I’d feel a lot more welcome here.
If only my Pastor did his job, I’d be happier at church.
If only my client (boss, professor, spouse) was a reasonable human being, I wouldn’t be so stressed out.
If only people weren’t so self-absorbed, I’d have more friends.
How about this one — if only people didn’t drive so slow, I wouldn’t be late all the time! (Um, on second thought, maybe that one is fair.)
When you find yourself wishing everyone around you would change, it’s time to admit that you may be the problem. Instead of thinking “if only he/she/they,” stop and ask, “what can I do?”.
I can’t make my neighbors friendlier, but I can act more friendly towards them.
I can’t tell my Pastor how to do his job, but I can take charge of my own spiritual health.
I can’t force someone else to be reasonable, but I can do my share of the work and choose not to resent the work itself.
I can’t prevent other people from acting self-absorbed, but I can choose to intentionally cultivate meaningful friendships.I can choose not to focus on myself so much.
Once I realized what I’d done, I approached my husband and asked him to try –one more time– to help me. I un-fired him and together we found a solution. The solution involved a lot of work on my part, but it also delivered a deep sense of satisfaction.
I’m much happier when I can be part of the solution instead of the one perpetuating the problem.
(Just in case you’re wondering, this true story was shared with my husband’s permission.)