One of the best pieces of relationship advice I was ever given, came from my mother-in-law. Early in my marriage she shared herstory with me and I have been putting it to use for years.
During the early years of her marriage my mother-in-law found herself getting angry at her husband over and over again. When an anniversary, birthday or other special occasion came along he never lived up to her expectations. She hoped for a romantic dinner and would get tickets to a sporting event. She hoped for a piece of lingerie and she received candy.
Finally, well and truly fed up with the situation, my mother-in-law mentioned her dilemma to a friend fully expecting her friend to take her side.
Instead, the friend looked at her in astonishment and said, “Wow, I had no idea your husband was a mindreader.”
My mother-in-law was confused.
“What are you talking about,” she asked her apparently drunk friend.
“Well, if you are mad at him because he didn’t do what you wanted him to do for Valentine’s day and you didn’t tell him what it was you were hoping he would do, then you must assume he is a mindreader.”
It was a bit of a sarcastic way to get to the point, but the point was made none-the-less.
The best part of this is advice is that it doesn’t apply simply to our marriages.
I have thought about this before getting angry for my toddler for doing something he was not supposed to do. After all had I ever really told him not to drink directly from the dog bowl before?
I have used it with my older children, with people I work with and with friends. But recently, I realized I had lost the plot in my relationship with my coach.
I found myself frustrated with my coach because he was giving me one hard workout after another and my home life was just too crazy for that at the time. Why did he keep giving me hard workouts while I am just barely keeping my head above water as it is?
Keep in mind that my coach is in Colorado and works with a few dozen athletes. Keep in mind that I was doing the workouts and they were helping me to become faster and more efficient.
But I was still getting angry with him. Then, in the middle of a run my mother-in-law’s story came back to me and I realized that I had never told my coach what was going on in my life. I hadn’t explained how I had taken on a new project, my dog had died, my mother was sick and needy and to tell the truth I was just plain emotionally exhausted.
After the run, I put all of these things in my log. A couple of hours later I received a bemused call from my coach telling me how sorry he was he had not known all of these things before. For a couple of weeks we backed off a little, doing easier workouts until I felt like I was breathing a little easier and once again we are back on track.
There are very few mindreaders in the world and none of them are in my life, so I have stored my mother-in-law’s story and I am lucky to be able to pull it out, dust it off and put it to use regularly.