’The Manual’ is an instruction guide for people in our lives about how we’d like them to behave so that we can feel good. Usually we don’t even share this manual with people we are close with and often we don’t realize how much pain and suffering it causes us.
We might feel justified having expectations of other people—especially our husbands, but when your emotional state is tied to him behaving a certain way, this is where we run into problems. Why? Because the belief that we would be happier if someone behaved a certain way is putting all our power in the hands of another person. Most adults do not behave exactly as we’d like them to 100% of the time. I’d argue that they don’t behave the way we’d like them to MOST of the time, and even though they may do things that give you positive thoughts and positive feelings at times, they won’t be able to or even want to do such things much of the time.
You can explore the Manual you have for your husband by doing the following exercise. Take a sheet of paper and don’t worry about writing nice things or things other people would agree with, and don’t edit what pops into your head.
- Write, in detail what you would like your husband to do
- For each item, write down why you want him to behave in this way
- How do you think you would feel if he behaved this way?
- How would your thoughts about him change if he behaved this way?
- Do you want him to behave this way even if he doesn’t want to? Why or why not?
- What do you make it mean when he doesn’t behave this way?
So what to do with this? Just notice. Be curious. Question whether or not having a manual for him is causing you pain. Consider dropping some of the expectations you have of him and notice what happens. Consider how some of the thoughts you have about him affect your actions when he doesn’t behave the way you want him to. Oh, and if you want help navigating through this, consider working with a marriage coach—I happen to have a good recommendation for you 😉