Many of you who have read my work have heard
me talk about ‘The Manual.’ If not, I’ll reiterate–this 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.
might feel justified having expectations of other people, but when your
emotional state is tied to that person 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.
clients I’ve worked with who understand this and have experienced firsthand that
it is their thoughts about someone else’s behavior (not the behavior itself)
that determines how they feel have asked me, “well, what about the fact
that I want to be with someone who will surprise me with something special and
treat me like a queen on my birthday?” Is that a manual?
when I’d ask a client to consider the following questions:
- So what if your partner did NOT act this way on
- What would you make it mean?
- Would you want him to do this even if he didn’t
want to? If so, why?
- Do you understand that you have the option to
feel (happy, cherished, etc.) on your own, whether or not he behaves this way?
will know you are learning to drop your manual and are moving toward a state of
taking responsibility for your own emotions if you are able to make requests with
no strings attached.
is also what I call voicing your preferences and making a clean request. This
might look like telling your husband that you think it would be awesome if he
surprised you with something special on your birthday and not thinking negative
thoughts when he comes home with ‘only’ flowers and a card for you or comes
home from work having not made plans and asks you what you’d like to do for
your birthday. You don’t feel resentment
toward him and you recognize that any disappointment you feel is based on the
thoughts you choose to think–and that you can choose to think thoughts that
don’t make you feel disappointed!
it comes to preferences, I’d ask you to question whether or not having those
preferences is serving you. With the client above, she had not yet met this
dream man who would surprise her and treat her like a queen on her
birthday. It’s great that she has a
vision in her mind of her ideal partner, but is she limiting herself to the men
she could have an amazing relationship with even if they don’t act the way or
possess certain qualities she would like them to? What if she meets someone who
behaves this way while they are dating but things change after they get married
(those of us who are married or have ever been married can attest to the fact
that this is very likely to happen 😉)?
if she could learn to have her own back and think thoughts that generate the
feelings she desires so that she could even date a man who didn’t behave this
way or seem to fit her desired preferences? That could be an option that would
open up so many possibilities for her.
Maybe it would be a skill that could come in handy if she ever decided
to marry one of these men…