Updated: Mar 3
You can't control your spouse. But you can influence him and become his goddess.
An overwhelmed mother emailed me seeking advice. My first response is here:
Her next concern was regarding her spouse:
"My husband works [in a high-stress job] and it feels like he doesn’t want to deal with life and problems when he gets home.
It’s been years of work and heavy burdens for us both. I feel like I’m always the enforcer and load carrier at home with [home]school and homemaking and discipline. I haven’t ever felt confident in any of those positions. But I learned and worked and figured out how to get by.
I tried to train the kids. (I often feel like he could be on the team a little better.) I know what I think about him is probably critical and biased, but how do I change that? How do I overcome years of resentment for unmet needs while I feel like I have been giving 110%?
What can I do?
First of all, way to go for working hard and figuring things out. Next, there is a way to make things better -- so that you feel more confident and competent and happy in your marriage and family life.
Let's start with the hard truth. There is nothing you can do about your husband.
Most people don't like to hear this. They believe, "If only my spouse/child/parent would change then my life would get better."
That may be true. But there is NOTHING you can do about that.
The other side of that coin is that "If only I will change then my life will get better."
That is something you have control over, so that's where you put 110% of your focus.
And yes, you already feel like you've given 110% for years.
Like I mentioned previously, the main reason resentment exists (and/or a lack of confidence) is because YOUR NEEDS ARE NOT BEING MET -- BUT THAT'S BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT BEING MET BY YOU. You are not taking care of yourself.
I'll discuss self-care in a moment. But first, let's address resentment (and other negative emotions).
Despite what we often believe, getting other people to change or changing our circumstances is NOT the answer to changing our negative/unwanted feelings.
The ONLY way to change feelings of resentment (or any negative emotion) is to decide what we would like to feel instead, and then to intentionally generate those feelings.
(Side note: There is a difference between feelings and emotions. They are not the same. Emotions just happen. But we get to choose our feelings.)
Most people go through life allowing the situations and/or chaos of each day to determine how they will feel based on the emotions that arise or are triggered during daily, weekly, or monthly interactions.
'Extraordinary-Lifers' decide beforehand how they want to feel and what energy/emotion they will bring to each interaction and experience.
When something occurs that brings up an emotion such as anger, resentment, or disappointment, they use their ability to CHOOSE to process their emotions (NOT to stuff or bury) and then change them into the feelings they want to experience.
The emotion (resentment) is the reaction. The feeling is the interpretation or decision.
Yes, how you feel is a decision you have made (consciously or unconsciously).
Here's what Brendon Burchard has to say about it in High-Performance Habits:
"When we stop being conscious of our feelings [interpretations] we get in trouble. Then the negativity of the world can start stirring negative emotions, which, if we don't control the meaning of, can evoke long-term negative feelings, which in turn set the stage for a horrible life.
But if we seek to experience life and all its emotions and yet choose to feel centered, happy, strong, and loving right through the ups and downs, then we've accomplished something powerful. We've wielded the power of willful feeling, and suddenly life feels the way we want it to.
Recognize that resenting your husband is not serving you and then decide what you want to feel instead.
Those emotions won't change overnight. They developed over years so it will at least take weeks or months to replace them. But if you're consistent then they will change.
And you can do this in every relationship and situation in your life. Start asking questions like:
What emotions have I been experiencing a lot lately?
What feelings would I like to have on a more regular basis?
What areas of my life would I like to feel better about? What feelings would I like them to have?
The next time I start experiencing emotions I don't want to I am going to reinterpret them by...
Now on to self-care...
Self-care is not selfish. In fact, it is essential to great parenting, marriage, and household management.
If you were taking care of yourself than there would be no need to feel resentment toward your husband or children.
When you take care of yourself then you're capable of giving 110% (x seven if needed) because you're no longer drawing from an empty well.
And an amazing side benefit that occurs when you don't OBSESS or EXPECT things from your spouse is that they start to respect you more and begin to change too.
One thing we forget in marriage and family life is that expectation without agreement is a form of manipulation.
When you expect things from your spouse (help, support, etc.) and he hasn't agreed to it or offered it, then you are actually using a form of manipulation.
Then your relationship starts to get toxic. You expect him to do something he doesn't want to or hasn't agreed to do. You get upset or resentful when he doesn't do what YOU expect. It's a vicious cycle.
The only way to break this cycle is to stop expecting things from him and to start expecting more from yourself.
I used to THINK I was 'giving it my all' (110%)... but in reality, I just lacked the capability to 'get things done'. I wasn't as efficient or effective as I needed to be to make family life easier.
When I improved my skills, my thinking, and my training (expected more of myself) then I was able to give MORE and do more and BE more with less effort and less stress.
The person you currently are CANNOT achieve what you dream or imagine. Whether it's more peace in your family, more time to yourself, more help from your husband -- you CAN'T achieve those things as the person you are right now.
The ONLY way to reach them is to change your identity. To become stronger, better, more capable of managing, leading, directing, influencing, and training (yourself and others).
One of my 'affirmations' that I rewrite every morning is:
I change my identity every day.
Remember, the gap between where you are and where you want to be (your future BEST SELF or BEST FAMILY) can only be bridged by developing new skills.
Take care of yourself first. Meet your needs. You can't draw from an empty well.
And then BECOME the enforcer. BECOME the load carrier. BECOME the homemaker and disciplinarian. BECOME confident in 1) deciding if these roles are important and/or necessary for your long-term goals and then 2) doing them and doing them well.
Embrace and ROCK your chosen roles. Do them so well that you become a goddess in the eyes of your husband (even though you're not doing it for him, you're doing it for yourself).
And then instead of just 'getting by' and looking to him to 'deal' with the problems when he gets home, he'll be wanting to prove that he's worthy of you and will show you through his actions.
This isn't an overnight solution. It may take months or (hopefully not) years.
But I promise you, even though it might seem hard from where you're standing now, once you step into your roles and ROCK them, your husband will start to see you with new eyes.
And even more important, you'll see yourself differently.
You can receive live monthly group coaching from me and my husband on how to train yourself (improve your skills) and your family so you can get stop managing and start LEADING your family life.
You can also learn more about leading your family with the Habits of a Successful Family course.