I'm Pretty Sure I Didn't Start Out Wimpy…
Long before the man ever entered the picture I had a crystal clear vision of what we would be together.
I would settle for nothing less than true partnership – one where we would plan together, budget together and learn together. Together we would design our future and together we would revel in the dance of living into it.
When Jeff and I began it was all that and more. We planned, we built, we dreamed in tandem. The world was our oyster and we were certain that together we could accomplish anything.
And then as time passed, the shiny new toy called “togetherness” lost its luster.
More and more we retreated to our separate offices to do our planning.
More and more my girlfriends knew my dreams and celebrated my goals -accomplished while my husband was relegated to the sidelines.
More and more I lived my life, wishing for better from him and for us. Once an advocate of inspiration and partnership I found myself increasingly in the roles of nag and martyr.
My disappointment grew as did my frustration and resentment. I was waiting for my husband to come play with me and I could not understand what had gone wrong.
Start With The Man/Woman In the Mirror
But I knew one thing.
I knew that whenever things are not working the way I want, the first place to look is never over there, but always, always, always right here with the one staring back at me in the mirror.
There had to be something I was contributing here, or not contributing. Something that I was bringing to the equation that wasn’t adding up.
I looked and I wondered and I questioned until one sunny Monday afternoon something hit me like a bolt of lightning.
I had seen this pattern before in a totally different setting with a different cast of characters.
I was suddenly drawn back to around the year 2000 BC (Before Coaching), back to when I was a manager unable to get what I needed from my team. Back to when I resented them and was frustrated with them for not doing their jobs, not being a team, not engaging with me.
It didn’t seem like it at the time but, back then, the problem was in the mirror too.
The day I owned it, took responsibility, stood up and started leading that team – truly, courageously and lovingly leading it – everything changed.
And with that…. The light bulb went on.
I realized I was being a total wimp in my marriage.
Nothing A Spine and A Monster Cookie Can’t Fix
So, the problem was not my guy. The problem was that I was not owning my power.
I was feeling sorry for myself, lamenting the things our relationship wasn’t, wishing that they would be, trying a little… but I knew that I had better in me than that.
I’m the coach for heaven’s sake!
I’m the creator, the dreamer, the planner, the one that makes stuff happen. Heck! That’s a huge part of why he married me!
At what point I succumbed to mediocrity and resignation I am not sure but I can tell you this. I know when I got over it!
In that moment I got clear and I got brazen.
I opened up my Outlook calendar and sent my husband a "Meeting Request."
Subject: “Tonight 7- 8 pre-Chuck Friedman family meeting with wine (on the table, not from the participants) and snacks.” (SEND)
(For anyone who is not a “Chuck” fan – which is probably most of you since it was almost cancelled last season – his name is Chuck Bartowski but you can call him Charles Carmichael, super FBI agent, and he graces our television at 8 pm. on Mondays in one of the cheesiest, light hearted little bits of entertainment fluff around. We are addicted.)
10 minutes later I received the email notification that my meeting request was accepted!! It was on!
I excitedly pulled together the agenda, including discussion on the mission of our family meeting and the creation of a joint code of conduct. We had time set aside to discuss topics ranging from our family budget to division of labor and reinstitution of Sunday soup and bread night.
Next it was off to the store for wine and snacks.
When Jeff arrived home the dining room was set. The agenda sat beside a robust display of wine, meat and cheese, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (Jeff’s favorite) and a monster cookie that comprised of 2 chocolate chip cookies with white goo in the middle and purple and orange icing fur on top with eyes.
How could he do anything but smile?
He sat down looked at the agenda and with a sparkle in his eye said “An hour? We can get this done in less than an hour. Let me start. Division of labor… I can do a lot more there.”
And with that, my heart stirred a little. It was happening, I was doing it. “WE” were back!
As the meeting proceeded there was a growing sense of excitement, anticipation for the life we were creating together and Jeff was right. We were done in 35 minutes and on the couch with Chuck in no time.
The next morning I hit my desk, emboldened by the previous night’s success. I sent out another meeting notice.
Subject: “Pre-chuck Family meeting 7-8 Monday’s with wine and snacks”
Recurring: To infinity
Today the “snacks” are healthier and we are skipping the wine (since it’s a school night and all). We are creating our future together and back to behaving like newly-weds.
Where I used to say, “I have such hope for our relationship” I now see that hope realized everyday and particularly between 7 and 8 Mondays before we hang out with Chuck. And it all happened in an instant, in the moment when I reclaimed my power and took responsibility for my relationship and my life.
The moral of the story….
Just in case you were wondering, “bribe them with food” is not the moral of the story. Don’t get me wrong, it works, but that is not the point.
The point is that, when I was out of my power, I was whining, nagging, sometimes demanding to get my needs met. It was unattractive, threatening and definitely no fun.
When I reclaimed responsibility for my own life, my relationship and my ability to make a difference in my marriage, the veil of frustration was lifted. I became light, energized, confident and playful and suddenly (gasp!) my husband wanted to play!
As you look around your own life, notice where you are striving, pushing, or lashing out in an attempt to get what you want. Notice where you are disappointed or where you are waiting for someone else to make things better for you.
Perhaps you too want more for your marriage, or maybe you have a team to lead. It may be a friend who is not meeting your expectations or even your boss.
Instead of letting frustration and resignation rule the day, instead of complaining or laying blame, take a look in the mirror and ask the person staring back the following:
– What am I bringing to the table?
– How am I contributing to this situation?
– In what ways am I giving away my power?
– If I truly have the power to make a difference, what action can I take?
– If I were 100% committed to this thing I want and willing to take responsibility for what is not working, what action could I take to make it happen?
– If I were to lighten up, what might I try differently?
Enjoy your chat with the person in the mirror and more power to both of you.