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Letting Go Of Control
Trying to control every situation and event in your life and marriage will only cause more havoc. Use these 3 tips to let go and take the situation for what it is.
Your spouse has been under a lot of stress lately, so you decide to plan a really relaxing weekend for the two of you. You make arrangements for the kids to stay over with friends. You make reservations at your spouse’s favorite down-home restaurant. You book movie tickets online. You jam your weekend chores into your workweek and somehow get them all done.
Exhausted, the two of you tumble into bed Friday night with the happy thought of a truly free weekend filled with pleasurable activities in front of you, only to be woken up by your neighbor’s insistent knock far too early the next morning:
"Your dog is running around the neighborhood, terrorizing cats!"
OK, fine. Your spouse and you throw sweats on, and chase through the streets, calling your dog. No sooner have you arrived back home, sweaty and panting, dog in tow, than your 12-year-old announces, irritated and pouting, that his friend has a family emergency and won’t be able to stay over for the weekend.
You grit your teeth, frantically trying to find someone else to park the kids with.
The kids, disappointed, act out loudly. Finally, giving up, you call the restaurant to see if they can accommodate the whole family, but of course they can’t and you don’t even try to do something about your movie tickets. You figure you are somehow cursed, damned for even trying to do something nice, and mutter, swear and generally spend the whole weekend in a foul mood.
Your spouse, meanwhile, fed up with the chaos, your grouchiness and everything else, has retreated to the relative sanity of the internet.
What a disaster! Not the weekend—you! For what un-made the weekend wasn’t so much the events in and of themselves, but how you reacted in the face of them. You were trying, valiantly no doubt, to control the events, an absolute impossibility, instead of responding to them.
You see, control demands that others behave in set, predictable ways. Whether it's the dog, your friend helping out with the kids, the restaurant, or even the weather! None of these are going to behave completely predictably. Certainly, much of the time you can predict situations and behavior, but many times you can't. And it's those times you can't when you need another approach.
When you're in control mode, your first impulse when something goes out of control is to say, "What happened here? Who's fault is it? Get back on track!" Which will work if you have power of life and death over the situation, but that's rarely the case.
"But if I can't control, what do I do?" you cry out, feeling helpless and frustrated.
Try these three easy steps:
1. Acknowledge that the situation is out of control. Engage your sense of humor. It’s a lot better for you, your spouse, your marriage, and even the dog, for you to laugh at a universe that apparently has its own agenda, than to white-knuckle yourself or anyone else into submission.
2. Focus on finding a solution. Guess what? You’re not going to have that romantic relaxing "just us" weekend. Use your imagination and creativity. How can you turn what is now a family weekend into something fun and relaxing for your spouse? Now that you’ve engaged your sense of humor (step 1), you’ll have freed up your brain cells to think in a more positive and fulfilling direction.
3. Enjoy what is. There’s nothing more conducive to happy vibes in your relationship than enjoying what is. Whatever solution you came up with—going to the zoo, dragging out the plastic pool, impromptu backyard barbeque party—deliberately look for ways to enjoy it.
Control feels great. You snap your fingers and people jump. The only problem is, it rarely works for any length of time and almost never when the unexpected happens. You'll get much further ahead giving up on control, responding, and enjoying the situation—transformed as it now must be—than giving up on enjoying your life.
Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a relationship expert, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of nine best-selling books, including her most recent, "Your Man is Wonderful" and "Dangerous Relationships." Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. For more, visit www.noellenelson.com and www.yourmaniswonderful.com/blog.
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