The “I Was Just Trying To Help” Syndrome

For a lot of us women, when it comes to our husbands, we have an unconscious refrain jingling in our heads that goes like this: “I know better than he does—I will help him do it right.” With this background music, we quickly develop an air of superiority. We feel qualified to instruct our husbands on how to vacuum the carpet, talk to the children, and negotiate with his colleagues. All the while we tell ourselves that we are simply helping.

For years I truly believed if I could just get my husband to be tidier, more romantic, and more considerate everything would be fine. I told him as much, and while that didn’t improve things at all, it did create wall-to-wall hostility and tension in our home.

For a long time I didn’t even realize I was controlling. I thought I was just being helpful, acknowledging how I felt, and being honest. Little did I know I was shooting holes in the bucket of our intimacy and romance.

On the road to learning how to stop being controlling, I tried to make modifications, tried to be more subtle and even thought I was improving at times. But all of it got me to the same lonely spot: wondering why my husband was withdrawn, distant and defensive.

It wasn’t until I learned to recognize my controlling behavior and make a different choice that the romance returned.

So here’s the choice:

You can choose intimacy or you can choose control but you can’t have both. 

If you choose to try to control someone, the intimacy will disappear. If you choose intimacy, you won’t be in control. Control and Intimacy are opposites. You can only ever have one or the other.

Today I have the ability to ask myself, would I rather be intimate right now or would I rather try to control the situation? And most of the time, the answer is that I would rather have the intimacy.

The scariest part about surrendering to your husband is that it may seem like you’re never going to get your way, but just the opposite is true. When you give up unnecessary control of things your husband does-how he drives, what he wears, what he does at work, and how he loads the dishwasher-you actually gain power in the relationship and in your life.

Doing all the work is not what makes you powerful-it’s what makes you exhausted. On the other hand, relaxing and enjoying yourself while someone else takes care of things is a very powerful position to be in. Certainly the VIP who rides in the limousine is more powerful than the chauffeur who controls the vehicle.

Even if it’s just for a few days, or a week if you’re feeling brave, try to be the VIP instead of the chauffeur in your relationship by relinquishing control to your husband and see what happens. Let him do what he thinks is best and the respect he feels from you will foster more intimacy and romance than any amount of “just trying to help” ever could.

 

Laura Doyle was great wife material–until she actually got married. When she tried to tell her husband how to be tidier, more romantic and more ambitious, he avoided her. She dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced. When she interviewed women who had what she wanted in their marriages she got her miracle: the man who wooed her came back.

She wrote books about what she learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. She is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into 17 languages and helped over 150,000 women revitalize their relationships. She founded an international relationship coaching company and has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America and The View.

The thing she’s most proud of is her gratifying, 27-year marriage with her hilarious husband John, who has been dressing himself since before she was born.

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