At a ministry conference last week, one of the speakers suggested that we always ask the question, “What is it like to be on the other side of me.” That was powerful, and a bit scary, because we never know how another human being will answer that question if asked to give an honest answer. As a joke, one of the participants hollered out, “Yea, ask everyone except your spouse!” The speaker chuckled and replied quickly, “Actually, that is the first person you should ask.”
How would your spouse respond if you asked that question of them? Would they respond with complements in the way you talk to them, your tone, your demeanor? Or, would they take that opportunity to list out the ways in which you belittle them, scold them, or disrespect them? Or, maybe a mixture of both? This hit home the other night when I was telling our teenage daughter about the time when I was 7 months pregnant with her and my husband and I were putting wallpaper up in her nursery. I laughed and joked that we haven’t hung wallpaper since then because it practically ended in divorce due to his constantly telling me what I was doing wong! My husband looked over the dinner table at me and said, with a wry smile, “Honey, you’ve never accepted criticism well.” I quickly replied that it wasn’t the criticism that upset me, it was his tone which was angry and hurtful. It’s fascinating how we remembered that incident so differently and remembered each other’s actions so differently.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how we are so unaware of how we appear to others. It would explain why we are so baffled at times when someone is upset with us only to find out that the tone in our voice hurt their feelings or the email we sent had an undertone of sarcasm or anger that was implied. Having “emotional intelligence” is crucial when working with other human beings – and living with them. Knowing ourselves is tough, but can be the best growing experience we ever have. And, in a marriage, it can literally save a relationship.
How often have you asked that question to those you love the most? Make a date for you and your spouse to ask this question of each other – “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” Include the good things and the not so good things. Be kind and honest and choose your words wisely. Hear each other with non-defensive attitudes and soak the information in at first. Plan time at a later date to really talk about it after you’ve let it soak in. Then, develop a personal plan to alter your negative behavior based on the things your spouse share with you.
This is tough, so good luck! But, honesty like this is so valuable in a marriage. Cherish it!