“An organisation cannot rise above the quality of its leadership”. So said a wise person. Why do we often assume that the word “organisation” only applies to work outside of home? Give yourself a pat on the back if you see your family as an important organisation, and you the parent as a leader. It is indeed difficult for your family to rise above the quality of your ability to lead as a parent. And the quality of your parenting is related to the words that you use, both positive and negative.
I have often wondered where the saying “Harsh words break no bones” came from. Words do matter. A lot. Words, once uttered, are difficult to erase from memory. You probably know how much words can either lift us or drown us. A kind word put a smile on your face and make you a happier person. You feel lighter; it soothes your heart. Unkind words hurt you; they are the cause of much heartache and broken relationships.
One way to build a better relationship with your spouse is to share the praise and share the blame, with words.
“I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“My parents complimented me on the nice garden. I told them I only started it, but you’re the one who did all the watering and weeding. Well done, dear!”
But sharing the praise is easy. Sharing the blame is not.
The water supply gets cut because someone forgot to settle it. Your child couldn’t sit for his final exams because your spouse promised to pay the tuition fees, and it slipped his mind. You got a summons from the traffic police because your spouse was speeding two weeks ago while rushing to his sister’s wedding as you were dozing off in the car.
Beware of the one-liner, “It’s your fault.” And negative sweeping statements such as “You never . . . [tidy up/ pay the bills on time / have a kind word for me]” or “You always . . . [forget to bathe the baby / leave the bed in a mess / expect me to do as you say]” These are some of the most toxic sentences in a marriage.
Nobody likes to be blamed for something that has gone wrong. If you catch yourself murmuring such words under your breath again and again, or saying them out loud, realise that you are trapped in a vicious cycle. The human mind can only focus on one thing at a time. Pushed into a corner, your spouse will become defensive, uncooperative. He might try to find your faults to get even with you. Or she might withdraw, making it difficult for you both to resolve the situation in an honest, safe way.
Instead of focusing time and energy on solving the problem, you spend time and energy on getting upset. What a waste! Choose to transcend above the blame game. Ask, “What can we learn here?” Or “How could we have handled it differently?” Shift your focus. Your mantra by now should be: “It’s not my problem. It’s not your problem. It’s our problem and it’s you and me against the problem.” Try it.
Remember the early days when you were just married? You would have thought things like, “How do I make him feel valued?”, “How do I make her feel appreciated?” “Would saying such and such do it?”, “Would doing such and such make a difference?” You actually spent time thinking and deliberating what words to use and what actions you need to do to get your message across. That’s right. Growing love needs a regular, deliberate, conscious effort. Without deliberate, conscious effort, the magic of love is difficult to sustain, let alone grow. Growing love works best when it’s done in small doses. Every day. A smile, a hug, a kind word of encouragement when you see her down . . . do them consistently and you’ll reap the rewards in the long run.