I’m at my mom’s house, and she’s just asked me to do the dishes.
I don’t want to.
Now don’t get me wrong; I would do just about anything for the woman who gave me life.
But doing the dishes at my mom’s house comes with a certain amount of built-in humility.
Because I know that as soon as I’m done loading the dishes into her dishwasher, she will rearrange them all.
And for the rest of the night I will seethe. Not because of wasted time or effort. But because of my mom’s deafening unspoken message: There is only one right way to load a dishwasher— my way. And you, dear daughter, have done it wrong. Again.
I’m a grown woman with four grown kids. I load a dishwasher at least once (and if I’ve actually cooked and we aren’t just washing coffee cups and cereal bowls? More than once) a day. But my mom always has to make sure that her dishwasher is loaded right.
For the rest of our visit, I’m going to be silently steaming over the dishwasher redo. Because let’s be honest; there isn’t one right way to load a dishwasher. There are about 300 “right” ways to do it.
Have you been there? You just want to love someone, serve them even, but their need to be right squashes your effort to show love?
Sadly, too many times, I’ve been the squasher when it comes to my husband.
When we first got married and blended our family, I knew the right way to run a house. I knew the right place to store the mixing bowls and the right place to keep milk in the fridge.
And I also knew the right way to discipline kids, have a happy marriage, and, well, just about everything.
What I forgot? Roger had a right way to do all of those things as well.
I’ve learned how vital it is to have our priorities in order. To ask ourselves, “Is my first calling to be right or to be in relationship?”
How can you tell? If your priority is to win, if it’s to get him to admit that he is wrong and you are right, if it’s to prove that he should always just do what you say when you disagree because, again, YOU WERE RIGHT, then clearly your priority is to be right.
In contrast, when you focus on being in relationship, you put your relationship before results. You care more about you two as a couple that any one outcome.
What about when you’re right (because I’m guessing that happens a lot,) and want to value your relationship more than the being right?
This is when the third R comes in: Respect.
You can disagree, champion your point, and be right all while maintaining the relationship as long you do so with respect.
When Roger and I are driving to the mall and clearly he is going a different direction than I think we should be heading, I’m tempted to say, “You’re going the wrong way! Again!”
Instead, I can use my favorite “Respect” secret weapon: a Clarifying Question.
Such as, “Is there someplace you wanted to go before the mall?”
And one of the greatest gifts in all of this going from right to respect and relationship is this: when there is less need to win, you both can win by being on each other’s team. You are not opposing each other; you’re linking arms to confront problems, together.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Question of the day: What is one way you are going to focus on relationship over winning in your marriage this week?
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She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.
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