My Pastor showed us this video at one of our couples group meetings.
We all got a good chuckle out of it but then realized that this short clip takes a serious issue and puts humor to it. The issue is that men (and in some cases, women) have this strange desire to constantly fix things; things around the house, things in your relationship, things in your personal life, things in his personal life, things at work, things with the kids, and on and on and on.
However, the constant need to fix things isn’t the biggest issue within this little segment; or even in our daily lives. The bigger issue is listening. I’m not talking just sitting down and mindlessly nodding during a conversation; listening. I’m getting at the active listening; rephrasing and repeating what we are saying, not offering immediate advice on how to fix things. Because quite frankly, not everything needs to be fixed.
A couple friend of ours struggles with this as well. When we were talking about how they handle situations where one feels the need to be listened to, the wife said it’s more of her going to him with things that she feels are issues or situations that need addressing. It used to be where they would talk and he would almost shut down; no emotion, no feedback, nothing. Then, it went the opposite way, he wanted to offer an immediate fix to majority of the things they talked about. She said it took some work, but now he is at the point where when she comes to him and voices concerns, he sits and listens, goes through a phase where he meditates/contemplates on what needs to be done, and then offers feedback and suggestions. This also came up as a topic at our last couples group through church. One question that got brought up within the group could really benefit not only these friends of ours, but everyone else; “Do you want me to fix this or should I just listen?”
I know in my relationship with Shane, I get easily frustrated when it comes to how to handle certain situations with M&M, or complain about how one upset customer/employee at work (even though it’s not directly at me) can just make my entire day feel off, or how the dogs won’t quit playing and I just can’t get them to listen. It’s all dumb little stuff, but sometimes I just need to vent for 10 minutes and get it off my chest.
We just had one of these situations last night. I was voicing my concern about how we need to continue to mold M&M into these functional human beings, and neither one of us can do that if we keep catering to their bad habits. (By bad habits I mean acting spoiled, constant whining, the constant need for approval or praise, so on and so forth — we are both guilty of doing so.) Yes, they are children, but they are not YOUNG children anymore. They need to be treated like the young adults that they are. They are at the age where their trying to form their own identity and break out into the world around them and they can’t do that if we are constantly holding their hand or trying to pave the way for them.
As I was voicing my thoughts, opinions, and frustrations with some of the things that had gone on, I could tell I was getting more and more frustrated. My emotions were now feeding into my thoughts and I couldn’t stop it. I could tell Shane was at the point where he wanted to be done talking about it but neither one of us knew how to shut it off. Now, it didn’t turn into a fight, but it sparked a need to fix something… for ME to fix something.
We discussed it a little bit more off and on throughout the night and finally we had reached an agreement on how to handle these issues should they come up again; and they will. But being a woman and being emotionally charged, I could not let it go. I wasn’t feeling frustrated, I wasn’t upset with Shane, but I had reached a point where now I wanted to go get the kids and begin working on these changes… NOW.
Know that an immediate fix wasn’t possible, I laid in bed trying to think of ways to prepare ourselves for when they come back on Friday. Honestly, I don’t even know if I came up with any ways or if I did, what they were. Next thing I know, I wake up, look at the clock and its 2:30 AM.
After a full nights sleep, I woke up this morning not really feeling a change in how I felt. Actually, I think I almost felt worse. In fact, felt guilty… selfish almost. I had let my emotions run my thoughts and even though I was talking with Shane and I was listening to him, I wasn’t hearing all of what he was trying to say. All of my frustrations could have been avoided if I would have just actively listened to him.
It takes a lot of effort to go from passive listening to active listening, but I’ve set it as a goal for myself, and for the kids as well when they get back. We (as a family) need to work on actively listening to one another better, engaging in conversation and asking each other “Do you want me to fix this or do you just want me to listen?”