If your husband has cancer, you may have found yourself thinking some of these types of thoughts:
Why can’t he take better care of himself?
He should really be more positive!
He should not get so stressed out, it’s not good for him!
More than likely, you have strong opinions about how he should be taking care of himself. And more than likely, your husband doesn’t always comply, which leaves you frustrated, angry or upset. We care about our husband and of course want them to be healthy and well, and we often feel our expectations are completely reasonable and certainly in their best interest.
In coaching this is called the manual. It is our set of rules or operating instructions for how our husband should behave. Often times, we have never actually shared our manual with our husband or sought their agreement. Instead, we think to ourselves, if they just lived and behaved according to our manual for them, we’d both be happier. When our husband doesn’t listen, or doesn’t do what we want or think they should, then we often end up frustrated, angry, sad, you name it. We make their non compliance mean all sorts of things like they aren’t taking their health seriously, or they don’t love me enough…
Why We Have One
Why do we have a manual for our husband? We love them of course and we think that we know what is best for them. We tell ourselves that if they only behaved in a certain way, they would be better off. We may be muttering to ourselves, if my husband only took better care of himself, he would heal quicker! Or, my husband shouldn’t be so negative, it’s not healthy. And while you may think your have your husband’s best interest at heart, the truth is, your trying to control him so that you can feel better. You want your husband to do or be a certain way because it will make it easier for you to feel better about him.
The Problem With Manuals
The problem is, you are relying on your husband’s actions to make you feel better. All adults, husbands included, have the right to choose for themselves how they think, feel, and act. So that means your husband gets to choose for himself how he wants to behave, no matter what you or his doctor say. The good news is, you also get to choose how you want to think, feel and act.
This can be especially hard when your husband has cancer. Maybe you feel like he is not doing what is best for him. Or maybe he is going against his doctor’s recommendations. But here is the thing, when your tie your emotions to whether or not your husband is complying with your manual for him, you often end up trying to control, manipulate, or even threaten him into doing what you want. Trying to control your husband will rarely work out, even if you think its for his own good. Instead of trying to help and support him from a place of love, you end up in a place of judgement, manipulation and control.
How To Let Go Of A Manual
First – Recognize Your Manual
The first step is to recognize that you have one, especially surrounding his disease. For me, I want my husband to always think positive and never get angry. I want him to always keep me updated on how his treatments are going and to ask me when he needs help. This may sound completely reasonable, but when my husband didn’t do those things I would get very frustrated and it would cause tension between us. The tension made it more difficult for me to be open to how he was really doing. Instead of accepting him, I was judging him. Once I recognized that these were part of my unspoken manual for him, I realized that I wanted those things because I wanted to feel reassured that he has a handle on his cancer treatments.
Second – Identify How You Want to Feel
Think of the top two things you wish your husband would do for his health and ask yourself, if he did those totally willingly, how would you feel? Maybe it’s reassured, confident, at ease. Maybe you just don’t want to worry. The good news is, whatever emotion it is, it is always available to you. All emotions are a choice you have regardless of how your husband behaves.
Third – Let Go of Your Manual, and Come From Love and Acceptance
Let go of your manual and strive to come from a place of love and acceptance instead. When you come from acceptance, you can then make requests of your husband out of love, and not from the need to control him. You have to be willing to accept that he may not agree. However, when your able to drop your judgement and need to control, it will allow you to truly hear his point of view.
Fourth – Focus on Your Own Emotions Instead
Redirect all that energy that was focused on controlling your husband toward taking control and ownership of your own thoughts and emotions. When you focus only on controlling how you behave, and letting your husband be his own person, you may be surprised at how your relationship will change.
I would love your comments! Let me know if you have discovered a manual in your own relationship.