Eric is characterized by having one idea after another. His mind is always working and thinking of new ways to accomplish tasks, new services that can be provided to bless people, or new ways to have fun. For a long time, he would come home from work and immediately share with me the new ideas he had thought of during the day. In his mind, he was simply sharing his ideas (which for someone with his personality is a big deal), but in my mind, he was bombarding me with new tasks that needed to be researched and implemented into our lives.
After several years of marriage, I realized that when he shares an idea it’s simply that: an idea. Since I don’t think of many new ideas (I tend to live by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule), I am generally quite serious when I present my new ideas to Eric. Once we realized that we each had widely differing views on the role of ideas, we were able to better understand each other.
Before we learned our differences in this area, I had a negative coping mechanism for dealing with his daily “idea attacks.” Without realizing it, I would immediately start thinking of reasons why his new idea would not work. It was like a compulsion. Even before thinking his comments through, I was already looking for five to ten reasons why we should disregard his latest inspiration. Apparently, shutting him down was like breathing to me.
When he would confront me about how much it bothered him, I responded that I was trying to be helpful. It’s true – I was trying to be helpful by showing him how his latest greatest idea would fail so he wouldn’t put himself (and me) though something unprofitable. What I didn’t mean to do was shoot down his enthusiasm, but that’s exactly what was happening.
If I had been thinking about the situation clearly (which is hard to do when you are in the middle of it) I would’ve realized what an honor it is to have Eric share his mind with me. Eric sharing his mind with me takes as much trust as it would for me to share my heart with him. Out of everyone in the world, he wanted to come home and talk to me. That perspective shift was helpful. What was also helpful was accidentally walking a mile in his shoes.
Recently my sister-in-law straightened my hair. We’d been talking about what I would look like with straight hair, so she brought her Chi over and we had some fun girl-bonding time. After she finished, I was amazed at how different my hair looked. For those of you who don’t know me, my hair is extremely curly. Children have referred to the hair on top of my head as “bumpy.” ~smile~
We took some pictures and sent them to a few people who have known me for years. Most reactions were positive and affirming, but there was that one reaction that quickly deflated me. Someone I sent pictures to politely remarked (in paraphrase) that she really liked my curly hair and then said that straightening it all the time would take a lot of time and probably wouldn’t be worth it. Perhaps she just didn’t like the change, perhaps she really didn’t like my hair straight, or perhaps she was just trying to reassure me that my curly hair was acceptable. But, whatever the reason, I lost a lot of my excitement.
I wasn’t planning to straighten my hair every three days for the rest of my life. I was just happy to have another option! After hanging up the phone with her, I started to complain about her reaction – then it hit me – she reacted to my new hairdo (i.e., idea) the way I often react to Eric when he mentions something new to try. It was a cold, wet smack in the face for me.
Thankfully, I had a situation come along that allowed me to walk a short mile in Eric’s shoes. When I’m tempted to shut down his ideas, I can immediately remember the disappointment I felt when my straight hair was dismissed by someone I thought would be excited with me.
Do you and your sweetheart have frequent arguments over the same issues? Is there that one area where you and he or she cannot see eye to eye? Try taking a walk in his or her shoes and pray for an example so you can understand him or her. It doesn’t mean that you will immediately agree on everything after experiencing life from his or her point of view, but it will certainly help you understand him or her better and give you the ability to apply more grace in those tough areas of your relationship.
Have you ever taken a walk in your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s shoes?