Have you ever thought about how many opportunities you have to feel respected (or not) and offended (or not) in your marriage?
There are so so so many daily chances to make that vital choice.
An unemptied garbage can.
Socks on the floor.
Cap off the toothpaste.
Kid walking right past dad on the couch to ask you for a drink of water while you’re trying to take a bath.
So many seemingly little things that can pile up in a most challenging way.
And that’s not even counting the big stuff.
When he insults you directly.
The list could go on.
There are so many opportunities to choose feeling disrespected and offended.
Good news is, it’s ALWAYS a choice.
Even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Let’s explore the gambling example.
Take a look.
While most people might agree that gambling the family funds away is disrespectful to a man’s wife and family, there are people in the world who would not agree.
It’s possible that some women view gambling as entertainment. A woman thinking that way might simply shrug the loss off as part of the game.
It’s likely that a very rich woman might just roll her eyes at the gambling loss, dismissing it all as her husband’s bad, but most benign, habit.
And another wife might be completely outraged by what she views as her husband’s careless disregard for the family budget and savings goals.
In each scenario, the husband came home from the casino with less money than he had when he left.
And his wife’s response to the subtraction from their bottom line was entirely based on her thinking about that change – not on the gambling itself.
Hang with me.
If the wife’s emotional response were based on the gambling, every wife in the world would have to feel the EXACT same way when her husband lost money at the casino.
But they don’t.
This fact is crucial because it opens your mind to the possibility that there might be multiple ways to respond to your husband’s behavior.
This is great news.
And here’s why.
When the only possible interpretation of gambling is “he’s being disrespectful” the only emotional choice for you is to be hurt and feel disrespected.
Let me be clear that it’s a totally valid choice to stay with the above sequence (I’m choosing to think he’s disrespectful and I want to be hurt because of it) if you want to.
The key is to ask yourself if hurt and disrespected is the emotional experience you want to have in your marriage.
Again, if you discovered your husband was gambling, It’s very possible that your answer would be, “Yes. I want to feel hurt and disrespected because I want to believe the way I believe about this.”
No need to change that.
Unless you don’t want to feel hurt and disrespected anymore.
If you’re looking to move to something other than hurt and disrespected, that’s available to you as well.
The way to move on from painful feelings is to get genuinely curious about what might have been going on in his brain when he made the decisions he made. It’s possible that the story he’s telling himself doesn’t include him disrespecting you or your family.
I have no idea because I don’t know him at all, but I’m guessing he could provide some thoughts of his own that aren’t driven by whether or not he respects you.
Maybe he was feeling desperate and wanted a quick fix.
Maybe he was bored.
Maybe he’d describe his choices as weak and feels shame (which, ironically, often leads to more of the behavior).
Maybe he genuinely thought gambling would be the best strategy to bring in extra money for the family.
The question is, do you want to find out why your husband did that thing you don’t love – knowing that you are not obligated to in any way?
Whatever his answer is for the offense you perceive, please remember that NONE of it is your fault or your obligation to solve.
Every single one of his behaviors is all about what’s going on for him in his brain.
None of it is about you or your family.
And again, the only question for you is – do you want to know more about what’s going on in his brain?
Or do you want to stay settled on the explanation that he’s disrespectful?
Both are valid options.
One choice will drive one kind of emotional experience for you.
The other may drive a different kind.
Whether you get curious about his mindset or not, none of what you’ll find out (or not) means you have to stay in the marriage or that you have to leave it.
I’m only offering that knowing a little more about exactly what was driving him (and reaffirming how none of it has anything to do with you) may give you a clearer picture to help you feel solid in your decision and to have the emotional experience you want to have in your marriage.
Examining his behaviors and words from a place of curiosity frees up a lot more options for you to decide, on purpose, who you want to be in the marriage when he’s doing something you don’t like.
It’s a powerful space to live in. And it’s also much more kind.
Which feels better TO YOU.
The only thing you’ve got to lose is your pain.