“Every time I turn around, it’s the same damn thing; I’m getting tired of the same old roller-coaster!” These are the words of a friend on the other end of the phone. He is telling me about his relationship and how things never seem to get any better; how they seem to stay the same. When I ask him to explain further, he states, “I don’t know why she doesn’t get it. I only tell her things to help her out. I can see that she is getting ready to do something dumb and I step in to stop her, but instead of thanking me, she says she isn’t a kid. Well, if she isn’t a ‘kid’ why then does the situation turn out like I knew it would?”
I can sense my friend’s frustration, but I also know where his wife was coming from. “May I ask what your true motivation is for telling your wife how to behave?” This takes him a few minutes to answer. I believe he is searching for a pseudo answer and not the truth so I prompt him to be truthful. He then says that he does so to prevent her from ending up in crazy situations. To this, I ask if what he really means is that, he wants to prevent her from having to face certain consequences. He says yes.
Although well meaning, my friend behaves as so many of us do. We believe we are giving advice to someone when in fact what we are doing is taking control of their ability to make decisions and allow them to deal with the consequences; good or bad. When we are more concerned with the actual choices our loved one make, we are not simply giving advice, we are taking control. We go from giving advice to taking over! True advice, is given for information sake only. When we get upset when the person does not do like we think they should, we have from advising to taking over! No one wants to have someone take over if not asked to.
I then say to my friend, “Think of it this way. Your wife’s decisions are the same as her driving a car. She may allow you to ride with her (give advice) but you are still only a passenger. She has control of the steering wheel, gas, breaks, signals, etc. She is in control. You may have ideas, suggestions, advice, opinions, and that is all good and dandy, but she is in control of her choices. The only time there is a steering wheel, brake, etc on the passenger side of a car is when the driver is in training. Are you saying your wife is in training or is she an adult driving the decisions of her life? I hear the ah-ha moment taking place in his heart and he slowly exhales.
He says he didn’t realize he was taking control from her and that that was not his intentions. He says he owes her an apology and that he will be sure to take assessment of himself as he is offering advice. I tell him I know he meant well, but that others in his life, not just his wife, will enjoy talking with him more and hearing what he has to offer if he truly does learn to remove himself from taking control of their actions; even if they are the ones he would make. No one wants to be made to do what someone else wants. We were created to make decisions and we have the right to enjoy the consequences of our decisions – good or bad. It allows us growth, discovery, it is what life is designed for. Choice truly is our God-given right to do as humans and no one, absolutely no one should take that from us. Life is a journey – enjoy the ride as the driver and/or the passenger!