If you haven’t yet, watch the video above. Go ahead, I think you’ll enjoy it.
I want to tell you a story about a younger and more foolish me. One evening as my wife and I were talking about our day, she started to share a story with me about some conflict taking place at work. Now at this point in time I was just starting my masters program and had just recently learned some communication and conflict resolution skills, which I obviously had not paid close enough attention to. So I got excited, thinking to myself, this is a great opportunity to teach my wife what I have learned! So I begin to layout preciously what she should do to resolve this conflict at work. I was even trying to be as fair and unbiased as I could be by pointing out some of the ways she could change, too. (I said I was foolish!) To my utter surprise, she got upset and made this statement which has stuck vividly in my mind since; “I don’t want you to try and fix my problem, I just want you to be here with me and support me.”
Now I know what I didn’t then; it’s not about the nail, because the nail isn’t in my forehead. I made my wife’s conflict at work my conflict, and then tried to fix it as if it were my own. This inevitably leaves her feeling alienated and rejected and me being confused and hurt that my advice wasn’t accepted. What she needed from me was to validate her experience and help her to feel supported and secure enough so she could find a way to fix her own problem. Otherwise I’m sending her the message of “I don’t think you are capable of handling this on your own.” There is a time and a place to offer advice and insight, but only when it’s been invited. Nobody likes unsolicited advice.
I also learned something else about removing nails from foreheads, I’m not a surgeon. You see, I also forgot my role. It was around this time (or possibly even this very conversation) which she kindly reminded me that I was not her therapist, but her husband. I am called to be a loving, supportive husband; not to therapize away her problems. I am good at what I do, when I remember what it is I’m supposed to be doing. Being a good therapist doesn’t necessarily make for being a good husband. These roles call for different responses. I have had to learn how and what my wife needs from me as her husband. And I would encourage any of you to learn the same; what does your spouse need from you as a loving husband or wife?
Fortunately for us, my wife was able to speak with enough clarity for me to hear her and respond. After that conversation it started to click for me. I can be supportive and I know how to have her back; honestly it’s a lot easier than finding the right answer to the problem! If you are a guy or gal in a similar position, remember that it’s not your nail to remove and it’s not your role to remove it. Simply affirm your spouse, show them loving support, and help them feel safe and secure enough to take on removing their own nail.