Is your marriage struggling because you don’t know how to stop working?
In a marriage coaching conversation that I had recently with a couple they shared they were struggling with giving each other unsolicited advice instead of listening and supporting each other. This reminded me of something my son said to me when he was a teenager (he’s 32 now, so this was a while ago).
He was going through a challenge and was really troubled. So I started to help him. I know how to help people. At the time, I had been a pastor for at least 15 years. I started giving him some advice, direction, counsel, and input. He stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Dad, I don’t need you to be my pastor, I need you to be my Dad.”
Until my son told me this, I never realized how I would remain in “work mode” when I got home. But my son didn’t need a pastor, he just needed a Dad. He didn’t want me to “fix” his problem. He didn’t need me or want me to give him advice. He also didn’t want to feel like just another person that I was there to help. He needed me to listen. He needed me to seek to understand what he was going through and validate his struggle. He wanted to be a son and me to be his Dad.
I remind myself to listen and try to understand rather than thinking about what I’m going to say to fix their problem.
I learned a big lesson that day. Now after helping people all day long, I take off my “pastor” hat when my family gets home. When my wife or kids have struggles and start telling me about their challenges, I remind myself that I’m a dad, or a husband and not a pastor. I remind myself to listen and try to understand rather than thinking about what I’m going to say to fix their problem. When my kids or wife feel understood, then they sometimes ask, “So what do you think I should do?” Occasionally, I have a brilliant piece of advice to offer. Other times, I simply say “I don’t know, but let’s pray and ask God.”
Maybe you can relate to this. Perhaps you and your spouse tend to go into fix it mode and give unsolicited advice to each other all the time like the couple I was coaching. Perhaps you have a job where you give advice to people just like pastors or maybe you’re a boss and you tell people what to do all day.
Remind yourself that your family and friends need you to be a friend, a spouse or a parent and not someone who is always giving advice.
What happens when you get home? Do you remain in “work mode” and seek to fix everyone’s problems and give orders? If you share a challenging situation at work, does your spouse try to give you advice even though he or she doesn’t really know what is going on? I’m wondering if it would be helpful for you to make a mental shift out of “work mode” when you head home. Let me suggest that you remind yourself that your family and friends need you to be a friend, a spouse or a parent and not someone who is always giving advice. Perhaps if you became a better listener, maybe your spouse would start doing this too.
God’s word tells us: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19) Please let me know if I can help you with your marriage or parenting challenges or anything else.
What are you struggling with today?