Reflecting on 2020: What I Learned About “Shoulding”

Reflecting on 2020: What I Learned About “Shoulding” December 28, 2020

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

If I reflect on the past year and all the things I have learned from my relationships, I will say that the most blatant growing pain has come from learning this very simple truth: Your partner should not do the thing you claim they should do, under any circumstances.

Now, I am not talking about taking the garbage out, swirling his lips to the left while he’s between your legs, or taking his turn with dishes, bathing the kids, or getting the oil changed.

I’m talking about those instances wherein your partner comes to you with a conflict and asks for support or advice on what to say or do to resolve that conflict.

A good example is my own husband’s concerns about the conflicts with his family and his farming operation.

He always came to me to be a sounding board, knowing I will hold space for him, hear him, give him a table to dump all his emotions out on. I’d help him sort through the stuff he dumped on the table. I would validate his feelings. My goal when listening is to act as a lightning rod, the way he does for me. The way my friend and Pastor of Heartway Church Danny Prada talked about in episode 15 of Recorded Conversations. A lightning rod holds energy and grounds it so that it doesn’t go all over the place and shock and short circuit surrounding obstacles. My husband does that for me. He holds all my energy—and there’s a lot of volatile energy with me—and he helps me ground that energy by providing all the space I need to release it, no matter how high the voltage. My aim has been to reflect that capacity back to him in his time of need.

And while I am still working on developing that role, I believe that I hear him and hold space for him. The problem that arises is that I sometimes feel inclined to offer too much input, too much advice. I want to give him the perfect way to solve the puzzle. But I continue to catch myself telling him to solve his conflicts the way I would, not the way he would.

Now, sometimes, our partners, loved ones, friends, etc. all offer us wonderful advice that influences the decisions we make. I am not saying we shouldn’t listen to sound advice if we are really in a pickle and are all out of options. But I want to be confident that when I take advice from others, I am still reflecting on all the components I would if I had come to the conclusion on my own. I want to be conscious of the choice I am making. I filter it through my Danielle lens and persona.

However, it was really starting to become evident to me that because my husband was continuing to do it his way, it wasn’t working, so he needed to try it my way. Because I am so brilliant and intuitive after all. (Heavy sarcasm.)

I caught myself shoulding my husband. My friend, Dr. Leslie Goth talked about this idea on one of her appearances on my podcast. She discussed how we should ourselves to the point of self-sabotage and become an obstacle to our own healing and transformation.

“What you should do is this…” Have you ever said that to someone else, or even yourself? Has someone said it to you? When we do what others tell us to do, does that typically work out for us?

While my husband has always offered equally helpful advice, and although I always have really good advice, our own advice is not the answer to the other person’s conflict. You are. I am. We are. Other people can’t remedy our conflicts, only we can.

Knowing this and ignoring this subconsciously, I persisted in informing my husband that if he would just do it the way I told him he should, voila, his conflict would be non-existent. Only, the thing of it is, if I had done it that way, sure, the conflict might cease. But only if I was involved in the conflict. Only his way can solve the conflict. That doesn’t mean that he never alters his way, or that he disregards other advice. It means it is presented in the way he would present it, not me. I present things on fire, he offers things with a cool, crisp drink of water. And other people know that about him. If he came serving fire, the way I would, it would be not only foreign as fuck, confusing those involved in the conflict but it would be an additional irritant to the conflict. (For these reasons, Danielle is not a farmer, but a highly opinionated and controversial writer and podcast host.)

My husband has been a successful farmer, business owner, communicator, and community member because he does things his way, not the way I think he should. Our successes aren’t dependent on the shoulding of others but developed from the being and doing of who we are. Cory isn’t me; he doesn’t handle conflict the way that I do. If he did, his operation would not be what it is. Also, knowing that I don’t handle conflict the same doesn’t mean it’s somehow the wrong way. I handled my own conflicts my way and because of that, I am where I am in my ventures. I wouldn’t be where I am in my life if I handled things the way others, including my husband, told me I should.

So, although plenty of the conflicts have not been handled, others have and they were handled because my husband didn’t do what I told him he should, but what he felt was the best way for him to continue minimal grievances amid the working dynamic. Even if some people insist that my husband report for late mornings by punching a time clock and I believe he should just simply tell these bothersome nosy-Neds that the reason he comes to work late some days is that he was up all night fucking his wife’s brains out, he prefers a more pragmatic approach of not dignifying the question with a response at all.

We can absolutely listen to the advice of others, consider it, and even inject some of their ideas into our own actions for resolution, and all the while, we are still being authentic.


About Danielle M Kingstrom
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