Are You His Judge, or His Partner?

Dear Karen,

 My partner is doing something he shouldn’t be doing, and I don’t support him in the way he’s handling things.  He’s being sneaky about it, too, and not telling me what he’s up to.  I want to figure out how to get him to stop doing this stuff that I don’t agree with (sorry I’m being vague, but I don’t want to get into the longer story here).  Got any ideas? – Valerie, MA

Hi, Valerie,

Oh, boy, where do I start?

 There are two “tracks” I’ll address here: 1) whatever he’s doing is not putting you in harm’s way, and 2) it is.

 Let’s start off with #2: he’s putting you at risk.  If that’s the case, you definitely want to let him know that he has got to find a way to stop, and quickly, and also why it’s so important to you.  In this case it is your business, because it impacts you. 

 I always encourage compassionate and loving communication, even in this scenario, so please make sure you’re approaching him from a place of “generosity of spirit” and giving him the benefit of the doubt (“He really didn’t think things through very well, because he was so distracted/upset/etc.”, rather than “Why is he being such a jerk and hurting me like this?”).

 If what he’s doing is very dangerous, you may have to make a decision about drastic next steps, but first, approach him from how you’re feeling and what you need from him.  Be firm, but loving.

 Now let’s talk about the 1st “track”, since the majority of situations, frankly, fall into this group.


 There are some things that men value – almost above all else, and loyalty is one of the highest on their (short) list. 

 When your man is doing something you don’t like, and you decide to take a position of being his judge/critic, you leave that most important “loyalty” zone, and become just another of the many critics and judges he already has in his life. 

 The (hopefully) safe haven of your relationship has just become what the rest of the world feels like to him…a place to be guarded; a place that requires him to keep up his shield.

 And the bummer is that once you’re in the “critic” camp, he’s not as likely to be influenced by you.  So there you sit, upset with him – with a clear idea about how he “should” be handling it – but, because you’re not “on his side” (at least, he won’t feel like you are), you can’t help him see a different way to approach his issue.

 It’s really important that we take seriously our ability to influence the men in our lives.  The balance between men’s “get it done” mono-track focus and our “let’s make sure everyone’s okay along the way” multi-track focus can create amazing things (at home as well as in the world at large). 

 We can’t offer that gift to men if we aren’t being allowed into the “inner circle”; that will take being trusted as their supporters, rather than their critics and judges.


 Can you look at this thing he’s doing that you disagree with and find a good reason for him to be doing it?  It may be a stretch, but if you were committed to finding a reason for supporting him in the choices he’s made, what could you say in favor of the way he’s handled things so far? 

 If you can get yourself into a place where you can “make him right”, then you’ve got a way better chance of helping him handle things in a way that do a better job of honoring who he is (I say this based on the assumption that if he’s sneaking around about this thing he’s doing, there’s some part of him that isn’t in full alignment). 

 He’s doing the best he can, given the resources he’s had available to him, don’t you think?  And without your “approval”, he’s not going to turn to you – probably a tremendous resource for him – to help him have a better option. 

 Find the softness and generosity in your heart, and then help him accomplish his goals in a way that feels good to him.  Become the President of his Fan Club, his #1 Cheerleader, and my guess is that he’ll be turning to you with renewed trust in no time.