What You See Is What You Get

Dear Karen,

 I am really unhappy about something – I hope you can shed some light on why my husband is being such an idiot.  He is a total workaholic, and can’t seem to carve out any time for me.  I tell him how upset I get when he’s not around, and he just doesn’t seem to hear me.  He’s a little better about taking time out for the kids, which is one point in his favor.  Is this hopeless?  Am I just going to have to live like this?  I’m not sure I can. – Rachel

 Dear Rachel,

 Your frustration seems to be pretty high right now.  Let’s see if we can diffuse some of it.


 The very first thing I’m going to offer here – and it’s one of my very favorite areas to focus on when I’m working with clients – is that you could benefit from a little “perception adjustment training”.

 Here’s one of my favorite phrases (I would even say it is THE most important philosophy I have ever adopted as a guide to help me in the way I conduct myself in my life):

 Perception is a choice. 

 I know most of the time it sure doesn’t feel like we’re “choosing” to see what to us looks like THE truth, but I can’t encourage you strongly enough to work with this idea (at least in your marriage, if nowhere else). 

 How does this work?  Well, let’s play with something you said in your question.

 Your 1st take on things:

 “My husband is a workaholic idiot.”

 Your potential 2nd take on things:

 “My husband is a devoted provider who is willing to sacrifice time with me and the kids so that we get everything he believes we need and want.”

 The 1st perception is going to create hurt feelings (yours), judgment on your part (of him), and a big wedge will be driven between the two of you (that you put there). 

 The 2nd perception creates the possibility of you feeling closer to your husband, and even – maybe – more appreciative of him and what he does for you and your kids. 

 All with a simple shift in perception.  AND, if you’re willing to see it, the 2nd perception choice is entirely possible, isn’t it?


 Now let’s deal with the part of your question that sounds like you may not be communicating your needs in a way he hears very well.  It appears to me that what you do is complain, which is another way of telling him he’s doing something wrong.

 How inspired do you feel when someone is criticizing you?  I’d bet not very. 

 That old advice is so true: we get more with honey than with vinegar.

 Try this approach:

 “Honey, I appreciate how hard you work for us.  You provide a wonderful lifestyle, and we are very lucky to have you for a husband and father.  One thing I wish we could figure out is how to have more “us” time, because I miss having special time that’s just the two of us, like we had before we had kids.”

 Then go about your business, and over time, be willing to notice any signs he heard you – no matter how small or insignificant they may feel to you – and shower him with appreciation for the efforts he’s making. 

 In conclusion: attention on anything is like a fertilizer…it will grow!  Focus on your workaholic idiot, and he’ll be more of that.  Focus on (and appreciate) the hard-working, self-sacrificing provider, and he’ll be more of that.  It’s pretty much up to you. 

 What’ll it be, ma’am?