As I pull into my driveway I’m thinking about how awful my day has been. The commute home from work was a nightmare. My boss was on my case all day. He can’t give me 12 projects to do and then expect them all to be done in 15 minutes. A headache has been building for hours; I really hope it doesn’t turn into a migraine. I just want to lay on the couch and watch Netflix for a few hours while I decompress. I sure hope my wife has something already made for dinner; I’m so hungry.

I walk inside and the kids are immediately begging for attention. I talk to them the best I can while I try to find something to eat. She didn’t make dinner. Of course she didn’t, she never does. Isn’t that a wife’s job? She’s been home for hours and she’s just sitting there reading a book.

Ok, clearly that isn’t me speaking above, seeing as how I’m the wife in this scenario. And by the way, I totally made this up. I have no idea what my husband was thinking in the story I told you yesterday. But let’s just pretend this is exactly how it happened. When he came home and didn’t greet me, it had NOTHING to do with me. It was 100% about him and the day he was having. I’m the one who made it mean something. And notice his manual for me. I HATE cooking. I despise spending time in the kitchen.

How does it feel to be on the other side of the manual? It’s awful. It makes me feel like I’m less than simply because I’m not his picture of a perfect wife. But I’m not less than. I just don’t like cooking. (For the record, my husband has never even hinted that this cooking thing is in his manual for me. He likes to cook and I’m eternally grateful).

If you want an amazing relationship, throw away your manuals and start loving people for exactly who they are. This is a complete game changer.

Ok, but how do I have the kind of relationship I want if I don’t my expect them to do anything differently?

Simple: you take care of your own needs. If I want to have an affectionate greeting when my husband gets home I am more than capable of instigating that myself. I don’t need him to do anything differently at all. All he has to do is walk in the door and I’m there to greet him with a big kiss. And if he doesn’t react the way I want him to, I don’t make it mean anything about me. That’s about him, it has nothing to do with me, and I go on being the kind of wife I want to be.

If I want to hold hands when we’re walking around, I take his hand. I don’t need him to do it. And I certainly don’t need to resent him for not doing it. If I want to go out on a date, I can plan a date. If I want to have a romantic anniversary, I can make it romantic. These are all things that I want. And I’m capable of taking care of these myself.

When we expect others to take care of our needs we will almost always be disappointed. We cause ourselves pain and often hurt the relationship. It just isn’t necessary.

I love my husband, unconditionally. The only thing I expect of him now is to be there so I can love him. Exactly as he is. Doesn’t that sound amazing? To have someone love you exactly as you are, not wanting or needing you to be anything different than you are? That’s pretty much the only thing I’ve wanted my entire life. So now I’m learning to give that to everyone else in my life.

Try it. You’ll be amazed.

I was sitting on the couch one afternoon, reading a book, and waiting for my new husband to come home. We’d only been married a couple weeks. We were still in that glorious honeymoon phase and I was loving it. My first marriage had been void of physical affection for years so this relationship had been a breath of fresh air. The kids were coming in and out, bustling around and as I sat there, anticipating his arrival, I felt content.

While we were dating, our hellos and goodbyes had always been affectionate. And that’s the way I wanted it. I had been so starved for physical affection I wanted an embarrassing amount of PDA in my life. So when my husband came in the door and barely even acknowledged my presence, a pit started to form in my stomach. He talked to the kids, he started making a snack, he just got busy doing “the things.”

The way I’m describing it, it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. Sounds completely normal right? I agree. But at the time, it didn’t feel that way. And I certainly wouldn’t have told the story this way. My brain started making up stories… and I believed them. All he did was come home and not greet me the way I wanted him to and I was ready to believe our marriage was going to fail. Seriously!

He should always kiss me hello and goodbye.

I should be his first priority.

If he loved me he would want to spend more time with me.

A good husband would take out the trash without being asked.

He should tell me he loves me.

This, my friends, is a manual. I had a manual for how my husband should behave and how he should treat me. When he followed my manual I felt loved. When he didn’t follow my manual, I felt pain.

Here are a few more examples of manuals. Do any of them ring true for you?

Parents should love their children.

Wives should want to have sex with their husbands (or vice versa).

He should be respectful.

She should remember my birthday.

He should spend less time at work.

He shouldn’t watch so much tv.

She should be on time.

Most of the time we don’t even tell the people in our lives what’s in our manual. We just expect them to behave a certain way. We expect them to treat us a certain way. They should just know. Sometimes we do tell them, and then we tie our emotional well being to whether they comply or not.

Think of someone in your life that you want to change. What would you like them to do differently? Why do you want them to behave this way? How would you feel if they did everything on your list?

Come back tomorrow and I’ll share the secret to getting exactly what you want.

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