Sarah Blinco on the power of applying ‘appreciation’ in our relationships
The topic of ‘male sympathy’ came up at a tipsy little dinner party I was at recently. Or rather, the lack of it was discussed. You know, at those times when you could do with a smile, supportive nod and ‘yup, I agree with you darl’, kind of response. When you’ve had a rubbish day at work, or a family member is being ‘trying’, or you really should have avoided Facebook…
Instead, men often launch into a speech that comes across as a lecture and, to my original point, unsympathetic to our situation.
After spending the best part of 19 years with my man, I’ve come to realise that it’s not intentionally an uncaring response. In fact, it’s usually his way of trying to help or problem-solve for me. Problem is, we can usually manage whatever the challenge is. Really, we girls want a hug, nothing more − no advice or input, just an agreeable (sympathetic) ear.
I thought this behaviour was only a trait of my man’s, until my friend, Nicole, brought up the same issue. In this instance however, she praised her hubby, for “doing good” during a conversation they’d had the night before. Rather than try to counsel her about a work ‘situation’, he was empathetic and listened well.
We ooh’d and ahh’d about what a step forward it was, but then Nic’s hubby finally confessed with a nervous laugh that he “knew what was good for him”. Another bottle of bubbly popped open and we giggled about it all, letting our boys off the hook. We gals had to admit taking things the wrong way [occasionally!].
The conversation got me thinking though. As we grow older, we learn more about the wide and varying ways language differs between the sexes, whether that be communication between lovers, family or friends. We’ve all experienced the impact of communication break-downs – the consequences are dire. Sad thing is, usually each person in the scenario means well, but we get caught up in our own perspectives.
It’s easy to focus on annoyances or pet peeves when things are feeling low. I do know, from experience, and I’m aware that problems tend to amplify from there, especially if we fail to stop, step back, and clarify misunderstandings. I’ve learnt to take responsibility for my own responses if I realise I’m tired, over-worked and overwhelmed – or if I’m aware I’ve ‘gone silent’.
How to counteract focussing on your partner’s idiosyncrasies, then? Count the good things – announce what you appreciate about your partner. It’s just as easy to turn a negative (“he’s unsympathetic”) into a positive (“he is trying to help”); flip the switch and get back to happy. Which is where the theme of this February issue wants us all to be.
Taking a lesson from my mate, Nicole, I’ve chosen to spotlight my man’s positives; to keep a little list mentally handy. He deserves it. Even if your partner is in the proverbial ‘naughty corner’ at this very minute, I’m hopeful that your list will be substantial too, once you get thinking about it.
Of course, while I’m highlighting how we can make our relationships happier, let’s not forget this all starts within ourselves. We do tend to be our own worst critics. I propose taking two minutes each day to count the ways you rock. Write it down, be unapologetic and proud, revel in the numerous ways that you are awesome – because don’t misunderstand me here, you are!
Here’s to choosing ‘love’ this month, and always.