Several years ago we decided to re-do our flooring. Not an unusual undertaking but somewhat daunting none-the-less. If you’ve ever done it before you know what I am saying. While discussing laminate colours with the sales clerk he gave me a quizzical look and asked me if I needed to check with my wife before I made a decision. I assured him it was OK. I was making a purchase today. Another clerk looked up from his desk and said “Happy wife – Happy life”. I was a bit taken back that these two commission sales-men were actually discouraging me from making a purchase. Maybe they were trying to keep me alive long enough to actually pay the bill. Of course what they didn’t know was that my wife had given me a range of colours she was happy with and really didn’t want to be more involved than that. I knew as long as I stayed away from extremes like lime green or midnight black I was pretty safe. That said, my floor salesmen’s concerns are actually quite insightful. Ask any man who has an unhappy wife. He’ll tell you. The real question is “How do I get my wife happy?” A lot of husbands are knocking themselves out buying flowers, jewelry and trying to pick the right floor colour and end up feeling bitter because their wife still isn’t happy. The answer my be simpler than you think. It’s really about making her dreams come true.
My wife is an Early Childhood Educator and she’s worked in this field for most of our married life. Some weeks ago we were enjoying an evening in the hot-tub when she began talking about renovating the basement and garage to run the daycare in. Now I have to tell you, this is the last thing I want and everything inside of me wanted to dig my heels in and I instantly came up with every reason we should absolutely NOT do this. I also knew that what came out of my mouth next would set the tone for the rest of our conversation, and beyond, and that I had about three seconds to make a decision. On the one hand, I could tell her “No. This is not an option. I am not even discussing it.” In that moment a chasm dwarfing the Grand Canyon would have formed between us setting the stage for an epic and relationship straining battle that could have gone on for weeks. Or I could make a different decision. I needed to start asking questions. “What do you imagine that would look like? When would you see this happening? How important is this to you? How much have you been thinking about this?”
The first step in making your partner’s dreams come true is finding out what they are. It means you may have to temporarily set your feelings and opinions aside while you hear what your partner is thinking; what they want and feel. I really don’t want to turn my basement into a daycare. And I don’t have to pretend that I do. But I do have to listen to my wife’s dreams. If I want her to be happy that is. Once I felt I really understood her dream, what made it important to her and what her vision for how it might unfold was, I started talking about my feelings and vision. And she listened. What could have turned the 103 degrees of perfectly ph balanced hot-tub water into a polar ice-berg, instead became an opportunity for us both to be deeply understood and to together plan our future. Oh, and in case you were wondering, there’s no daycare going into the basement. But she knows I would have agreed to it had it been that important to her.