Avoiding the 4 C’s can Transform all Relationships

Here are four typical scenarios that were replaying in my house.
1. My husband is checking his email and/or looking at his phone and I say “What are you still doing?” (Instead of saying I’d love you to be spending time with me now.)
2. My husband is telling a story about how we met and I say, “It didn’t happen like that!” (Instead of letting him enjoy tell the story according to his take on it and me not having to be right,)
3. My husband lies down on the couch after the Shabbos meal and I say, “Are you sure you want to do that? Why don’t you go up to bed?” (Instead of minding my own business and assuming that if he wanted to go up to bed, he would have.)
4. My husband comments, “We haven’t had guests in a while,” I respond, “Yes, we have, we just had the Cohen’s a couple of weeks ago” (Instead of accepting his perspective).

If I had heard someone say you should never Criticize, Correct, Contradict or Control your husband (and I could throw in teens here too), I would have said of course. Duh! That’s a no brainer!

What I didn’t realize is that I was innocently doing that ALL of the time. I would have reasoned I want to be truthful, I want things done right, I am being helpful, I’m just curious, I believe my way is better, or I need to make my plans so I’m just asking for information. However, at the end of the day, all of my questions and probing were really subtle and not so subtle ways of controlling and nagging. No wonder my husband was defensive and distant a lot.

Now what has blown me away is that by avoiding the 4 C’s, I have transformed the feelings of respect in my home. Not only does my husband feel more respected (and because of that is responding with so much more love, affection and attention), but I am actually feeling more respectful of him without him doing anything different.

Now I get this seems to go in the face of the 3 Principles because it’s good advice and we totally know that good advice doesn’t transform people, but insight does. I can’t make someone have an insight, but I can point in a direction that opens you up to see something beyond what you were seeing until now. When G-d deems an inner revelation is what you need to grow in this moment, He gifts you with an insight, 

The insight I got is that my habitual way of being (i.e.: controlling) which until now I subconsciously believed was either protecting me or alleviating my anxiety, is now hurting me by stunting my growth and the intimacy between me and my husband. Now habits are only hard to break when you focus on the behaviors themselves. That’s not where the leverage is to break a habit though. A habit is easily broken with insight.

I’m not saying I have become an angel, but I have seen consistently how Hashem keeps revealing to me as I am about to say something that is controlling, critical, contradictory or corrective that I have choice. I can choose intimacy and respect or I can choose my habit. When I’m not gifted with the insight to see it, I don’t know how much choice I have to avoid my habit.

However, in the way that a man wants to go, he will be led, so what I focus on, I get more of. I choose to focus on respecting my husband and building intimacy. I don’t beat myself up when I mess up, but I’m really grateful when I am successful.

You have the power to transform your marriage and all relationships when you begin to notice that the need to control, criticize, contradict or correct is a temporary thought creation and when the intense urgency to get your way passes, so does the need because it’s all made up of thought. Deeper than the content of being right, smarter or faster is your innate wisdom to guide you toward real intimacy.

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By Aviva Barnett, MSW

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