Accepting advice from the person we’re married to can be challenging!
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This post first appeared on my former blog in 2014. Its message still applies. While I continue to get better at accepting unsolicited advice from my husband, I am still a work in progress!
It happened this morning. I was in the kitchen making some homemade bread, which in and of itself sounds impressive, right? Add in that I was doing so while the toddler randomly swirled around my feet whining and while keeping track of eggs boiling on the stove for tonight’s chef salad dinner sounds even more impressive, I’m sure.
My daughter was at the table playing. My husband was on the couch in the dining room checking work e-mails and helping to keep the roaming toddler from eating things out of the trashcan. I got the bread going in my beloved stand mixer and set the timer for eight minutes to let the dough get worked around in the mixer. And that’s when it happened.
“Is the mixer supposed to jump around like that?” my husband asked.
I almost rolled my eyes. THIS was my domain. I was the one who was the expert. After all, I’d had the mixer just over a year and had read at least six bread recipes on Pinterest. I’d heard about stand mixers jumping around while kneading dough.
“Yes,” I said. “It did this last time, too.”
A minute later he piped up with, “Does it lock? Do you have it locked?”
Another silent sigh from me. “Yes, it locks, but it’s not locked.”
“What I’m reading online says you’re supposed to lock the top down.”
Hhmmm. OK. I flipped the switch. “Now it’s locked,” I said.
And I noticed the mixer did settle down a bit. My husband went on to tell me that he had read some tips. He was right on this, even though I had not sought his advice.
A moment later my phone dinged with new e-mail. I checked it to see if it was a source I’ve been waiting to hear from for an article. Nope. It was an e-mail from my husband with links to a couple of sites with helpful tips about my Kitchenaid mixer that I love so dearly.
“You sent me an e-mail about the mixer?” I asked, incredulously.
I was trying to remind myself to be grateful for the accurate albeit unsolicited advice. In my head, I was thinking more along the lines of, “Back off, buddy. THIS is MY domain. Do I come into your office and tell you how to test the security of that company’s network?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I found some good information. From what I read, you could actually break your stand mixer and I know you wouldn’t be happy about that.”
I gritted my teeth. He was right. Dang it! “Thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it.”
I’ll pretend like I was gracious in that response. But the fact that he then looked at me and informed me he saw right through me to know I was bristling will tell you that my tone did not match my words.
We get all sorts of unsolicited advice from a variety of sources. If you’re a parent, it comes in from the beginning. Everybody and their brother tells you ways to get your baby to sleep better, eat better, poo better and on and on the list goes. From outside sources, it’s easy enough to be polite and then move on. But inside sources, like our spouses, offering unsolicited advice can be much tougher to handle.
This isn’t the first time my husband has given me unsolicited advice and I’m sure it won’t be the last. And while my response today wasn’t super stellar, it was at least tempered by the fact that I know his advice to be sound and I know it to be coming from a good place. Men like to fix things. He likes to help me fix things.
And he knows me quite well. I have done many tasks throughout our marriage and my life that I’ve made more difficult than I need to. He’s swooped in and saved me multiple times in the past.
I’m learning to listen. I’m learning to try and be more grateful on the outside in hopes that it will follow on the inside. I’ve also learned that I do eventually feel grateful on the inside. At the moment of the advice, I don’t. I feel criticized and annoyed. But later on, I realize that my life has been improved as a result of this advice. Because, shockingly enough, I don’t actually know everything!
I’ve learned this with parenting alongside my husband as well. He’s found tricks to help with the kids that I haven’t (and vice versa). Between our daughter’s and son’s births, I learned to listen better and not be irritated with him. After all, he was the first to figure out what was going on with our daughter’s feeding issues.
He has good information. My husband is a smart man who thinks outside the box and is tenacious to come up with solutions and easier ways to do things. This is part of what I love about him. This is part of what makes him such a great husband and life partner.
In fact, I’ve learned to seek his advice in areas of my life that I hadn’t thought to early on because I know he’s so good at coming up with awesome solutions. But when advice comes at me when I’m not looking for it and I think I know the best way to do something, then I get defensive. (And did I mention that I am also a bit stubborn?)
I’m working to accept unsolicited advice as graciously as if I had asked for the help. Later today, I will tell my husband that I am sincerely grateful for his tip about the mixer. It makes sense. His suggestions worked better and if it saves my beloved mixer from harm, that’s even better. I do appreciate it.
And step by step, maybe I’ll get better at being more grateful sooner than later. Talk to me in another 20 years and we’ll see. I hope I make more progress. If not, perhaps I’ll ask my husband for his advice on how to do so!