The Sunny Side of Control

The Sunny Side of Control

Several years ago I took two years of Chinese cooking classes. I even had two woks and was full of myself. In my first marriage, I even had a cooking island—it felt like a Benihana style restaurant. I had a married couple over for a seven course Chinese dinner and everything was going well. I was down to my last ‘hot’ dish and was taking the food from the wok and plating it. My first wife, who had never taken Chinese cooking lessons, commented, “You should have used a different spatula.” Although quiet, steam was probably coming out my ears. The woman of the couple we had for dinner, Mary, grew up in a large Polish family and noticed I was steamed and my first wife said, “What? I was only trying to help.” Mary’s response was that in her family, they had the line, “Being helpful is the sunny side of control.”

Why is it that my first wife had a need to comment? We were struggling at this time and I think she had a need to assert herself by trying to control the outcome. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard wives comment that they don’t want their partner to offer a solution when they are frustrated or upset; they simply wish to be heard. Offering advice when it is not asked for is simply judgment. Most of us don’t like being judged as it is simply another form of criticism. My daughter who is thirty years old and sober for four years (Hoorah!) gives me many, many opportunities to practice not giving advice, even though I think she is making a mistake. In your relationship, notice how often when you give advice when it is not asked for in an attempt to be ‘helpful.’

Terry Copeland

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  1. Kathy Owens:

    I find little story, and the accompanying comments extremely enlightening. I’m, taking it to heart and naturally, sharing it with my fiance.