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Making Choices That Empower You and Your Relationship

March 2010
“Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.” Zig Ziglar

st patrick's day couple Do you want to have an extraordinary marriage? Having an extraordinary marriage requires choices that serve both you and your relationship. If you always choose in favor of the relationship, you can lose yourself; if you always choose in favor of yourself, the relationship may suffer. Balance is the best path.

In her book “The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life,” Debbie Ford poses questions to help us create a more powerful life [relationship]. Here is one that we like:

Does this choice empower me, or does this choice disempower me?

Here’s how answering this question has served us in two practical situations around our home in our relationship.

Lewis gets into the bathtub to take a shower. He turns on the water thinking he is going to test the water temperature before showering and is shocked when the water starts spraying down on him from the shower head instead of coming out from the tub sprout. Ugh! “Diane left the diverter switch in the ‘wrong’ position again!” After this happens a few more times, Lewis has a choice to make: “Should I confront Diane about this?” Now he asks the above question–

question mark“Does this choice (to confront Diane about the position of the diverter switch) empower me or does it disempower me?

Lewis thinks about the situation. If he confronts Diane about it, she may deny that she was the one who left the switch in the “wrong” position; this could cause a disagreement. Diane might realize she left the switch in the wrong position and promise to be more careful. Getting back to the right question–does this choice to confront empower Lewis? No. What Lewis realizes is that if he wants to never have the shower spraying down on him unexpectedly when he gets into the bathtub, all he has to do is check the position of the diverter switch before he turns the water on! Lewis now feels empowered because with minimal effort, he has what he wants and doesn’t have to rely upon anyone else. Secondly, Lewis’ choice avoids shamrockan unnecessary potential argument.

Here’s a similar situation from Diane’s perspective. Lewis has the responsibility to collect all the trash from the various trash receptacles in our home and bring the trash to the street curb for trash pickup on Tuesday mornings. Lewis generally will let in the trash pile up all week in the trash receptacles in the various bathrooms and bedrooms, waiting until Monday night to empty them. Occasionally Diane sees a receptacle that has a fair amount of trash in it but isn’t completely full. Diane prefers to not look at that much trash in a receptacle. Diane has a choice to make: “Should I confront Lewis about this?” Now she asks the above question–“Does this choice (to confront Lewis about the amount of trash in the receptacle) empower or disempower me?”

Diane thinks about the situation. If she confronts Lewis about it, he may take offense, stating that his job is to take the trash out Monday nights, not two or three times per week. Lewis may express disbelief that Diane can’t live with the trash level 50% of the receptacle capacity. Getting back to the right question–does this choice to confront empower Diane? No. Lewis is meeting his responsibility by removing the trash on Monday nights. If Diane wants the trash emptied more often, she needs to takes it upon herself to do just that. Diane now feels empowered because with minimal effort, she has what she wants and doesn’t have to rely on anyone else. Secondly, Diane’s choice avoids an unnecessary potential argument.
Can you think of any issues in your marriage or relationship that can be resolved agreeably by asking the question, “Does this choice empower me or does it disempower me?”

The really beautiful part of this whole process is that LOVE has a chance to show up.