TO CHANGE A RELATIONSHIP, CHANGE THE PRONOUN

mirrorI stumbled upon a powerful relationship-booster recently while indulging in my favorite sport: Kvetching. I can’t remember exactly what I was kvetching about, but in a house that expands and contracts depending on the week — with up to six kids ages 25 to 9, and a partner who comes home from work exhausted and in need of solitude when I’m in need of chatting it up — I’m sure I was annoyed about something. I’m sure I was sweating the small stuff.
I’m sure I was saying something like:
Would it kill you to put your plate in the dishwasher? Or, OMG, this is the third time I’ve asked you to turn the television down! Or, Get off your computer and go ride your bike (!), or, How is it possible that no one has refilled the toilet paper dispenser in a week???
Or, honey, why haven’t you called your mom? Or, Honey, your kids eat way too much junk food, or their mess in the living room makes me want to scream and run away. You know, helpful, well-intentioned and reasonable questions and observations from ME, here to lead this blending clan out of the darkness and into the light, toward self-improvement, better health and greater self-esteem!
Then I changed the pronoun. Or rather, I kept the pronoun – YOU – but I changed who was saying it to whom. I stood there and imagined what it would feel like if all those well-intentioned comments weren’t spoken BY me, but were directed AT ME, about my own sweet kids and myself.
I imagined people I love saying to me: Would it kill you…? Can you please stop…? Why haven’t you…? And, Your kids make me want to scream! Suddenly, I didn’t feel helpful. I felt remorseful. I realized that I need to count to 10 sometimes or, at least, choose my battles wisely.

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