Family Works: Speaking on rules and relationships
by By ROB COOMBS ID. Min. Ph.D.
Sep 01, 2013 | 1222 views | 0 0 comments | 59 59 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Do as I say and there will be no problems.” These were the confusing words of a controlling husband to his young wife. Married only two years, Christy was finding it impossible to please her husband. No matter what she did, it was never good enough. Her dress was too short or too long, her hair needed to be cut or grown out, she couldn’t meet his time schedule, and the house was never clean enough. Christy even stumbled over her words fearing that she would not measure up to his expectations knowing that she could never be as smart, as clever, as organized, or as directed as her confident husband. Every day there was overwhelming anxiety as she anxiously sought to be the wife he wanted her to be.

In frustration and anger, her husband, Scott, decided that she needed a rulebook so she would know exactly what he expected from her. He sat down and carefully composed a set of rules, five typed pages in length, detailing his expectations. “Now,” he said as he handed the booklet of rules over to her, “there is no excuse for you not knowing and following exactly what I want from you.”

She did her best. She really did try. Nevertheless, nearly two years later, she found herself to be a “basket case.” Because he always seemed to find some flaw in her attempt to follow every rule in the rulebook, which had now grown to 10 typed pages, Christy continued to feel inadequate. Daily she struggled with mixed feelings of confusion, defiance, anger, and resentment. Following the rules had become her private hell. She hated the book, the rules, and Scott. But she was too depressed and too trapped to do anything about it.

One morning, when it seemed as though her world was caving in, Christy looked in the mirror, not a glance as usual, but a prolonged, contemplative look. As she gazed, her reflection horrified her. What she saw in the mirror was an insecure, submissive, tormented woman who was already looking years older than her youth of 27. Where had the confident, self-assured young woman gone? At that moment, she decided that she had to escape despite the cost. She packed her bags and left before Scott returned home from work. The next year was a nightmare as Scott did everything possible to make her life miserable. Lucky for her, but regrettable for another, he finally found another young woman and lost interest in his ex-wife.

For five years Christy enjoyed the single life and convinced herself that never again would she risk falling in love. Why should she? She was self-sufficient, self-assured, and self-directed. Then she met Neil. He was the kindest, gentlest, most thoughtful man she had ever known. Although she was resistant to dating, slowly over time a relationship began to grow. Within a year, she was deeply in love but still scared of making a commitment. He was patient and waited another year. Finally, she agreed to marry him.

Marriage with Neil was as different as night is from day. She loved him with a passion and found herself looking for opportunities to do what she could to please him. He, too, seemed to be on an endless quest to find ways to express his love for her.

One day, while cleaning out the attic, she found the ten typewritten pages of rules that her first husband had used in an attempt to control her life. She sat there on the floor rereading for the first time in eight years each rule. Tears began to roll down her cheeks as she realized that she was now freely doing for her present husband everything her former husband had demanded from her, only now for very different reasons. Instead of attempting to follow a set of rules, she now did what she did simply because she loved Neil.

Why do you do the things you do for those you love? Are you motivated by rules or by the relationship? The results may be the same, but the quality of your daily life is dramatically different.