Most of us have long, detailed “scripts” of how others should behave, and when they don’t, we get upset. We expect others to follow the script, even if they don’t know it exists. This is not only frustrating for the people in our lives, but very frustrating for ourselves because of what we make it mean that they didn’t do what we wanted them to do.
Listen to this podcast to understand the difference between making requests of others and having your own back whether they agree or not, and turning all of our emotional well-being over to others. You’ll understand the freedom that comes from actually allowing people to be who they are rather than who we want them to be so we can feel better about them and ourselves.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast episode number 14, The Manual.
Hello and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast where courageous women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently living, but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hey, hey, everybody. Thank you for being here today. I love doing these podcasts. I love hearing from you. I love knowing that there are listeners out there that it’s helping. I just love thinking about you. I really do. I love thinking about who’s on the other end of this, who’s benefiting from it, and I just really love you. I hope that you know that there’s somebody in Montana who cares about you, who cares about what your experience is, and that this is my attempt to help you. I really care about you. Anyway, today, I’m going to just dive right in. Today, I’m going to be talking about a concept developed by my coach, Brooke Castillo, called The Manual.
The Manual is kind of what it sounds like. You know what a manual is, right? Let’s say you buy a new appliance and it comes with a manual. It tells you what the machine should do when it’s working properly, all the cool tricks and things it can do, and it tells you how to troubleshoot if there’s something wrong with it. There’s numbers to call if you need help. Do we read the manual? I don’t know about you, but I don’t always read the manual, but it does come with it, right? Well, in our culture, we develop manuals for each other. Sometimes it can come from the way we were raised.
We watch our parents do certain things or not do certain things, and then we make that be the norm, or sometimes the exact opposite of that becomes the norm and what we want to avoid. We oftentimes just watch other people and make assumptions about them and think, well, that’s how it should be, and then we put that in our manual. What we do is we create these manuals for each other. They’re often very thick. They’re often a long book with manuals about how people should behave. We have individual manuals, like one for our spouse, one for our mother-in-law, one for our father-in-law, parents, siblings, children, and most of all, we have manuals for ourselves.
We think that we should behave in certain ways. And if we don’t, then it means dot, dot, dot, right? Here’s the problem with the manual, we don’t often share them with the other person. We don’t often say, “Hey, this is what my book says that you should do, and this is what it means when you don’t do this.” We don’t often share it. We have this book that’s guiding our expectations of this other person, and we’re going, “Okay, this person should do this thing. And if they don’t, then it means this,” and then we get to be upset and mad that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. And they don’t even know that they’re supposed to be doing it because we have not shared this manual with them.
It’s kind of a recipe for disaster. Part of the problem, actually, the whole problem, is that we tie our own emotional well-being to how well they are following this manual that they don’t know about. Can you see why that’s a problem? I’m going to give you examples of this as I go into the podcast. I want to make it clear that having expectations for other people in our life is not a bad thing. What gets tricky and causes a lot of pain and frustration is when we tie our own emotional well-being to if they are meeting those expectations or not. If they do this thing, it means this. If they don’t, it means this.
And then we live at the effect of whatever their choice was and then that emotional response that we have to it. We are often blind to our own manual. We can’t see that we’re doing it. We think that we know what reasonable and good behavior of other people is. They should do this. They should not do this. But the problem is the other person has a different brain and they just might not agree with you. They might not even see what you’re seeing because we have different brains, and then we judge them for that. It creates this rift in our relationship, and they don’t necessarily understand why.
The truth is that humans get to behave however they want, especially adults. I mean, kids too. This we know, right? Kids do whatever. No one has to do anything for us. We don’t have to do anything for them. The more we actually allow people just to be who they are, the better off everyone is. We often can develop this kind of entitled attitude. Like, as my spouse, you should do these things for me. As my child, you should do these things for me to make me feel better as your parent. But in reality, they actually don’t owe us anything, and we don’t owe them anything either. We really don’t. We don’t owe anyone anything.
I’m going to give you a few examples. First of all, example number one, my husband should want to go to church. If he doesn’t, it means he doesn’t respect me and our family. It means he’s not spiritual enough, and then I judge him for that. It means he doesn’t care about my feelings, that I want a husband that goes to church with me. He doesn’t love me enough clearly or he would want to go to church with me. That’s example number one. That’s a manual about what husbands should do in regards to church. I could add to that. He should lead scripture reading. He should lead prayer. He should lead out in family counsel, because that’s what a good husband should do.
And then when they don’t want to do those things or falter or just don’t do them, then we punish them for that, whether it be verbally or not. Sometimes it’s just cues that are silent, right? Anyway, example two, husbands should not want to look at porn. When they do, we make it mean that they don’t love us enough, that we are unattractive, that we’re not attractive enough, that they are not good people because don’t they know how bad it is? That if they were better, they wouldn’t have any desire to look at porn.
Instead of actually looking at the porn, like why they’re looking at it in the first place, we’re so busy in our judgment of it, our judgment of them, and our judgment of ourselves that we can’t quite even see past that. Number three, husbands should want to take their wives on dates. It means they really love their wives to take them on a date, and they just love spending time with them and holding their hand and planning fun dates. And if they don’t, it means that they clearly don’t prioritize their relationship. Been there, done that. I know that script well. Number four, kids should totally want to help around the house and be grateful for what they have.
They should jump when we ask them to do something like, don’t you want to help your mom? When they don’t want to help, it means they are spoiled and ungrateful, and then we point the finger at us. We aren’t raising them or they would be really happy to jump in and help. They really would want to just as a sign of gratitude. What we do is instead of stepping back from this clear space and really accessing how we want to show up and what we want to think intentionally, we become the police and we get busy writing up a ticket. You infringed on this. Here you go. Ticket for you.
Ticket for you. You can imagine kind of a scowl on your face. You’re just busier writing it up. What was the infraction? Is that the right word? What was it? Oh, you did not take me on a date. Oh, you took me on a date, but you only did it because I asked you to, which means that you didn’t actually want to, so it doesn’t count, right? We do that too. We tell ourselves so many stories and cause so much pain and suffering for ourselves. Why do we do this? It’s all about how we want to feel. If they do this thing, we get to feel a certain way. If they don’t do it, then we don’t get to feel that way, and then we get mad at them for it.
They are withholding the good feelings from us. If they would just do this thing, then I would get to feel better. The problem with that is it gives them all the power and gives you none. That’s not what we’re going for here, right? Here is the truth, can you control all of your own behaviors? I can’t, right? I try to have good control of myself, but I mess up all the time. Sometimes I slip and say things that I didn’t quite want to say or didn’t come out the way that I wanted them to, or despite my best efforts, I’ll get bugged with a kid. If I can’t even fully control myself, how can I control someone else? But that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with this manual.
We’re trying to control somebody else. Have you ever tried controlling somebody else? How is that working? My experience is it doesn’t work real well. We might be able to get them to check the boxes. Like, okay, this is my manual. There’s 37 things. Check, check, check, check, check. We might be able to get them to do that, but then we can’t even appreciate it often because we want them to do those things without even being asked. They should just want to do them as a decent citizen. They should just want to, and then we don’t even enjoy it anyway.
Back to the date night thing, okay, we’re on this date because I told him that I want them to take me on a date, but we’re sitting there with a scowl on her face and feeling tensed because we’re just convinced that they didn’t actually want to go. Why don’t they want to go with me? What’s wrong? Why wouldn’t he want to take me on a date? We just don’t even enjoy it anyway. I want to bring up something that some people might not agree with me on, but I’m going to say it anyway. How many of you have heard of the Love Languages book? I own it. I’ve learned a lot from it. I recognize what my love languages are.
I recognize what my husbands are. Great. Here’s the problem though, oftentimes what happens is we slap that book down and say, “Okay, husband, these are my love languages. I’m an acts of service person. I’m just saying as an example. I’m going to need you to serve me. I’m going to need you to do these things, so I get to feel loved and cared for. I see that you’re a physical touch person, so I need to check this box and do these things so you can feel loved and cared for.” Can you see where I’m going with this? It’s a little bit of a problem because we’re saying, “These are my needs and you are responsible for them. When you don’t do those things, I have to feel bad because you’re not stepping it up.”
It gives so much of our power away. It gives so much away, and it’s putting so much pressure on the relationship. You must do this thing for me to feel okay. That’s a lot of pressure to put on somebody. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being at the opposite end of somebody pressuring me to do something so they can feel better. I don’t love that. I think that there’s great principles in the Love Languages book about understanding each other. But it’s when we hand that to the other person like, “This is your responsibility. These are my needs, and you need to fill them for me,” we get ourselves in a lot of trouble, because we can barely take care of ourselves, let alone taking care of another person.
Back to what I said before, is it wrong to have expectations and wants from our spouse and others in our lives? No, not at all. But it’s when we hang our emotional health on if they do it or not, that’s where we get ourselves in trouble. That’s where we cause ourselves suffering and pain. How do we strike a balance? First of all, do you check in with your values? What do you value? You may want your spouse to go to church with you, but check in with yourself. Tell yourself the truth. What do you make it mean when he doesn’t? What do you make it mean? Now, you get to decide what your dealbreakers are.
One person’s dealbreaker might not be another. For example, I have clients whose spouses have been unfaithful. They have been in relationships with other women. And to them, for various reasons, they decide to stay. That is not a dealbreaker. They decide that they’re going to stay and work it out. For some of my people, it might be a dealbreaker. End of story. I want somebody who would not ever do this. End of story. There’s no right or wrong here. You get to decide what your dealbreakers are, but getting clear and telling yourself the truth is the best way to move forward in asking and in requesting and in having expectations.
For example, you may have the value of monogamy. You might say, “I want to be in a monogamous relationship.” You might really like that value and feel good about that value. You can request of your spouse that he be monogamous and make it clear that he can do whatever he wants, but if he decides to step out of that, you will choose not to be married to him because it’s not in line with your values. Do you hear that? There’s no drama there no, he must not care about me, he must not love me. It’s simply that his values clearly do not line up with yours. That’s it. His values do not line up with mine.
I choose to be with somebody where we share similar values, at least around certain things, my dealbreakers. You get to choose, and then you get to keep all of the power here. You’re not trying to change him. You’re like, okay, knock yourself out. If that’s what you want, that’s what you want. But this is what I choose from me. I love you. I love me. This is what I’m doing. You get to decide what your boundary violations are. You may have preferences on how you want to be treated, and then you may have dealbreakers. The clearer you are about these and the clearer you communicate them, the easier the relationship will be for both of you.
They are no longer guessing what you want, and you are clear with yourself and taking full responsibility for how you feel. As you’ve listened to this, I want you to be curious with yourself of who you have manuals for. You probably have quite a few. We all do. I have several manuals. The manual for my husband, for children, for myself, for the church I belong to. It should do this for me. It should not do this. I’ve been working on those things and really cracking them open and going, “Oh, that’s so interesting that I made this mean that. Hmm, I wonder what would happen if I let go of it. I wonder what would happen.”
I’m going to give you a little bit of a funny example of me and my attempt to open up my book and discover one of the things that was in my manual. This is for my husband, my current husband. I love him dearly, but I don’t think he would be too ashamed to know that I shared this with the whole world. He’s kind of messy. I love him, but he’s a little bit messy. Sometimes he’ll use the bathroom, specifically the toilet, and leave a mess. I won’t go into detail, but just not super neat and not scrub out the toilet. That’s what I’m getting at. Totally make a mess and not scrub it out. We’ve been married for four years. Four years.
In my mind I’m like, “Who does he think is going to clean that up? Does he think I’m going to go clean that? Why does he think that I should clean up his mess? Why?” And then I’d be all bugged like, “Geez, he really should clean up after himself,” and then round and round I went. Then I felt bad that he didn’t. He must just not respect me. Whatever, right? One day I’m just like, I wonder why he doesn’t clean it. I asked him like, “Hey, husband. You just used the bathroom. It looks like this. Why don’t you clean it? Honestly, why don’t you clean it?” You know what his answer was? He doesn’t even see it. His brain, he does not see messes.
He does not see them. It’s like he’s blind to them. He doesn’t see it. I’m like, oh my gosh, how interesting. All this time I thought that it meant this. You know what he said? He’s like, “Okay, I just want you to teach me. You’re going to have to show me, like teaching a little kid. Point it out. Hey, Alex, I need you to go do this. Please do this.” He’s like, “Just tell me what you want. Just make a request.” We talk a lot about our approach because sometimes my approach is not great and I’ll come in a little too strong at times, but I’m working on that too. The more that I just drop into curiosity and ask and go, “I wonder why he doesn’t,” instead of making it mean all these things, I’m like, huh, what do you know?
He honestly does not even notice it. He doesn’t even see it. What? I was floored. We both had a good laugh, actually. That’s so funny to me. How do you not see? And that went for lots of different things, like the bathroom counter, different things. He does not see it. His mind is on other things. He doesn’t notice. It. Isn’t that interesting? In an attempt to help myself, rather than waiting for him or other people in my house to do the things that I want them to do, I still make requests for sure. All my kids have chores, things like that. I ask things of him. But guess what I did? I hired housekeeper.
She comes every other week. Not a ton, but it’s enough for me to quiet my own chatter of just wanting a basic level of just deep clean, just deep clean. The kids day to day do their chores, but I get to know that every other week they’re going to come and make my house sparkle. It just feels good to me. That’s me dropping my manual for my family, dropping my manual for myself of, well, a good wife and mother should not need a housekeeper. She should this and that. What am I teaching my kids if I have somebody in and clean up? I’ve just set that down like, oh, what am I making that mean?
No, I don’t actually want it to mean that. I don’t agree with that. Actually, I’m hiring somebody. That’s an example of that. Now, I want to go back to the earlier scenarios and talk about what this looks like. The first one, the husband should go to church. This is where you set the manual down. You’re in your mind picturing putting it down. Why doesn’t he want to go to church? I wonder. I wonder. What am I making it mean that he doesn’t want to go? What might he be avoiding by not going to church? Is there some experience there or feeling at church that he doesn’t want to feel so he doesn’t go? What if it’s actually not about me at all and it’s about some inner thing that he’s dealing with?
I wonder if he would share with me. I wonder how he would respond if I asked him. And then you go ask and say, “Hey, I’m curious, what’s up? How come you don’t want to go to church? Let’s talk about it.” You’re setting down the book and you’re actually getting the truth. Imagine that. The next one, porn. I wonder why he looks up porn? Instead of all the meaning that we wrap up in of he’s not this, he’s not that, if I were this, then he wouldn’t do that, all of those painful stories that we tell that I understand, I know them, I understand them, but setting it down for a minute and going, I wonder why he actually does.
What is it? What is he avoiding? What feeling is he avoiding by looking at porn? It’s pretending to keep him safe from something to look at this. It’s drawing him away from feelings he doesn’t want to feel. I wonder what he’s trying to feel or not feel. Huh, I wonder, and you go ask. The next one, I wonder why he doesn’t want to take me on a date. I wonder why. I wonder why. And guess what happens? Sometimes when we get into this curious spot, we start to see other things that they do do that we couldn’t see otherwise because we have tunnel vision to what they’re not doing. We have the blinders on, and that’s all we can see and we see red.
We’re like, “Oh, this is not cool. This is wrong.” When we are willing to drop that, it opens up our vision and we can see more fully what they actually do do. It changes our vision. What if they are acting normal? What if this is normal husband behavior that sometimes they don’t want to go on dates? They’d rather stay home and watch a movie. What if he knows I can feel my scorn? What if he feels uncomfortable going on dates because he knows that I’m not necessarily really wanting to be there in those circumstances either? What if it feels forced? Hmm, interesting. Kids and chores, asking like, well, why should they want to help?
What story am I telling? What if they are acting normal? What if it doesn’t mean anything at all about them or about me and they’re just like kids being kids? Hmm, interesting. We can make requests all day long. We can for sure make requests be specific, and then decide ahead of time what you’ll do if they don’t want to do your request. For a kid, it’s like, okay, this is what I’d like you to do. You’re welcome to do it or not, but this is what’s going to happen if you don’t. There’s no drama. We don’t make it mean anything about us. It’s very neutral. It’s very vanilla, actually, right?
In a later podcast, I’m going to go into boundaries, but for today, I’ll give this little teaser that boundaries are not about trying to change anybody. Boundaries are about you protecting yourself and creating a safe place for yourself. You tell people what you are going to do if they whatever. We’re not saying you can’t do this thing or else. It’s if you do this thing, this is what I’m going to do. In regards to the manual, we are looking at it and going, okay, what am I making it mean? And then we’re keeping the things that are our dealbreakers. We’re holding onto them. We’re not dropping all of it and forgetting our values and like, oh, anything goes and I can just be okay with it.
That’s not what I’m saying. We’re dropping the drama piece of all the meaning we’re giving to it, and we’re taking a hard look at actually who the person is and what they’re really trying to communicate, what you’re really trying to communicate, and getting so much clearer about who that person is and who you are in that relationship. I’m curious, as you’ve listened to this, are you willing to open up your manual? Who do you have them for? Are you willing to look inside it and see what’s there and drop some of it? I can tell you this. I came into my new marriage with a big fat manual for my husband, especially as a second marriage.
I just thought after how hard my first marriage was, it really should just be this way. He should be so gushy. I’m like here raising his children and loving them and picked up and moved to be with him. He should just be so grateful. He should be so grateful. He should want to just dote on me and tell me nice things all the time. And guess what? Some of those things did not happen. Some of those things didn’t happen the way that I thought they should. Some of them did not happen in that way. I carried around some pain and thought that he maybe just didn’t love me as much as I thought he should, or maybe he doesn’t appreciate me as much as I think he should, or whatever.
And then my brain would go, well, maybe he just loved his first wife more and I just don’t measure up. I’ll just never quite be good enough. I mean, gosh, can you imagine how much pain I created for myself? So much pain. As I have become a coach and learned all of these concepts and practiced them and taught them, oh my goodness, I can’t tell you what a change it’s made in my marriage. It feels so much better to just let him be who he is and just love him so much where he’s at, and the magic in it… This is seriously magic. The more I set the manual down, the more I actually get what I want. It’s so awesome.
It’s like I don’t have that manual. I’m not wagging my finger at him, “I need you to do this.” I’m not trying to control him. He gets to be him. The thing is, he wants to do those things for me. He wants me to be happy, but it feels so much better when it’s from an authentic place rather than because somebody’s like pulling it out of you, dragging it out of you. Generally, that doesn’t go well. The more I have just backed off, oh my goodness. If you would’ve told me four years ago how verbal he would be in those words of affirmation and affection, all those things, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s amazing.
He’s so verbal, so affectionate all the time. Those very things that I wanted so bad, I now have them. It’s not because I dragged them out of him. It’s because I set down my manual and decided that things were perfect where they are, and that I could be happy and full of love right where I was, and that he was not responsible for my emotional health. That that actually falls on me. My challenge for you is to go out and look at where your manuals are. Go see where they are. Ask yourself some tough questions. Have the courage to set down the manual. I know it feels scary. I know it does. That’s where faith comes in. Drop the manual and watch things unfold.
Some of you are not going to be staying in your relationships. It’s okay. What’s your manual for yourself around that? What’s your script? A good wife what? A good wife doesn’t what? What if you set that down and actually got to decide what you actually want without the script, without the manual, without all of the shaming and blaming and guilt and all those things that come up when you are not living according to this manual, but you don’t necessarily want to carry around anyway? I challenge you to play around with it. That is all I have for today. I love you all. Thank you for being here, and I will see you next time. Bye, bye.
Thank You for listening to the Heal from Infidelity Podcast. If you would like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast episodes, and other ways of working with me, go subscribe to my weekly email. You can subscribe at andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. Again, it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.