The Manual

Macintosh User Manual - Scrolling

Macintosh User Manual – Scrolling by Peter Merholz, on Flickr

One of the main sources of pain in relationships is something called The Manual. We have these elaborate, usually unspoken rules about what we want other people to do so that we can feel happy. If these other people fulfill our expectations for them (which they may or may not know about), then we are happy, and if they don’t, we are disappointed and sad. Does this sound familiar?

Here’s an example: “For me to be happy on my birthday, I need you to remember when it is and buy me something I love, without my reminding you or telling you what I want. That way I will know that you love me. If you don’t do that, clearly you don’t love me, and I will be miserable on my birthday.”

That’s a pretty heavy responsibility to lay on someone, especially in an unspoken manner, yet a remarkable number of women do this to their husbands.

Maybe it’s not very wise to predicate our entire marital happiness on the other person’s ability and willingness to read our minds. Most people are barely capable of handling their own emotional well-being, let alone ours. It might be better to choose our own gift or plan our own party – that way we know for sure that it is exactly what we want. Happiness all around!

This scenario does not play out only between spouses, but with bosses and other family members as well. We put the burden of our happiness in the relationship on the other person’s willingness and ability to follow the script we have planned out for them. We want teenagers to be responsible and bosses to be accommodating. What if they don’t want to? We are not obligated to be unhappy because of their choices.

Obviously most people prefer feeling happy to feeling miserable – so it is better to learn how to control our own thoughts and choose our own happiness. What do you think?

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4 Responses to “The Manual”

  1. Y Says:

    unhappy – no, but certainly determined to do something about irresponsibility that might lead to something worse, or lack of accommodation which might yield to some reasoning. Just determining to ignore other people’s behaviour in the effort to find one’s own happiness does not sound right to me.

  2. Hadass Eviatar Says:

    Hi Y! You are quite right, ignoring other people’s behaviour is probably not a good idea, if it is disruptive to the family or the the workplace. But you’ll notice I didn’t say you should ignore it – just that you shouldn’t allow yourself to be made unhappy by it! Two completely different things. You can certainly talk with the person about behaviours you would like them to change – but you don’t have to do it from a place of anger and unhappiness. In fact, if you do, generally those conversations don’t go very well … so much better to do it from a place of calm.
    Hadass Eviatar recently posted…The ManualMy Profile

  3. Y Says:

    If you can…

  4. Hadass Eviatar Says:

    Well, that’s what the coaching is for. It’s a skill like any other.

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