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May 2015

When nothing is forbidden

After much contemplation, a man comes to his wife to ask her about something he badly wants.

Man: "Honey, can I ask you about something?"

Wife: "Sure, what is it dear?"

Man: "Well, would it be OK with you if I...."

Wife: "Absolutely not, I forbid you! I'm so insulted that you would even want to do this. How can you even ask me if this is OK? Respect me!"

Man: "Sorry, you're right. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

Life goes on, but that thing he so badly wanted did not magically disappear because it has been forbidden. The man knows who he is and knows what he wants. His feelings cannot be changed. So, after some time, the man comes back to his wife and tries this conversation again.

Man: "Honey, I know how you feel about this, but I have decided that I don't care what you think...I want you to know that it means a lot to me and I'm gonna do this anyway!"

Wife: "What? You inconsiderate, selfish bastard. Now you're not even asking me how I feel? You don't care about my feelings at all! You completely take me for granted!"

Man: "Sorry, you're right. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Forget about what I said. I'll try to be more sensitive."

After a few days of arguments, life goes on again. Still, that thing he so badly wanted only intensifies. He loves his wife dearly and wants her to be happy, so he decides to hide it from his wife. He creates never-ending web of lies to cover everything up.

Deception causes a great deal of distance between the couple. For some time, our couple goes on with the routines of life, but they have stopped sharing their feelings, stopped communicating, and have stopped feeling as close to each other has they once had. This goes on until, one day, the wife discovers the deception. Her reaction is something like this:

Wife: "Not only are you a selfish, inconsiderate bastard who does whatever you want, you are also a liar. How can you lie to the person in the world who is closest to you? I told you that what you did is clearly not OK with me, and yet you completely disrespected me. I don't think you even love me anymore. Maybe we should get a divorce."

How might have this story gone differently if the initial conversation would have gone as follows?

Man: "Honey, can I ask you about something?"

Wife: "Sure, what is it dear?"

Man: "Well, would it be OK with you if I...."

Wife: "Wow, OK. That's a bit of a shock to me. To be honest, you should know that it bothers me. We should talk about it so that I better understand it. I respect you and I will never forbid you from anything at all. Our relationship is based on honesty, trust, sensitivity and open communication. I know you love me and I will try to understand this from your perspective. If this is something you really want, let's figure out a way."

Man: "Wow, I feel so close to you and love you so much. It is incredible how we can talk about anything. It means so much to me that you respect who I am, that you respect my needs. You know that I will always be honest with you, I will always respect your feelings in everything I do, and this goes both ways. I will never forbid you from anything either."

Nobody has the right to forbid another person from anything. Only by forbidding nothing can you expect the honesty and sensitivity you deserve. If you love someone, respect their own needs and decisions.

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Posted by Mark Manney (mark.manney@infobeing.com).