Defusing a Small Crisis With Humor
My wife and I had a bunch of friends over for
dinner last week. My wife spent a lot of time
setting the table and getting the food ready. My
job, which I do really well, is to be the best
helper she could ever possibly hope for. At an
event like this, which involves our friends and is
a part of our social life, she is the manager of
the entire occasion. I am not the co-manager or
even the assistant manager. I am strictly her
helper and go into a very pro-active mode of
cooperating with her and making her life as easy as
possible so that we can both be proud.
I don't sit around not paying attention and
waiting for her to tell me what to do. I ask her
what she needs often, and also just look around and
identify what needs doing and then just do it. So,
I wash a lot of dishes, put stuff away, check in
with our guests often around drinks, etc.
When I first understood what my role was in
these situations, I had a hard time accepting it.
After all, I'm a big boy too and how come I'm only
a helper? It seemed demeaning. I found it hard to
accept the fact that she gave orders and I had to
do things her way.
Two things enabled me to wholeheartedly take on
the role of "helper". The first was understanding
and accepting that our social life is not my
responsibility -- it's her's. I have plenty of
areas in my life where I am in charge and have
complete control. I literally don't need to control
her areas. The second was deciding that if I was
going to be a helper, then I would be the best
damned helper anyone ever saw, and that I would be
proud of my job. Then I let her know it. I had to
let her know it, because she didn't understand
herself what our roles were. She actually thought
that our social life should be 50/50 and was always
mad at me for not taking charge of social events.
She was always grousing that, "You never take
responsibility for anything--I have to always think
for both of us."
I finally had to tell her one day that it was
her job to be in charge of the social aspect of our
relationship, and that it was my job to help her.
But I let her know in no uncertain terms that I was
the best damned helper she could ever have and that
I was proud of the work I did on our behalf and
that I would no longer put up with her putting me
down. That worked! From that point on, I never
heard a complaint from her. On the contrary, I now
get nothing but praise. Not only does she tell me
directly how much she appreciates all I do, but I
hear her boasting about me to her friends over the
So here we are at the dinner the other day.
Things are going along well, and my wife is happily
bustling about the kitchen and our guests are at
the table chatting and eating in the dining area.
I'm washing dishes. So she comes in and suddenly
she's upset:: "Damn it! Where's my knife? I was
just using it a minute ago."
I turned around and looked at her. She's glaring
"You're going to drive me nuts! I can't put
anything down without you moving it. Why can't you
leave my things alone?"
I could have gone almost anywhere with this
situation. We could have had an argument. But I
decided to use humor to deflect it. I knew I could
do that, because I am not afraid of my wife. She
may be yelling, but she is not upsetting me. I have
no need to get defensive! I know from past
experience that she puts herself under tremendous
pressure when we have guests in the house to have
everything go smoothly. So I said:"Look. I know
that you get upset like you are right now when I
put away something that you are using, but I also
know that you get a lot more upset when I don't
clean things up and put them away".
She said, "Yeah. You're right. I do that."
So I said, "So, basically, I'm wrong whatever I
She said, "Yeah. I guess I do that too."
And she started to get a little sheepish and
began to realize how unreasonable that was.
But I took her hands, looked her in the eye and
said, "It's okay, babe. At least I get to choose
how I lose.".
She cracked up and so did I, and we laughed
ourselves silly right there in the kitchen. The
incident was over, and we went back and sat down
with our guests.
©2008, Irv Engel
* * *
One's life has value so long as one attributes
values to the life of others, by means of love,
friendship, indignation and compassion., - Simone
Irv Engel is a
successful salesman, builder, husband, father,
grandfather and friend. He loves to sing, dance and
is currently taking an art class to learn water
color painting. He is the creator and coordinator
of the Relationship Training Course for Men. This
Real Deal: A Guide to Achieving Successful and Real
is the result of hundreds of hours spent writing
down the lessons learned in a lifetime of marriage,
divorce, re-marriage and raising four kids. He
hosts free telephone conference coaching sessions
in the evening or on weekends.The conference is a
good way to find out about relationship coaching
and to ask any personal questions around your own
relationships without risk to your money or your
him for phone number, access
code and schedule. Irv and Monica live in Lake
Forest, Calif. They have eleven grandchildren. They
have celebrated their thirty-fifth wedding
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