Welcome to Episode 7 of the Renew your Mind podcast. I’m your host. Diana Swillinger. Today we’re continuing our discussion on control. This time we’re talking about our expectations of other people and the list.
DIANA: Hey. Hey, everybody. How y’all doing? Today has been kind of a mixed day here. Rainy and just a typical spring day here in Wisconsin. But yesterday was beautiful. I was outside spray painting out in the grass, which needs to be mowed already. I spray painted a mirror and a frame and a light fixture. It’s home improvement time here at the Swillinger house. That’s how I do the quick fix up on things. I don’t need to go buy new stuff. I’ll just spray paint it. That’s what my dad taught me when I was a kid.
But now it’s Monday and I’m back at my desk, which is fine by me because I love my job as a life coach. I get to help people every day and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. And I love that I get to sit down and record another episode for you. I, um, know my podcast is helping people and that energizes me. I appreciate it when you guys let me know that it’s helpful and I’m thankful for all of you who’ve left a review over on itunes. Anytime someone leaves a review on itunes, it helps the podcast spread. It reaches more people, more people that need to hear how to renew their minds. That’s how we’re going to get the Renew Your Mind movement going. So if you haven’t yet, head on over there and leave a review.
But I would like to share some of those. So if you go over there and leave a review, I’m probably going to read yours too. So go do that. I’m just going to read one for today. And it’s from Jojo 2334. It says, “Diana really lays out clearly how our minds work. And her voice is so soothing. Definitely listen if you need help sorting out your mind.” That’s really sweet. Thank you so much, Jojo 2334. That’s what I’m here for.
I believe that we all have the ability to feel better and show up better for the people in our lives by renewing our mind and managing our thoughts. So that’s perfect. I have a really long list of topics that I want to do podcast episodes on, but last time I did on trying to control, that was the topic. I’m also doing a webinar in just two days about letting go of control. And a lot of the clients I’m coaching right now, we’re working on, um, control what you can, control what you can’t, and how it makes your life miserable when you try to control the things you can’t. Last episode, I happened to just mention the list, and so my husband and I have been talking about it a lot lately, and I thought, you know what, forget the other topics. I’m just going to go ahead and teach about the list. I mentioned it last time.
Let’s do it. I guess April is control month for Diana Swillinger coaching, so that’s fine. Let’s just do it. So
the list is a tool I use with clients, and it’s really helpful whenever I’m working with someone on relationships.
So let me tell you where this all began about eight years ago, my husband and I were meeting with our marriage counselor. I refer to him mostly as our marriage coach because of all the tools and practical teaching he gives us. He’s really talented, he’s really insightful, and this man has a genuine love and interest in all the couples he works with, which really went a long way with my husband. His name is Dr. Rick Marks, and he is of the Relatewell Institute. He does counseling, he does coaching, marriage intensives seminars, retreats, and he also has some curriculum available now, which is really cool. He was getting the set up before the coronavirus season came, which ended up being great timing because you can get all of his stuff on his website. He has this curriculum available in a course. He has a credentialed class for therapists, but I’m enrolled in his regular people course. I might do both, but I thought I’d start with that. And if you want to check it out, it’s just about having healthy relationships. It’s really a lot of good stuff and a lot of the things that you hear me talk about, I get it from him, and he got it from years and years of studying and research and becoming an amazing counselor and coach. Anyway, his stuff is available at relatewellinstitute.com.
So if you haven’t been able to tell by my accent so far I’m told I have an accent. I don’t think I do. Sometimes when I listen to parts of this podcast or my Facebook lives, I’m like, oh, dang, people can tell. But, uh, I am
from Wisconsin, born and raised. You can hear it when I say Wisconsin. Well, actually, I was born in Illinois, but we don’t talk about that. I’ve lived in Wisconsin all my life, but Dr. Rick lives in Florida still. He comes to
Wisconsin because he has a lot of work here. He does with couples and churches and retreats and all that stuff. So when he’s up here, he stays as a guest in this cozy house in a, um, wooded area. And that’s where my husband and I go when we want to meet with him. So it was like eight years ago. We’re sitting in the living room of that cozy house. There’s nice big windows on both sides of the room, which lets us kind of just look out and gaze at nature while we talk. It really makes it seem a lot easier. It’s kind of a nice setting.
Takes the edge off because when we were there, my marriage was not in a good place. I was having problems with how my husband did things. I was having problems with how he worked. I was having problems with how he parented. I was having problems with how he related to me. And all of this stuff seemed so valid. And I was really good at justifying all of it. A lot of the time I thought I was doing pretty good. And my husband had the problems. I thought if he just would do all the stuff I knew he should do, then our marriage would have a chance.
So we’re sitting there on the couch looking out at all the beautiful nature. Dan’s trying to explain something to me. I don’t even remember what it was, but I remember not really understanding where he was coming from. Or maybe I thought I did, but Dr. Rick could tell. Maybe I didn’t get it. So he translated it for me. He said, I don’t know if I’m remembering this exactly right, but it’s pretty darn close. He said, “Diana, what I think Dan is trying to say is that it’s like you have a long list of all the things Dan should be doing in order for you to be happy and for you to be happy with him. The problem is you never let him see the list.”
Now, I’d like to say that all of a sudden I got it. Like a light bulb over my head went bing. And everything made sense and everything got better. But that’s not what happened. I just sat there.
I don’t even know if I nodded that I understood. I listened. And I don’t even remember the rest of that
appointment. But that really stuck with me. As time went on, I did start to accept the idea that I had a list of
what I thought Dan should do. But I still thought, is that really a problem?
It’s kind of just common sense. Husbands should act this way. I’m not really that out of line. Other rational
human beings would agree with me. So I warmed up to the idea that I had a list. But I still didn’t really think itwas a problem. But I could not shake the idea of the list. It stayed there in my brain. It didn’t get lost back in the abyss of forgotten thoughts like the rest of that meeting did. But I remembered it probably because it really rang true then. I was getting really engaged with all of these studies in um courses I was taking and education I was doing in leadership development and relationships and communication and life coaching. And I couldn’t hide from this idea of the list anymore. When I was learning how to do relationship well, I had to face it.
Now, I’m going to talk to you about the list in terms of my relationship with my husband. But as I do, you are free to imagine a list with any person in your life that you have expectations for. If you’ve ever thought that someone should show up differently in your relationship with them, um, communicate something differently, do something differently, anything, then this concept of the list applies to you as M. I came to terms with the idea of the list. I had to admit that I had the list. I, for sure had a list of lots of things my husband should do. He should take out the trash. He should make sure the family gets to church. He should make sure the lawn gets mowed. He shouldn’t drink alcohol ever. He should notice when I’m in pain. He should clean the gutters. He shouldn’t raise his voice. He should do his own laundry. He should read my mind. Basically, I had a list.
Did I ever write it all out and show it to him? No. I had a list and I didn’t share it. Why? I don’t know. Probably because somehow, maybe I inherently knew that I’d be exposed. Then it would be out there in print that I had a long list of how he should behave in order for me to be happy. So I didn’t give him a list. What did I do instead? I kept a list hidden in my brain. And I resented him. Whenever he didn’t live up to the list. Somebody listening has done that.
I know it probably all of us. I tried to hint at, uh, how he should behave, or I didn’t insult him for not
behaving my way. A lot of times I would just do things myself, but I’d sulk and complain while I did it. It was
like I was a martyr with a bad attitude. I was showing up as an unhappy wife. I was showing up with resentment. I was showing up with judgment. I am sure none of that helped our marriage. I never showed him the list, but I thought he should know. He should just know. Right? Remember, it’s common sense. The way I think is the way he should be thinking. I remember stomping around and clinging and being really obnoxious. Sometimes when I’d clean the house, when maybe he’s watching football or doing something that didn’t seem productive to me, I’d be thinking things like, well, he can hear the vacuum. He can see me running around. He can see I have even more I need to get done than I have time to do it. He should just see I need help. He should just know. He should totally know.
But guess what? He didn’t know. He didn’t know. He probably thought everything was fine. Or maybe look at her with a bad attitude. Uh, that sucks for her. Which was true. I was the one with the problem. I was the one who expected him to read my mind. I was the one who was agitated. I was the one telling an epic story in my mind about the major problem. It was that I was busy cleaning while he watched football. I was the one with the problem. And if we think about it, it was kind of arrogant of me, too. I was showing up every day with a list of the right way for him to do things, which assumes that I am the one who knows the right way. He doesn’t know the right way. I’m the one who knows the right way.
No wonder my husband always thought well, not always, but no wonder he often thought that I was judging him. Or he used to accuse me of thinking I was better than him. Maybe he wasn’t really accusing
me, he was just calling it as it was. Because it was true. Of course, I didn’t share the list. Instead, I would go
around sneakily. Is that a word? Sneakily. Or sometimes not so sneakily, trying to control him. But then I learned all this great insight about expectations and humility, manipulation, control, fear. I finally got it.
And when I was finally willing to admit I had a list, I wanted to drop the list. It didn’t feel good to have a list like I was lording it over him. I wanted to drop it. And for the most part, I’ve dropped the list. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have expectations creep in here and there. I do. But for the most part, most of the time, I let my
husband be him, not some version of him that I use so that I can feel secure or happy or whatever it is I need to feel the way it feels. My job. Taking care of my emotions is my job, not his. Dropping the list means that I’m responsible for how I feel, not my husband or whoever it is for you. Dropping the list leaves me to figure out how to be okay, even when he doesn’t do all the stuff I want him to.
If I could drop the list, I get to let him off my hook. And also, droppingthe list means my husband gets to be him without daily judgment from his wife. Come on now. Isn’t that what we want others to do for us? Don’t we want others just to be cool with who we are and not judge us and not try to get us to change? And why did they all want me to do this? Just so they can be happy? We hate it when other people want us to act a certain way, but we do it for others. So imagine that if my husband had a list for me and he believed that if I did all the stuff on the list and I could follow his way, then he’d be okay. Then he would expect me to do everything on the list. Where does that leave me? That makes me responsible for his emotional well
being based on how well I follow his list.
Now I’m imagining I get to see the list. We don’t even usually get to see the list, but he gives me the list. I get to do all these things to make him happy, and I have to behave how he wants me to so he can be happy. That means it would be my job to show up the way he thinks I should so that he doesn’t have to feel resentment, so that he can feel secure or loved or appreciated or not frustrated or whatever, so he can feel better. Then I don’t get to be me. I’ve got to alter how I show up just so he can be happy.
I’d have to figure out how to be a different version of me, the one that could get everything on the list right,
whether it’s comfortable for me or not, whether I understand how to do it or not, whether it makes sense or not, whether I sacrifice everything I want to do or not. It wouldn’t matter. I’d just have to follow the list so he could be happy.
Would you sign up for that? I wouldn’t. I would not sign up for that. But I had wanted my husband to sign up for that. How crazy is that? It’s very interesting, and we do this all the time, and I’m not condemning you. That’s why I’m telling my story. I’m not condemning me either. Us humans do that. We want to feel secure. We want to feel cared for. We want less problems. We want comfort. It’s fine. We’re humans. It’s okay. But you can also spend time to realize that you’re doing it, and you can choose a different way. Because when I had a list for my husband, I was feeling judgy. I was feeling resentful, I was feeling frustrated, just because that kind of came naturally to me as a way to try to feel better. Once I realized it wasn’t working, I could change. I could drop the list, and I dropped the list, and that was huge, and I show up differently. I’m telling you, if you drop the list, you’re going to show up different for that person.
If you drop that list of expectations, if you stop thinking they have to act a certain way so you can be okay, you get to show up as a person then, whose wellbeing, isn’t hinging on the other person’s behavior. Now, when I first started doing this, probably for many months and maybe even sometimes, still occasionally, it’s unsettling for my husband, like, slightly bewildering that I don’t need him to do anything to make me happy other than just be him.
The other day, we went to the hardware store. He didn’t have his breakfast yet because we were going to stop at Starbucks and grab a coffee and a scone before we went in. But it’s COVID-19 season, and our Starbucks wasn’t doing drive thru on Sundays. They were 100% closed. So now I was with him. No coffee, no scone. He got cranky. That’s okay. He can just be cranky. I don’t expect him to not be cranky when we go to the store. I expect him to be him. He gets to show up however he is. It’s cool. I don’t have to change it. There’s nothing on my list. Well, I shouldn’t say that. There is one thing on my list. The thing on my list for Dan is let Dan be Dan. How nice of me, right?
Let’s just let the man be himself. We don’t need to change him so we can feel better. Long ago, my sister used to say this phrase. Our family kind of coined it. I don’t think it’s caught on beyond our family, but we all still say it. She said, “Let them”. She said this about all other people. If they want to cut you off in traffic, let them. If they want to be mad at you when you arrive five minutes late, let them. If they want to stay in bed all day, let them. Just let them. So why not drop the list and just let them be them?
Like I said on last week’s episode about trying to control, you can totally make your hopes known. I’m not saying don’t want something of the other person. You can make requests, you can share your desires, you can ask for help, all of it. What I’m saying is just don’t link your emotional well being. Don’t attach your emotional well being to whether they comply with your request or not. And if you’ve had a list for a while, if you start dropping things off the list, the other person might not change at all. But you know what? They might change.
I have found that most people appreciate it when you drop the list. Most people become even more willing to help you with your requests. When you’re not showing up with judgment or resentment, it opens up space for both people in the relationship to show up with more humility, love, and appreciation. And that’s a beautiful thing.
I almost ended the podcast right there. But then I was talking to my friends this morning, and we were talking about how we do get our needs met, and I knew I had to end it with this. When we have expectations of a person, like with a list, we’re putting our expectations in the wrong place. We want to feel something. We want to feel better, we want to feel peace, we want to feel contentment, we want joy.
And we have a void, and we’re trying to get it met through people in our lives. That’s the wrong place. God is the one that’s going to fill the void. God is the only one that’s going to give you peace. God is the one that
will satisfy your need to feel worthy or complete or to just make sense of things or feel valid. Whatever it is,
it’s got to be God. God’s the one who’s capable of making us feel okay and happy and content, not other people. That’s why we can let go of the list. We can still get what we need from God. It’s not the job of the people. God might use them. That is so true. But they’re also humans, and they’re just going to end up
letting us down some of the other times. So don’t tie your wellbeing to how other humans behave. Tie your
wellbeing to our amazing God of peace, comfort, and love. And I could add, don’t make a list for God either.
He knows much better what you need than you do. I sense another podcast episode coming on with that one. Don’t make a list for God. I’m going to add that one to the list. If you want any more help with this. Beyond what you are hearing right here on this podcast today, I have several free resources for you. Head on over to my podcast page at rympodcast.com. Rym stands for renew your mind. Head on over there and, uh, see what you can find. Let’s keep in touch. I will talk to you next week. Take care.
As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.