You are not your wife’s counter-weight

Sheila of To Love Honor and Vacuum has a great point in her recent Compensating for Something post. She was talking about parenting, but I think the idea goes way beyond the realm of parenting.

See-saw © Christy Thompson |

Have you ever caught yourself being a counter weight to your wife? She is going rather far in one direction on something, so you go the other way to balance things out. I think doing this is a basic instinct for many of us. When someone is out of the norm, or moving strongly in any direction, it makes us uncomfortable. The “easy” solution is to try to balance things out by pushing the other way.

  • First question: Does this work? Maybe if there is a third-party involved it makes them feel better, but given human nature I suspect it results in our spouse moving even further towards the direction they have already gone; they counter the attempt to balance things by moving away.
  • Second question: Is it a bad knee jerk reaction? If we try to balance for no other reason than balance, we are reacting without thinking, which rarely ends well.
  • Third question: Does it cause marital problems? If she reacts by moving away from your balancing move, you are creating a growing difference, and maybe a fight. If either of you routinely plays counter balance, the other may take it as a personal slight.

My suggestion is to react to a desire to be a counter balance by stopping and thinking through the situation. If you feel she is out of balance, discuss it. Take the right stand, the stand you would take no matter what your wife thought, and stick with it.

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6 Comments on “You are not your wife’s counter-weight

    • Dawn – I can see that. My thinking, not given in the post, was that you choose to not get on the see-saw at all. I suppose by the same token we could say don’t pick up the rope.

  1. My wife and I have a different practice and that to use a word picture to create a “reflection” of the “out of bounds” situation. We think it’s much more effective and more loving as it respects and values the other spouse.

    • Sure. On couple centered issues, a word picture can be used to describe the way in which my message is being received. To use an example from one your recent posts, my wife might say that the lingerie I pick out makes her feel like a prostitute I met in a bar and not my wife who bears the image of God. Additionally, she may say that my behavior towards her when she wears such items is more like an animal in heat than a man in love.

  2. Good questions to ponder. My short answers would be no, yes, and yes.
    The word picture that I like here is a pendulum. I find that I often try to “balance” him by swinging the opposite direction. For example, if he is being too hard on the kids, I react by being too soft. If he is unreasonably angry about something going on at work, I try to be extra cheerful and defend “work”. I have to really be cautious about doing this, as in the case of work, I’m undermining his feelings, and in the case of parenting, I’m being equally “damaging” with softness. In actuality, when I acknowledge his feelings and support his parenting, he usually comes into balance much more quickly than when I try to counter him.

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