HOW TO TRAIN YOUR HUSBAND - BY DON JESSOP
I'm afraid I've found myself swimming in dangerous waters. There are a lot of heavy emotions pertaining to husband and wife relationships, or any relationship for that matter. However, I feel compelled to continue writing in an effort to simplify the way we think about each other. You could easily exchange the word, husband for wife, child, sibling, friend, partner, pet, or counterpart of any kind. Any term will do. What becomes important is the effort to communicate. To make communication a safe and desirable activity. So I begin with asking...What do you really want from your horse, I mean, husband or partner? Do you want him or her to carry you into a brave new, exciting world? Do you want him to be your partner? Do you want to trust him? Do you want him to trust you?
Believe it or not, husband training is not unlike horse training, minus the lead rope and halter. The emotional animal brain is still intact.
The reason I'm writing about training husbands instead of horses today, is because husbands/partners are half the problem, sometimes. They can be unruly and unwittingly destructive to your individual goals. I know, because I am a husband. It's the nature of partnerships. When two people get together, there is magic to be seen as they build an empire together. However, usually some form of compromise will occur. Individual dreams can be thwarted or simply set off track. I've been a husband for fourteen years now. Gratefully, I have a wife who loves and appreciates me. But that doesn't mean I'm always a "good" husband who supports my partner's dreams. Sometimes I'm a naughty husband who needs a little "TLC" to become a better partner. By naughty, I mean: distracted, confused, emotional, dominant, reactive, strung out, etc. Do those problems sound just like horse problems? Yep, they do!
So what does a "good" husband look like? By the way, as I said earlier, you could replace the word husband with: child, friend, wife, spouse, sibling, parent, partner. pet, or any other type of relationship counterpart. Nobody's perfect, so lets get that idea out right away. But there are some standards of communication that anyone can live by to be better. And when those standards aren't met, there are things you can do to train your partner, so he or she loves being exactly what you love most about him.
A good husband is someone who's chooses to focus on his partner. Not 100% of the time, that's unrealistic! I'm just talking about when you're having a conversation. A good husband doesn't get distracted during communication efforts. A good husband also attempts to control his emotions during stressful situations to avoid confusion and reactivity. Of course, no-one is perfect. We all get stressed, and for good reasons, but a good partner can learn (with proper training) to be more grounded, thoughtful, and focused. And, in case you're asking about whether or not it's possible to train for these kinds of things, the answer is... YES! Yes, because the emotional human brain is very similar to the emotional animal brain.
Many people assume they got a "good" husband or a "bad" husband (partner), and leave it at that. They never take responsibility in the training process. But, if you're reading this, you may be considering that every relationship has two sides. And maybe, just maybe, you can take some responsibility in the training process when it comes to communication, rather than adopting a belief that your horse is inherently bad and needs to be replaced. Did I say horse there? I meant husband!
Of course, any single person has to consciously work on bettering themselves. But don't be fooled into thinking that tough relationship situations don't require both parties to engage in progressive training. Bettering relationships require training. Period.
So with that in mind. Would you like to know how to train your husband/wife/partner/child/counterpart to be more focused during communication efforts, less reactive, and more grounded? If you answered yes, read on please.
To work properly with a horse, I mean husband, one must consider using predetermined rewards, consequences, and neutral expressions. All of which, must be timed perfectly. Otherwise, the relationship can deteriorate rather than grow. Some situations require advanced, professional support. I'm not suggesting that you'll be able to do everything yourself, but conceptually, there is something we can learn from the process of training.
For example, if your horse, I mean husband, reacts to something by defending himself with passive words. Delivering a heavy consequence might be too much. Maybe all you need is a neutral expression to help neutralize the emotion. Boundaries have to be set some times, and that's fair, because there are many variables in play here, but I encourage you to think about your partner, just like a horse with an emotional animal brain. He'll learn better if your expressions are pre-planned. Remember... you need predetermined rewards, consequences, and neutral expressions. Don't go into any activity without some planning.
If you want your partner to focus more on you during conversations, don't give him heavy, harsh consequences for NOT focusing. Just add little reminders or invitations, asking him to bring his attention back to you. And when he does, smile, reward heavily, and repeat. It's that simple. There's not a husband in the world that won't respond well to a barrage of simple invitations laced with heavy rewards. With a horse, you can use treats and grooming, attached to kind words of affirmation. With husbands, it's the same! Use treats, grooming (physical touch in the nicest ways), and words of affirmation.
Simply put: If you want something from your husband, invite him to do it, then reward him heavily for doing it. The key word is... invite. Don't tell him that he should know this already. Don't tell him what he's not doing for you. Don't tell him what's missing. Don't tell him there will be consequences if he doesn't do it. Don't berate him when he makes efforts that seem too little, in the right direction. Instead... invite him to do things for you, and reward him like crazy. If you need his attention, demand it, then immediately shift your expression to one of gratitude when you have it. In a very short while, you'll see him put more and more effort into pleasing you. Because you react so positively when he's doing what's right.
- Husbands, in case your reading too... this works both ways. You too can be creative about your invitations and rewards.
Imagine a horse doing exactly what you want, and your expression in return is an unpleasant, heaving sigh of relief with the word "FINALLY" attached to it. No horse, I mean husband, on the planet will want to do that thing again. The reward has to be positive, not neutral or negative. If a horse runs away from you and you beat it up when it comes back, the future relationship will always be on thin ice. But it can all be shifted with properly planned and practiced expressions.
Let's put this idea into practice with a simple story.
A husband returns from a three day trip, far away. He's expected home at noon, but his travel plans are delayed and he's unable to communicate the changes with his wife. Finally, late in the afternoon, he returns home, but his welcome is unfriendly. His wife is upset. "Where have you been? Why haven't you called?" she screams. Now the husband, if he's thinking clearly can reason with this reaction, noting that his communication should be clearer. But the wife must play her part too. From an emotional animal brain perspective, the wife is pushing the husband away for the act of coming home. How likely is it, that the husband will cease to enjoy coming home, when his welcome is so unfriendly? In time, if communication efforts aren't practiced, this relationship will struggle. It's the same with any relationship. There is a better time and place to discuss fear and express distrust and dislike of certain behaviors. Planning must precede your own reactions if you want to excel in communication. I'm not talking about being being perfect. I'm talking about making progress.
In this same scenario, the wife could have pre-planned a positive expression for the safe return of her husband and saved the thoughts of fear and disgust, for a later conversation. Her husband is responsible for not communicating, it's true, but she is responsible for reacting poorly, and inadvertently making things worse. There are thousands of variables to every experience and every human has the right to be expressive. But, if we want to lead ourselves, and our partners to a better place in this life, we must practice our expressions. We must plan our reactions, while keeping in mind the consequences of our emotional reactions.
From an instinctual place, the wife's negative reactions were timed to instill fear in the husband about not communicating. It's simply unfortunate that from an instinctual place, the husband will often mistake that desire for better communication, for a desire to stay away. Instinct is not always the correct path to take when it comes to communication. To lead, we must plan.
This whole concept seems a bit heavy, I know, but it truly is just like horse training. The emotional brain is trainable with properly timed consequences, neutral expression, and rewards. These expressions can be learned. You can learn them. You can enhance the relationship by learning them and practicing them. You can plan for future mistakes and misunderstandings.
I truly believe people are just like horses when it comes to the use of their emotional responses. Sure we have higher cognitive functions, but emotionally, we react and respond to pressure in the same ways. We fight, flee or freeze. Many people believe that because horses are prey animals, they react differently to predators and humans. But the truth is clear, whether you're a prey animal or predator at the top of the food chain, the emotional animal brain is the same. We all freeze, flee, or fight, under pressure. The cool part is, because we know this, we can look to simple training methods to modify our own, and our partners behaviors. We can invite and reward what we want and cause what we don't want to disappear. We can diminish our instinctual negative reactions. Not forever, because the brain is more complex than that. Things change. But as they change, we can adapt again and train again for the things we want.
One last note. I think some people expect their horses, I mean husbands, to learn something and remember it indefinitely. It doesn't work that way. Repetition is always required. Training makes things better... not perfect. Therefore, it's better to first focus on training your own brain to react to circumstances better. From this higher function, you can then help others more effectively. So if you're noticing how you react to circumstances, write about it, then creatively plan and attempt ways to react differently. Predetermine a series of rewards, consequences, and neutral expressions for yourself, because that's what all good trainers do.
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