Stay on My Side of the Street


IMG_3123There is a catchphrase that I heard years ago that has been generously helpful in maintaining harmony in our home over the last few decades.  I hear these wise words speaking to me inside my head whenever I am tempted to focus on my spouse’s words, behavior, or motives.  Stay on my side of the street.  What does this mean?  It means looking at my own words and behavior instead of focusing on his.  I’m not responsible for his tone of voice or what he did or didn’t do “right.”   I am responsible for my words and my behavior.  So, that’s where I need to place my focus.

If I follow this guidance, not only can I keep arguments from escalating, I can keep them from starting in the first place.  I can’t begin to count the many arguments that got started in the first place because I misplaced  my focus.  Before I go listing his flaws and trying to analyze his motives, I probably need to turn that pointing finger back to myself.  The human psyche can be tricky.  We often stare at and judge another’s shortcomings when we aren’t happy with our own.  This is a deception to help us feel better about ourselves.  So, just maybe he’s not the problem.

I have found that most of the times that I am tempted to roam around on his side of the street, it is for things that I have no business concerning myself about.  Things such as his mood, his tone of voice, his motives, even what he meant when he said whatever it is he said that ruffled my feathers.

If we get into an argument and I find that I’m out of my territory and into his, I can get back on my side of the street where I find that I have plenty to look at in myself.  What might I have said that contributed to the argument?  How was my tone of voice? What were my motives? This takes rigorous honesty and great discipline, because even with my best intentions, I’m suspiciously tempted to say to myself, “Yeah, but, he _______.   So, maybe he did.   None of us are perfect all of the time.  Through these honest reviews I’ve certainly found that I am not.

On the rarest of occasions, I may find that my behavior and words were stellar.  But, in the process of quietly looking at myself, he has no one to argue with, and this often, ends the battle.

Let me remember I’m not responsible for his behavior: I’m responsible for my own.



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