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So it was my beautiful wife's birthday recently and I decided to take her to a swanky restaurant here in my home town of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Sitting having a great and relaxing time with my wife I became aware of a man and his partner with their young daughter (probably somewhere around 4 years old) entering the restaurant.
When out and about I often spend a little time observing the behaviour of men and (rightly or wrongly) look to see how that behaviour is affecting / driving or influencing both positively or negatively the guy that I’m observing.
So far everything is great - but then the inevitable happens, the daughter gets bored very quickly and decides to go and explore her new surroundings. Now at this point I'm super interested because (rightly or wrongly) I think I can see what could happen in this given situation. Aaaannnnddd right I was.
This is interesting to me because I have seen it many times before and this situation can cause a lot more damage to relationships than we usually give reflection to. It is, in essence, the differences that demonstrate many things such as how the male and female brains are wired for different things, how we (as men) react to stressful situations but also the lasting damage that behaviour can have on relationships - and it is these behaviours and episodes which, are usually small in isolation, tend to develop and build up over a number of years which can be so very destructive to a relationship.
So the little girl is running around the restaurant and the mother quietly asks the girl to stop running around, sit down and have a drink – which she does, for 28 seconds and then she's off again. Now this pattern happens a couple more times before the man intervenes.
Here is where things start to take a turn because the guy perhaps is trying to control the daughters behaviour initially not because his daughter is being overly naughty or difficult - no, at this point his main focus perhaps is that he is aware that people have seen his partner try to manage the child's behaviour and all he wants to do is be the knight in shinning armour, by simply talking with his daughter she will react differently to his voice and sit ever so nicely at the table. He is doing what he feels is the right thing in trying to control the behaviour - but perhaps for the wrong reasons!
Fast forward a little bit, the daughter's behaviour is now getting a little louder and more erratic as she feels imprisoned in the corner between the wall and the table, not being able to get out and run freely around the restaurant. Eventually she escapes her corner underneath the table to resume her running around the restaurant.
At this point the man, quite evidently, becomes louder and more direct with his daughter which actually attracts more attention of other diners than the daughter running around. No matter how he tries, the daughter will not stop running around the restaurant.
The key point, as far as the partner is concerned, has been reached. It's now LESS about the behaviour of her daughter and MORE about the behaviour of her partner. She is embarrassed by her partner's behaviour, the way in which he has handled the whole situation and now she just wants to get the bill and leave the restaurant.
What has been achieved during their visit to the restaurant? Clearly the woman has not enjoyed her time there and there may have been damage done to the relationship. Incidentally, the young daughter left skipping and smiling - so she didn’t seem overly affected by the whole episode.
Who loses here in this episode? The erosion of a relationship can happen without either party really acknowledging that it's really happening - what's worse, living in a negative relationship or perhaps upsetting a few people in a restaurant?
Is there a different way? Well, perhaps there are many, but if you recognise yourself or indeed your partner in this event, please get in touch to see how we can work together to achieve a much more harmonious outcome.