It’s Monday. Let’s talk about marriage. And this principle taught today by Brooke Castillo, really applies to other important relationships, as well.

“We call this topic ‘The Manual’. Most of us have operating manuals that we’ve written for the other people in our lives… People have very thick and very long manuals for other people!”

Growing up in my home, with my parents, my dad would help out a lot in the kitchen. He was a good cook! Then I left home to go to college in Idaho. Then later to Africa as a missionary. Then back to school for another degree, in Utah. And there I met and started dating Bryant. And I remember the evening I had a huge exam. Very stressful. And he said, Rach, let me cook dinner for you tonight. Come over to my apartment right after you finish the exam and I will make dinner for you. Great! I finished the exam. I went straight to his apartment, where he was sitting at the table, studying for his own exams. I asked about dinner. He said, Oh yeah. Here’s some bread. You grill the cheese sandwiches and I will warm up the campbells tomato soup.

And I knew then that Bryant wouldn’t be a cook. And that was fine.

But, for some reason, when we got married the following year, I was under the impression that that would change. That, in following with The Manual, Bryant would suddenly start whipping up culinary delights in the kitchen. That is what husbands do, right?

And when he didn’t comply with The Manual I had unwittingly written for him, as my husband now, I let that mean that he didn’t respect my time, etc etc.

(For the record, we got through that one fast. I was just so grateful that he cleaned toilets! I would much rather cook than clean the toilets. And, to this day, that man cleans our toilets.)

Speaking of her clients, Brooke said:

“I started laughing, saying, ‘This very thick manual that you’ve written for your husband. Have you even let him read this manual? Does he know what he’s supposed to do in order to operate properly?’ Most of them would say no. Then they would use that as a reason for being very upset about so many things in their life.”

There are a couple problems with The Manual:


First of all, you can’t control another person.

“One of the things I think is really important to remember is that adult people have the ability and freedom to behave however they would like.”


Second of all, there’s nothing they could possibly do to make you as happy as you want to be.

“We have to remember that it’s our thinking that causes our feelings, not another person’s behavior.”


Let’s look at this in terms of the model.

CIRCUMSTANCE – Just the boring facts. Things that happen in this world that we can’t control like other people’s behavior or the weather.

  • It is 10 degrees outside
  • My husband doesn’t cook
  • I weigh 300 pounds

Circumstances are just the facts. But circumstances can trigger thoughts.


  • It is so miserably cold outside
  • My husband doesn’t respect my time
  • I am fat and ugly

FEELINGS – One word descriptors.

  • Frustrated
  • Lonely
  • Validated
  • Angry
  • Scared

ACTIONS – All of our feelings will drive certain action, inaction, or reaction.


Back to The Manual.

“Have a look at the people in your life that you have manuals for. What is it you want them to do differently than what they’re doing, and why do you want them to behave that way.”

How would I like the circumstance to be different?

EXAMPLE: When my friend doesn’t offer to help me, doesn’t call me or text me, or sometimes won’t even reply to my calls and texts, the story I am telling myself is that she thinks her life is more important than mine, her needs greater, her schedule and her time more valuable.

I’ve tied my emotions to whether or not she follows my “Good Friend Manual”. How do I get out of this poisonous and very faulty thought loop?

Let’s do the thought-work. Right here, right now.

What would I like her to do differently?

  • Reach out to me first, at times
  • Recognize my efforts in my life
  • Feel badly when she doesn’t come through for me

What feelings am I looking for?

  • Validation
  • Peace about the past
  • Respect

What thoughts, from my own brain, would lead me to feel those feelings that I am looking for?

Is it possible for me to think these thoughts and feel these feelings WITHOUT her following The Manual? Yes! I get to feel however I want no matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do. In fact, it is the only way I am truly going to feel those desired feelings – if I choose to think and believe those thoughts. It has absolutely nothing to do with her behavior toward me. Her behavior is a circumstance in the model.

“The reason why you ever want someone else to change the way that they’re behaving is because of how you think you will feel because of their changed behavior. We have to remember that it’s our thinking that causes our feelings, not another person’s behavior.” 

Now, understand this. They do not have to behave in a way that we want. But neither do we have to behave in a way they want. Again, “adult people have the ability and freedom to behave however they would like.” In a relationship, she gets to be who she is. And I get to be who I am. And we are both, at all times, 100% lovable – 100% worthy of love.

But we can certainly make requests of each other. Remember WANT MATCH:

If I request what I want my friend to do, and my friend wants to do it too, then we have a want-match. And vice-versa. If I make a request, and she doesn’t want to do it, but she does it out of a sense of obligation, then we do not have a want-match.

“So if there’s something that you wish your (friend) would do – it would be so great if they would do it – I want to encourage you to ask them if they would want to do that. Not if they would do it, but if they would want to do it. Would that be something fun for them? And it’s not a reason to be disappointed or upset or frustrated. And sometimes you may be really surprised. They may be like, ‘Totally, I’ll do that, that’s no problem, I love that.’ Or they may say, ‘No, that doesn’t feel good to me. That doesn’t feel right to me,’ and that’s okay too.”

Do I really want someone else to do something that they don’t want to do?

“Making requests of people and not tying your emotional life to them is very expected as a normal part of life … When you tie your emotional happiness to whether they respond or not, that’s when you get yourself into big trouble.

The alternative is, let them be who they are. If they want to call you, they call you… You could just love on this person and enjoy this person and not have any kind of manual for them. You could make requests of them just to let them know, I would love this and that and this and that. But knowing that whether they decide to honor those requests or not has nothing to do with you… And you can enjoy them as a person anyway. I have found that this sets people up to have very enjoyable, long lasting, conflict free relationships.

And I love this challenge:

“Genuinely notice what people do when you don’t try to control them. If you only focus on trying to control yourself and your response to how other people behave, what do you imagine your life would be like?”


1 Comment

  1. […] themselves. I have not cleaned a toilet since the day we got married. I’ve talked about that before. And the floor behind the bathtub stays dusted. The beaters on the handmixer always find their way […]

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