This is a frequent question among my golfing friends.  “Why can it be so difficult to play with our husbands?”  I would also appreciate advice on managing irritating situations that occur when I play with mine.  

For starters, let’s agree that each husband is different, and it may not be difficult to play with all husbands.  However this is not an uncommon question, as you noted.

So, let’s talk about perceived “difficult” husbands.

Your question didn’t identify the exact actions that make your husband, or other husbands, difficult, but I will take a guess that they are trying to tell you how to golf.  At least, that is how you may see it.  Your husband might be giving comments on your swing, your club choice, the way you drive the cart, or on any number of ways he might “help.”  In most cases, I believe husbands are genuinely trying to help, however, help isn’t always wanted or even needed.

I can offer three approaches you might take to manage those situations, which feel irritating to you.

1. Respectfully ask your husband to not do whatever it is that causes you to feel uncomfortable and explain how it is affecting you.  He may not know how you feel and may willingly choose to change because of his new understanding.

2. Set a boundary such as, “I understand you are just trying to be of help, but if I continue hearing you trying to help me, I won’t be able to play with you because I don’t enjoy it.”

  • Remember, if you set a boundary and it is violated, you will need to follow through with the consequences in order for your boundary to be respected in the future.  In this case, the consequence would be that you will not be playing with him. In setting a boundary, it is best to state what you will do, or not do, rather than telling the other person what to do.
  • By focusing on your future actions, not his, you are allowing him to choose to continue his behavior, but you have let him know what you will do if that is his choice.  As the boundary-setter declaring your intentions and your subsequent actions, you maintain personal control of the situation rather than trying to control him.  Notice the subtle difference between how the previous example boundary is stated compared to “If you do not stop giving me instructions, we won’t be able to play together.”

3. Practice the skill of thought management.

  • The “difficulty” for you and your friends is not caused by what your husband is doing, but by your thoughts about what your husband is doing.  He’s thinking he’s helping or teaching, which feels positive to him, and you are judging him as being difficult, which is irritating to you.  And since you are the one experiencing the feelings of irritation, and you are the one who is responsible for your own thoughts and feelings (not him), you are the one who may want to change your thoughts to something that feels better and serves you better.
  • One of the primary principles of human nature is that we cannot change others.  We can only change ourselves.  However, the good news is we can learn to change our thoughts about a person or situation to create whatever feelings we want to experience.  Our ability to change our thoughts, which change our feelings, is one of our power sources in life, and can be used in any situation, both on the course and off. 

The bottom line is, it is your responsibility to figure out how you can stay in a positive, or at least, not negative, state of mind no matter what your husband is doing. It’s all about thought management, which by the way is what golf is mostly about, too.

To start with, just observe your husband with no judgment.  When he says or does something that “makes it difficult to play with him,” come up with a thought, or thoughts, that help keep you in a positive or calm mental place.  Your new thoughts need to be ones that are true for you.  Ones that you can believe.

You may want to have thoughts ready ahead of time.  Thoughts you’ve created and practiced specifically for this situation when it occurs.  Example thoughts might be, “He’s just trying to help,” “He doesn’t understand I need to learn on my own,” or “I can choose to ignore what he is saying.”  Thoughts that usually work best are going to be ones you think up for yourself, but if these examples resonate with you, please use them.  Then, when he starts “helping”, replace your negative thought, such as, “I wish he would just stop with his instructions and let me hit,” with a replacement thought that creates a better feeling.

Before you leave for your next game together, you might also practice believing the thought, “No matter what he does, I will enjoy my game.”

When you practice thought management, you will notice a shift in your feelings and in your body.  Your body will relax a little and your feelings will gradually become more positive and “irritation resistant,” no matter whom you are with and what is happening around you.  Thought management is applicable to all situations, on the course and off.

When you become fluent in thought management, which is basically the “mental side” of golf, not only can you improve your game, you can change your life.