What prompted this post is a combination of things. The last post made me think a lot. I wrote it well before I shared it… and while reviewing it before sharing, my mind got to thinking. The other… my wife has been known to take initiatives that she feels will help the family. As helpful as those initiatives are, I don’t always agree with her version of the initiative.
Moments when my wife does things that she feels are awesome and perfect… that I don’t see to be so perfect… I have to tap into the advice a coach once shared with me. This helps me stay cool and way calmer than I ordinarily would want to be.
Women value words and actions on a level most guys take for granted. It is best that you remain silent and let them talk ten thousand insults than for you to raise your voice and destroy her with one single insult.
I never understood this until I got married. As I looked at many other married couples, a pattern started to emerge. Women, for reason I do not yet fully understand, have the expectations that they can unload (unleash… unedited) their views, thoughts, and feelings on their men with the understanding that he will remain a cool solid rock of understanding. We are expected to filter our emotions (something a lot of men struggle with) and measure our responses.
The minute a guy flings a strongly worded response, the very existence of the relationship is called into question. The very nature of a woman’s security in her relationship can be called into question by a hasty poorly worded retort.
”How can you say that? Don’t you love my? What did I do to you to deserve this? Don’t you want me anymore?”
This advice has helped me stay cool in situations where I wanted to snap a quick reply. In keeping cool, I’ve learned to look for understanding so that I can appreciate why my wife did what she did.
Let’s be real. I’m not saying I’m not fuming. I’m not saying I’m not upset. Far from it. There are times that I’m so upset I won’t speak for hours… even days. Thankfully, my wife seems to be very understanding of my process. (editorial note… this quiet storm approach is not being promoted as solid relationship advice. There are times it is not wise to quietly fume. There are times it is best to handle the situation in the moment… respectfully… no matter how heated one feels)
In the course of thinking and asking smart questions, I often uncover what motivated my wife to do what she did. It makes sense. I get why she did what she did. From her point of view, it is the right thing to do. From her vantage, it’s motivated by love and is the optimal choice for her family.
While I don’t share that point of view, I have to respect it. She didn’t do anything wrong. She didn’t set out to hurt me. Her choice of action was just not the choice of action I would have made in that situation. How I address this difference in view will have a huge impact on how well our relationship continues to grow.
To have responded with force (verbally… that is) would have been very damaging to her and our relationship. We men have to learn how to respond in a healthier way to our women (editorial note… extremely aware that this sentence is loaded with stereotyping… please be kind)
That said. A controlled response does not mean no response at all. The communication has to take place. Maybe not in the heat of the moment, but at some point, it has to take place. How else will the partner know what your values and views are if you don’t communicate? Ideally, such a conversation should take place before any offending actions… but life is a bit more nuanced than that.
How to speak on it and bring life out of it
For starters, let’s get the formalities addressed. Some people will need professional level help to learn how to speak effectively to their partner. That’s why there are many great qualified licensed therapists making a good living helping couples navigate these situations.
Now that we’ve covered the top quality advice, let’s get down to basics.
I’ve had to learn how to process my emotions and separate them from facts. Meaning. I had to keep my anger in check so I could see her point of view factually. If my anger clouded the facts, I would easily see her actions as intentional deliberate acts to upset me. Obviously, she’s not in the business of harming me willfully.
My hurt is an indicator that something is out of alignment… value wise. My wife made a value judgment that she felt would help me. I got angry because the decision hurt me.
What I need to do is voice that in a way that is constructive.
“Honey. The other day, you did xyz. I believe you were trying to help me. I do feel hurt that you did not check with me to make sure that was what I wanted.”
That is a far healthier approach than saying something like “How could you be so stupid to do that?”.
The former opens up a dialogue and leaves room for an apology and growth. The ladder is accusatory and sets up a fight and defensive actions. Don’t forget, many understand that a good defense require some offense. In a relationship fight… when one feels attacked, one often will attack back.
By utilizing better communication skills… many issues can be resolved without hurting each other. I have learned a lot about what my wife likes and doesn’t like… simply by asking. There were so many ‘helpful’ things I used to do that I don’t do any more. Why? Because, to my wife, those things are not as helpful as I thought. If anything, it was stressing her out. Even if those things… when checked with others to be sure the idea was good… was a great idea.
My idea of great is not her idea of great. I can have all my male friends and all my female friends validate me. It doesn’t matter. To my wife… the idea does not work for her. No matter how much I want it to. I gotta respect her view and do what works for her.
By doing the extra work to do what works for her, she’s able to grow more secure with me and blossom more as my wife. Over time, my relationship has improved because we both work hard to make each other happy by doing what each other prefers.