Your wife is simple. That’s an overstatement, of course. However, you need to know that she is not as complicated as she seems. She’s just wonderfully different than you. Those differences are both your greatest blessing and your greatest challenge. Starting with how she processes – thinks about – and love.
- When you do something that doesn’t make sense to her, she believes you are wrong.
- When she doesn’t something that doesn’t make sense to you, you give up.
She believes you are wrong mostly because she doesn’t know what you are thinking … or if you even are thinking. As an “internal processor,” you rarely talk about what’s going on in your mind. And sometimes, you’re not thinking about anything at all. A feat which she is incapable of achieving. Her mind never shuts off. Just so you know, it’s probably a running to-do list.
Because she is less able to defend herself physically, she has to keep an ever-watchful eye on her surroundings. She’s always thinking ahead. Thinking about possible problems and how to solve them. Which makes it difficult for her to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Yes, she worries all the time.
In my generation, wives only worried about who had the cleanest house, the best-behaved children, and the most attentive husband. Nowadays, if she has small children, she has to watch out for “mom shaming.” A more critical version of the comparison game wherein moms pick on moms in a constant spiral of one-upmanship.
Yes, it’s a real thing. And it can be vicious. I don’t know which is worse for a husband:
- having a wife on the receiving end of mom-shaming or
- having a wife who effectively stomps on her friends by her claims of superiority.
Indeed, a lot of what she worries about falls in the category of comparing herself to other women. By her standards, she is falling short. However, she may not be fully aware that she is in constant competition with her friends, as well as her enemies. But if you try to tell her that she shouldn’t worry about what other people think, she’ll feel like you don’t understand the full impact of peer pressure on her sense of self.
Which you don’t, of course.
She can’t just turn it off. Her emotional safety – her place in the community – depends on getting it right. This way of life is even more exhausting for her than it is for you. Believe it or not. And it increases exponentially if she has and additional career outside the home. Because she carries the same strategy with her wherever she goes. Just like you carry yours.
Men make this mistake all the time.
You believe she should use your strategies for dealing with life because they work for you. But they’ll never work for her, even if she’s willing to give them a try. Just as when you try to use your work strategies at home, they fail more than they succeed. Very different people with very different challenges need very different strategies.
So what role do you play when she won’t take your advice?
Victim. Villain. Hero. Your choice.
1. You ignore her.
You’re tired of listening to her go on and on, and you secretly wish she’d just stop talking. But she has never taken your advice, so you just give up. You avoid her as much as you can, and you certainly don’t want to engage in a conversation with her. But you still hope that she’ll be in the mood for sex at the end of the evening. You’ve accepted the real possibility of rejection in that department.
If this is your approach, you are the victim in the story.
2. You get on her case.
You tell her to stop complaining. She’s brining it all on herself by not taking your advice. You point out her faults, primarily how weak she is and point out that her feeling are always hurt. Or you side with her critics and confirm all the faults she fears she has. You tell her to listen to their feedback and shape up.
If this is your approach, you are the villain in the story.
3. You understand that she’s not a man and take a different approach.
You take time to listen to her story.
If she approaches you when you really don’t have the energy, you tell her you want to give her your undivided attention and let her know when you will be available (e.g., at 3pm, after dinner).
Women tend to talk in paragraphs, so you slow her down so you don’t get lost. You say: “Hold on a second. I want to make sure I understand. You’re saying ____________________. Did I get that right?”
As you listen to her story, you think about what she might be feeling. You say: “It sounds like you’re feeling ________. Is that right?” (You can use my downloadable cheat sheet to expand your vocabulary of feeling words.)
If this is your approach, you are the hero in the story.
Practice makes perfect.
The solutions are usually simple, but not always easy or obvious. You probably won’t get it right the first time. But, like anything else, you’ll get better at the skill the more you use it. There’s good news for you both in this:
In contrast to your possible predictions, she’ll probably spend less time talking.
- Women repeat themselves because they don’t think their husbands are listening. You’re fixing that.
- Women give more examples because they don’t think their husbands understand. And you’re fixing that.
- Women get more emotional because they don’t think their husbands know how they feel. You’re fixing that, too.
Your wife will think she has the best, most attentive husband ever. And that will play out for you in innumerable ways. How would you like …
- More affection.
- More admiration.
- More appreciation.
Give it a try. And if you have any questions, let me know. Remember, I’m here to help.