If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how much time I’ve invested over the years in helping women understand and respect the men they love. I’m so proud of those women who have learned how men operate. They now know the best ways to inspire, influence, and invite their husbands into a deeper experience of life. These women have discovered their relational power. As a result, they’ve fallen deeply in love with their husbands all over again. Even more so than they were in the beginning of their relationship. How cool is that?
My theory was that when a wife met her husband’s emotional needs, he would automatically rise to the occasion. Becoming the man God created him to be. And that has worked beautifully for so many couples.
However, the most growth happens when a man also learns to meet his wife’s emotional needs. He, too, feels empowered. He’s not merely dependent on his wife’s affirmations to keep him going and growing.
And that’s a good thing. Because a man is sensitive to his wife.
If she’s having a bad day, he needs to understand her struggle and how he can best protect and provide for her in the midst of the fray. He needs to acknowledge that she is not a man. She doesn’t think like a man or act like a man. He doesn’t want her to, of course, but it’s the only solution he knows. He thinks, “Do what I do, and you’ll be fine.”
But what works for a man almost never works for a woman.
It violates the Primary Principle for Understanding Women. Everything she thinks, feels, and does is connected to her desire for connection. Yes, she can conquer the world if she has to or wants to. But she doesn’t want to conquer you. She wants to feel connected to you. You’re sensitive to her moods. She’s sensitive to the space between you. The wider it gets and the longer it lasts, the more anxious she becomes.
And anxiety drives much of her behavior.
She worries about everything. It’s actually one of her best defenses against trouble. If she keeps an eye out for ways life can go south, she can escape it or … better yet … find someone who will help her figure it out. Usually, that someone is the man she loves. She is counting on you to be there for her, which means more than just coming home every day. She’s all about connection, remember?
Your tendency is to listen for a problem, then solve it.
From your point of view, that’s how it’s done. But from her point of view, it’s about connection. So she wants you to hear the entire story, which, of course, includes the back story. And sometimes, the side story. I know it’s exhausting for you, especially if she gets emotional in the telling. That’s why you jump in so quickly to solve a problem without first knowing if you’re solving the right problem … or even if there is a problem. Because sometimes, the problem is simply that ever-widening space between you.
As a man, you use words to convey information.
That’s a no-brainer for you. It’s hard for you to imagine anything else. Why waste time and energy talking about feelings?
From her perspective, sharing experiences and the emotions that go with them are the primary means to create connection. When she shares something with you, she is inviting you into her world. She is sharing her heart with the one she loves.
When she seems overly negative, she’s more anxious.
And the quicker you learn that she wants to know you’re there, not just to solve her problem, but to love and understand her, the smoother the interaction will go … for you both!
No, you don’t have to agree with her assessment of anything.
Nor do you have to do just whatever she commands you to do. Instead, you have the power to take charge of the situation. How? Do more listening than talking. Actually pay attention to her body language and tone.
Does she sound angry?
She’s probably more desperate than angry … especially if you’ve had this discussion before. What might her desperation be? That is, what could she be feeling beneath the anger? Sadness? Hurt? Anxiety? When in doubt, go with anxiety. You’ll be right most of the time.
I’ve often compared men to dogs. Not that you are a dog, but that you respond better to positive reinforcement than you do to a rolled-up newspaper. And the best positive reinforcement – from my observations – is your wife’s smile.
On the other hand, I’ve often compared a woman to a small scared child. Not that she is a child, of course. But a man automatically knows what to do when a 2-year-old is terrified. You don’t shout a solution from across the room, then walk out when she doesn’t calm down. Instead, you move closer to the child, speak in a softer, reassuring voice, and hold her until she’s not scared anymore. Then you talk about how to solve the problem.
Think about that for a minute.
You know how to comfort and reassure a child. You don’t do that for your wife because all you see is anger. What if it is fear instead. How could you apply this strategy next time? If you think it would be counterproductive, you could be right. But maybe you’ve just not discovered how to see her desperate desire to create connection. I’d be happy to talk with you about it. Remember, I’m here to help.