Winner: 2014’s Blog of the Year #4
Gentlemen. I’m not sure if you’re reading this voluntarily or if it was sent to you by a woman, but it will very likely be worth your time to take a moment to really slow down and read this. Because not reading it could completely change your life.
Of course I will have no choice but to speak in generalities, but I deal with relationships for a lot of my practice and the consistency of the issues is remarkable. Both the men and the women have been unwittingly conditioned to behave in certain ways that they are unaware of, and that lack of awareness is what leads to 99% of the relationship’s strife.
If you don’t like complaints, or being nagged; if you don’t like fights and yelling and general negativity, then stop for a second and really meditate on what you might do that would actually change that. Because she doesn’t like it any more than you do, and the only other route to actually dealing with it is to—in most jurisdictions—give up half of what you have and half of what you earn.
Since a large part of a man’s identity is–like it or not–closely related to his ability to earn and spend, it would do you good to pay serious attention. Because otherwise you might be buying your own furniture for a much more modest place, and you’ll likely have to make other sacrifices to what you drive, and your social time too. And the beat-yourself-up thoughts that go with that can literally set you back a decade.
Yes women think differently that men. Duh. Do you think that’s more of a problem for men than women?! Both of you have to manage that difference. And managing it yourself means making adjustments to your way of doing things. It’s figuring out better ways to do things, rather than just forcing your partner to do it the way you would. Wake up and respect your partner as much as you respect the source of your income. Because life will be a lot more expensive and painful without either of them.
Guys fix things. That’s how they see relationships too. If something’s broken, they want to know what to do. That’s why men hate crying. There’s nothing we can do. We’re helpless. It’s like violence against us. It hurts to watch because we can’t fix it. Some guys will even get angry at a crying woman because it makes them feel so helpless. But anger just creates more crying. So how about doing something nice for her instead? If she’s crying she’s in pain. That should obviously matter to you. Unless she’s faking or manipulating you, to say she’s wrong or silly to be crying is to be cruel. Period. So don’t suggest you can possibly be an honourable man if you’re cruel to your partner.
Instead of complaining about her complaints, how about trying to elevate her consciousness by lifting it up from a higher level? Instead of yelling at her or calling her names or suggesting she’s stupid for seeing things the way she does, how about thinking about what you know about her and using that for a response?
I know a husband who can be callous with his wife and he doesn’t like that his behaviour occasionally hurts her. But he also knows she hates it that he doesn’t do more around the house. So when she cries, he cleans. And she understands the cleaning is an apology—it’s an attempt to meet her half way. And it does make her feel better and the strife ends sooner. Don’t meet negativity with negativity. You can’t add two negatives and get a positive.
If you don’t respond to her needs, should she do that to you too? If you come home worried about something important to you–like the security of your job, or trouble with a co-worker–should she just dismiss it? Should she tell you that you’re home now, not at work, so just drop it because she doesn’t feel like listening to your bitching? She’s probably technically right. There probably isn’t anything that can be done—about work. But there is something that can be done about how you/she feels.
So when it’s her, try meeting her struggling energy with the same compassion and openness and love you’re looking for when it’s you that’s hurting. Instead of ordering her to feel better, you could do things that would cause that to happen, like the guy who cleans the house. Certainly leaving to go hang out with your buddies at the golf course is only going to give her four hours to think about it how you’ve failed to acknowledge her suffering, so you’re likely to come home to someone even more upset because you abandoned them in a time of need.
Sure, she can’t use need like a chain to hold you back from life, but very few men are in that situation. Most are just taking their wife’s complaints for granted and they act pretty much like the complaints just don’t count. Like they won’t add up. Until they get served papers and find out that they might now by providing for two households from the same income. Not to mention the fact that if you don’t personally comfort your wife maybe someone else will. Just imagine your kids calling someone else “Daddy” and then ask yourself how much yelling or name-calling you think is appropriate.
A large percentage of guys are caught completely off guard when they receive divorce papers or a lawsuit from a common-law situation. I can speak from experience—I didn’t see it coming at all. I was so focused on understanding thought that I wasn’t even aware of my own marriage. I actually thought it was my wife who was having trouble getting on board with me. Of course I later realized I wasn’t thinking about us as a couple at all. My life was mine only. And I didn’t like it any time she wanted to be a free-thinking adult and choose a direction that took my life “off course.” I shouldn’t have been arguing over the direction—I should have been consulting her like someone I respected and then we should have chosen a direction that worked best for both of us. Every time we did that it worked great.
I’m not saying you don’t love your wives and girlfriends. I loved mine enough that I would have died protecting her, and yet I still got how-to-be-a-husband all wrong. I know from my practice that men often find breakups even more devastating than women do. But you knowing you love them isn’t the same as them knowing it. And they need signs and symbols of its existence. Sure, sometimes the women can take you for granted too—but that’s for another blog post. You have to focus on what you’re doing.
Since this is surely true for some of you, let’s imagine you’re a week away from getting divorce papers. And imagine you magically know this. Now take half of your wage and half of your assets, calculate their value and then know that if you continue to ignore your partner, that amount of money will be what that ignorance costs you. Because trust me, you will have been given thousands of chances to avoid that.
That’s not what she wants. But if you’re not awake—if you’re not tuned into really considering this other person’s perspective–then you are working to literally create a future where your masculinity, your income and your social status will all suffer. And none of that will even begin to compare to what it will do to your self-image. And none of that will compare to how much it’ll hurt to let down someone you truly love.
Wake up guys. Your home is like clothing to your wife. She feels it represents her, so you putting some work into maintaining it, is like you putting work into your relationship. Helping more with any kids, and just generally appreciating what she does will do wonders for your relationship. And if she can try to understand why you like The Fast and the Furious, maybe you can try to actually understand why she likes The Notebook. Because actually understanding that might just save you a fortune in time, money and heartache.
So on the way home from work today, how about instead of telling her about your day, you ask about hers? And when it sounds tough, how about if you remembered that tough for her feels like tough for you? And just like you want compassion in those situations, learn to give it too. Because nothing will give you more time to relax than a happy wife who feels respected and loved.
It’s almost a guarantee that if you’re reading this as a man and you’re in a relationship, you’re probably blind in the ways described. So take a moment to figure out what you could consciously do to improve your partner’s life. Because that is, in other words, a way of improving your own.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
PS: If you’re looking for tools to make things better, try also reading And if we’re really trying to improve all marriages then reading An Open Letter to Women. Enjoy and good luck!