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.
These are the most common things I hear women say they wish men knew, or paid more attention to.
20 years into the new millennium things are starting to really change, but even still, both men and the women have been unwittingly conditioned to behave in certain ways that we are often unaware of. It’s not us, but rather that conditioning, that leads to 99% of our 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. So we can learn some healthy habits around how to discuss challenging issues. Or 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
Women think differently than men. But do we think that’s more of a problem for men than women?! Both of us have to manage that difference. And managing it ourselves means making adjustments to our way of doing things.
Rather than forcing an issue to go our way, we’re smarter to figure out ways to do things that are better for both of you. Search for better, hybrid answers between how you do things and how your partner does them. Find those answers much like you would with any friend you respect.
Gentlemen, please consider that in general, guys fix things. That’s how we often see relationships too. If something’s broken, we want to know what to do.
That’s why men hate crying. There’s nothing we can do. We’re helpless. It’s perceived like a kind of torturous violence against us. It hurts to watch because we can’t fix it. It makes us feel small and ineffective.
That’s why some guys will even get angry at a crying woman. But anger just creates more crying. That’s just logical. So how about doing something nice for her instead? If she’s crying she’s in pain. Don’t try to shut down the pain for your sake, try to soothe it away for her sake.
His wife’s pain should obviously matter to a healthy man –to any healthy person. Unless she’s faking it, or manipulating, to suggest that she’s wrong or silly to be crying is to be cruel. Period.
Maybe she’s overwhelmed and you aren’t, but don’t suggest you can possibly be an honourable man if you’re routinely cruel to your partner. They should be our partner because we’re naturally driven to care for them. That’s the unconditional part of unconditional love.
Instead of complaining about her complaints, how about trying to elevate her consciousness by lifting it up from a higher level?
Instead of being an immature version of ourselves that might yell at her, or call her dismissive names, or suggest that 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?
For example, I know a husband who can be callous with his wife. He’s conscious of it and he doesn’t like that his behaviour occasionally hurts her. He’s no good at apologizing using words, but he also knows she hates it that he doesn’t do more around the house.
So what’s his wise response? When she cries, he cleans. And while she never gets her apology, she has come to understand that the cleaning is an apology —it’s an attempt to silently meet her half way.
And once she learned to recognize the form of his apology, it did make her feel better and the strife does end sooner when that happens. Don’t meet negativity with negativity gentlemen. You can’t add two negatives and get a positive. A man’s strength should also show up in his ability to comfort.
On top of the benefits of more positive action, we also set a better example. If we don’t respond to her needs, should she do that to us too? If we come home worried about something important to us –like the security of our 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.
Gentlemen, try meeting your spouse’s 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, try doing things that would cause that to happen, like that guy who cleans the house.
If we are selfish and ignore our partner’s pain to go hang out with our buddies, all we really will have done is to give her several hours to think about it how we’ve failed to acknowledge her suffering, meaning we’re likely to come home to someone even more upset because we abandoned them in a time of need.
Sure, our partners can’t use their needs like a chain to hold us 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.
They feel that way until they get served papers and find out that they might now be providing for two households from the same income. Not to mention the fact that if we don’t personally comfort our wives, maybe someone else will.
If we imagine our kids calling someone else “Daddy,” then we might better appreciate how little yelling or name-calling is truly appropriate. Respect comes from how we behave, but too many men are living very unconsciously.
We shouldn’t take relationships for granted, and then complain about anything troublesome. Our relationships are partners should be seen as more delicate things, requiring lifelong attention and care.
Taking things for granted is why 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 trying to understand how people saw thoughts, that I wasn’t even aware in my own marriage. (I was like Kinsey in that great movie about him, where he was so busy studying intimacy that he forgot to actually have some with his wife.)
I actually thought it was my wife who was having trouble getting on board with me. Don’t be innocent and dumb like I was gentlemen. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her. But we had quite different ideas of about the shape of our marriage that we had never discussed enough.
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 wanted vs the one she wanted —I should have been consulting her like someone I respected. Then we could have chosen a direction that worked best for both of us. Every time we did that it worked great.
If you’re screwing up I’m not saying you don’t love your wives and girlfriends guys. 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. They need signs and symbols of that love. Sure, sometimes the women can take us for granted too —but that’s for another blog post. We have to focus on what we’re doing.
Since some of this likely true for some of you, let’s imagine you’re a week away from getting divorce papers. Men are terrible about often avoiding the emotional implications of that, so they shift immediately to practicals.
So let’s look at just practical things. Calculate half of your wage and half of your assets, because if you continue to ignore your partner, that amount of money will be what your ignorance or pride costs you. Because trust me, people are generous. We all will have been given thousands of chances to avoid that future.
Even more importantly than finances is the fact that, having a partner –someone who is there for us through all kinds of highs and lows– is no small presence in our lives. We should stay conscious of that and stay aware of how deeply connected to our happiness those good relations can be.
A divorce is not what she wants. But if we’re not awake —if we’re not tuned into really considering this other person’s perspective— then we are working to literally create a future where our masculinity, our income and our social status and most importantly our sources of general happiness will all suffer.
And none of that will even begin to compare to what it will do to our 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 movies you like, then maybe you can try to actually understand why she likes the ones she likes.
Doing a more conscious job of trying to really learn about and understand our partners can save us a fortune in time, arguments, money and heartache. Even better than helping us avoid trouble, that deeper understanding also leads to much more intimacy and connection.
So, all this being said, how about if, on the way home from work today, instead of telling her about your day, you ask about hers? And if it sounds tough, how about if you remembered that tough for her feels like tough for you.
Just like anyone would want compassion in those situations, we should learn to give it too. Because nothing will give us more time to relax than a happy spouse who feels respected and loved because they genuinely are.
It’s almost a guarantee that if you’re reading this as a man and you’re in a relationship, you’re probably blinded at least in part 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.
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!
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.