Saturday, January 16, 2016

What Husbands Say, What Wives Hear

Continuing along with some tidbits I picked up from listening to the surprisingly good How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, here's the problem with talking from the woman's point of view.

While men are triggered by shame - the shame of failing as providers and protectors - women are triggered by fear, the fear of losing relationships and the support they provide. If they don't feel safe in the relationship, for whatever reason, when their man criticizes them, their fear response overrides rational thought and they can't hear what you're saying. Instead, what they hear is: "Blah blah blah I don't love you blah blah blah I won't be there for you blah blah blah I might even hurt you."

It's like this, only with fewer hairballs.
The different reactions between men and women can result in a vicious cycle.
  1. The woman feels insecure in the relationship, so she wants to talk about it like she does with her girlfriends.
  2. When she talks, all the man hears is that she thinks he's a failure.
  3. The man withdraws even more, so the woman redoubles her efforts to get them to talk things out.
  4. The man finally has had enough of his manhood being questioned (it isn't, but that's how he's designed to react when he feels unsafe in the relationship) and he criticizes her.
  5. Already nervous, her automatic reactions take over and all she hears is that he doesn't love her any more and her fear increases.
  6. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Yay! Let's talk about our relationships some more!

As long as both parties feel safe in the relationship, this cycle is unlikely to happen. When it starts and you feel like your wife is telling you you're a failure, you've got to recognize it and fight through it. Instead of reacting by sulking or yelling, you've got to make an effort to show her she's loved and you won't abandon her. Don't question her reactions because you think she's overly sensitive, just accept them. It's the way she's wired. Conversely, the woman needs to take care not to shame her husband.

I would argue that the book only works if both of you read it. If you don't, one side or the other will pretty quickly begin to feel like a doormat as you'll react with love to defuse the situation and they'll still be thinking your reactions are childish or crazy and keep doing the things that trigger you.

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