Many of us women marry the potential inside our husbands. We don’t marry our husbands.
We see what he can become if only he could see the light and be more like–ME!
It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage. And today I want to talk about watching how we speak to our husbands.
Do we feel like we always need to improve our husbands?
One reason that marriages can run into trouble stems from women’s attitudes. And women, perhaps more than men, are inclined to want to “improve” our husbands. We marry Husbands 3.1, but we want to get Husbands 7.2, to use the computer terminology. We want to upgrade, so we try to accomplish that ourselves.
I think it’s because we tend to think that in many ways, we are the superior ones in the relationship. We understand our feelings. We can talk about them. Men can’t, so they must either be shallow or in denial. We build relationships; men walk through them without really putting in effort. We’re the ones that keep the marriage together. Therefore we are better.
What we miss, I believe, is men’s contribution.
We tend to value in others the things we value in ourselves, and we believe that relationships are the end all and be all, and since marriage is primarily a relationship, we believe we start out marriage on a much better footing than he does. So it’s our job to help him catch up.
I really can’t think of a better way to wreck a relationship than to keep up with that attitude, because such an attitude often results in quite destructive behaviour, though we may not realize it. We value talking and sharing; he values doing and living and accomplishing and yes, sex. Just because we value different things doesn’t mean that he’s wrong and we’re right. It just means that we’re different. And we have our own blind spots.
But when we try to “fix” him, we often drive him away.
And what are some of the ways we fix him?
Watch what you say to your husbands. Do you nag? Do you tell him how he could shape up? Or do you simply teach him? So often we teach without realizing it.
For instance, he’s playing with the baby on the floor, and you say, “You know, Johnny really likes it when you rub his tummy.” You think you’re improving the relationship between Daddy and Johnny, because you’ve given Daddy some insight that he didn’t have. But what you’re really saying is, “you’re not playing with him right.” Do that every time he plays with Johnny, and you could drive a wedge between them. Not just that, but you say, “I am the parent who really knows how the kids work.” Not good for family relationships.
And we do it in all kinds of other areas, too. Dishes. Fixing the house. Talking to friends. Jobs. We’re always offering helpful suggestions.
What’s wrong with being helpful?
It gives the impression that we don’t think they’re competent, and men’s biggest need is to be seen as competent and capable.
You may not mean it that way, but you’re subtly saying, “I can manage this better than you can.” Now, when it comes to little Johnny, you may legitimately want to tell him that Johnny likes his tummy tickled. That’s not a problem. But say it while you’re eating dinner, or while you’re going for a walk. Just share it with him. When you say it while he’s playing with the kid, it sounds like you’re trying to improve on what your husband is doing, rather than just sharing information.
I know this sounds like semantics, and some women can get ticked at such advice, saying, “But I want to be able to share everything with my husband, and now you’re telling me I have to watch what I say.” Yes, I am. And I don’t apologize for it.
It may take a little while to get used to, but the important thing is not to train your mouth as it is to train your brain.
Stop trying to be helpful to him, and instead look at what he’s doing.
He just simply has a different approach. If you watched him playing with Johnny, for instance, you may notice that he got Johnny to laugh in a way you never have. That’s great. He’s builing his own relationship. So if you start watching, instead of just itching to turn your husband into YOU, then you’ll find that you have a different attitude.
No, he won’t always do everything as well as you do. But you don’t do everything as well as he does, either. Accept that, and instead appreciate him for what he does do. You’ll find that attitude change makes a major difference in your marriage!
In the book To Love, Honor and Vacuum, I have a whole chapter on how to watch how we talk to our husbands, and how we can say things in ways that push his buttons, without even realizing it. It’s a really helpful resourceif you’re struggling with feeling appreciative towards your husband, while also feeling appreciated by him.