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September 08, 2008

A TIP SHEET FOR MEN WHO STRUGGLE WITH BEING RELATIONAL

Women cannot stress to me enough how non-relational their husbands or partner are.  Unfortunately the men often respond to these complaints by saying the women are overly critical and insatiable.  They end up ignoring the complaints, changing nothing, and saying anything they did would never be enough for her anyway.

Unfortunately, a high percentage of these men are paying a heavy price for this lack of skill.

For those men who are brave enough to work their relationship muscles--in spite of how your friends or our culture will respond--here’s your cheat sheet on how to move a little beyond respect and into more connection:

  1. When your partner is sharing her day with you---please do not move into solving.  Men often struggle with wanting to solve everything for women.  When they actually sit down to hear about their wife’s day, they immediately move into fixing it:  “Did you try this?”  “Next time you should say this.” “Your boss is out of line, you should go back and tell him…”  Stop solving!!! When you respond to your wife’s sharing by trying to solve something you’re implying that she’s incapable of solving it herself.  This is incredibly frustrating for your wife.  You’re also assuming that there’s a problem to be solved.  Often women share just to relay information, not to change something.  Sit back, listen and do not solve unless you have been explicitly asked to do so.
  • When your partner asks you how your day was please give more than a one word answer.  “Fine”, is a true conversation stopper.  Learn to keep a conversation going not stop it in its tracks.  For example, “My day was alright.  We had a meeting that was a pain but other than that nothing exciting.  What about your day?”  If she asks you about the meeting…tell her.  Do not say it was nothing.  Tell her why it was a pain.
  • Lead with the positives.  There’s nothing worse then not seeing your partner all day and then have him come into the door pointing out all the things that are wrong with the house: “I can see you didn’t clean again.  This house is a mess.  What did you do all day.”  Rather than being negative, lead with a gift (“Hi honey, you look great.”) or minimally be neutral (Hi, how was your day?). 
  • Greet your children rather than pushing them away. If they’re small, scoop them up and give them a great big hug.  If they’re older, ruffle their hair or go over to them and ask how they’re doing.  Be playful, positive, and act as though you love them.  Help your family be excited about you being there rather than dreading your energy and counting the hours until you to leave. 
  • Give compliments…often.  Tell your wife she’s funny, pretty, smart, attractive etc.  Find something to compliment her on and do it.  Same with your children.  Stop focusing on all the things they’re not doing and catch them doing something well—and praise them for it.  Too many men believe that harshness builds character and kindness creates sissies.  Harshness destroys spirits, keeps people at bay and ruins relationships.  Be cherishing to your family; the world has enough harshness for them to deal with.
  • Being relational requires that you consciously work the skills.  Anyone can do them if they set their mind to it.  Stop blaming your poor people skills on your wife’s critical nature and start stepping up.  Although I’m targeting men with these skills, it’s important to note that women need to be practicing these same skills.  Men and women need to be modeling healthy relationships for their children if they have any hope of the children being relational themselves. 

    CHALLENGE:  If you happen to be a man who’s partner is often complaining that you’re non-relational, then get the courage to start being present for your family.  Place these tips on a 5x7 card and place the card where you can see them daily.  Begin to incorporate them into your daily routine and watch what happens.

    Comments

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    When my wife starts to discuss difficulties she is having, I have found it very useful to inquire first, "Would you like me to solve or to listen?" It works every time, because I now know what responses she wants.

    I have to agree with the comment made by Ann Marie. There needs to be more time spent with one another besides when making love. Telling the kids that parents need adult time, like going to the movies on a date can be a good thing. Getting away from the children can sometimes be healthy. I also agree with Lisa about Men needing to take the time and just listen to what their wife has to say. If things are not as good as they should be, how will it get any better if there is no listening from both sides? As long as the partner is expressing their concerns in a nice manner then the other should be respectful and listen first.

    This post reminded me of an eureka moment I had a few years ago. Someone recommended me a book by David Deida, ‘The Way of the Superior Man’. I’d never heard of the author but I took the book anyway. Now, English is not my native language and I live in Europe so my cultural background might be different. Nevertheless, just reading his writing I realized I had never felt as understood as a woman. Of course I later gave it to my significant other as in my view someone had finally found the words to describe the indescribable in very concise phrases. Though after reading the book he told that not everything presented there might personally suit him I feel the underlying currents of our relationship have deepened and mutual understanding thrived ever since. I value and respect his way of being and vice versa. And I’m glad he’s recommended it further on… Just food for thought.

    You are treated the way you treat others. Women are the heart and sole of a marriage, the women need to stand up and take action instead of waiting for men to do so. So, what I say your challenge should be is if you want your husband to do what you want and pay attention to you, you need to do for him, act like you are the happiest luckiest woman in the world, don't gossip, give him sex, and don't complain. Try this for a week and see his response! You won't regret it, I promise.

    You are treated the way you treat others. If you act happy, giving, and respectful, so you will get. Men are going to shut down and that is a fact, the more we talk (complain) about them, the less they want to spend time with us. Women have to be the bigger person and change their attitude first. Sorry I am not saying what you want to hear, just try it for a week and see the response from your husband!

    I consider myself to be a people' person. My conversation is on-going, and pleasant, my thoughts. When ones joy is being stolen by another, I tend to shut down. My pleasantries are aimed towards someone else who's receptive, and for that I'm resented. Send assistance please?(smle)

    I need a printer friendly version to some of these postings so I can readily refer to them before and during engagements with friends and family. These suggestions really make sense for a person as prudent as I try to be.

    With respect to everyone, men and women are different, you can't expect a Man to change who he is or a Woman to change who she is. This article is one sided and as a Woman, we need to not expect our Men to change, we need to adapt and understand that our Men deserve our respect too, that means, not bitching.

    LISA'S REPLY: Perhaps you have only read this one post? I agree 100% that women also need to be respectful and I say so frequently. I do not however agree that women (or men) need to not ask for change. There's too much violence and disrespect going on to tell people to settle for and "adapt" to that. Settling for less than respectful treatment from anyone is not okay and potentially dangerous...people, DO NOT SETTLE!

    Can you include something on the husband spending time with his wife? That his time at home shouldn't revolve around watching tv and sleeping? And that days off shouldn't be spent avoiding the family? Also, that life doesn't only revolve around the children and his job?And then not expecting that the only time he has to spend with his wife is when he wants to have sex?

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