What I Learned on Spring Vacation – Marriage 101

In some of my podcasts I spoke about visiting this page to hear about my trip to Texas (where we attended a Smalley Marriage Intensive). I had hoped to record that episode last night with my wife, but we ran out of time. I hope to record it this evening. Here are some bullet points that I've spoken on before.

Mending a Broken HeartMen are Typically:

More “logical”  Like to talk about facts.
Like to “fix” things when they are broken.
Are “simpler” in makeup, or generally work on one thing at a time.

Women are Typically:

More emotional. They want to talk about feelings.
Need to talk.
Can have multiple conversations going.

What I Learned in Texas

Feelings are not wrong. You think I'm selfish with my time? You are right to think that. This does NOT mean I'm selfish. It means that it's true that based on your feelings, I'm selfish with my time. Your spouse does NOT want to think bad things about you. They don't. However circumstances, actions, and words can lead people to feel and think certain ways.  So here is what usually happens.

Woman: I never see you
Man: What? We just went grocery shopping last night!
Let's peel this back a bit and look underneath

Woman: I never see you (what she really means is I miss those times when we connect. I feel lonely)
So you can see that the answer of “What? We just went grocery shopping last night!” does not address her feelings of loneliness. Instead it basically sends the message that her feelings are wrong. Remember Feelings aren't wrong.

The other thing that could cause a problem for men is the word Never. Again we deal in facts, and when you save Never, Always, etc (any kind of absolute) you will distract your man from listening. He will be waiting to point out how your acts are wrong. He did empty the dish washer, so the statement “You never help with the dishes” is wrong. So we should avoid absolute references.

We should also avoid the word divorce at all cost. Don't try to mask it with phrases like, “I'm done with this,” or “I'm out of here.” We  know what that means and it undercuts your commitment to each other.

Let's get back to our discussion.

What We Really Mean

When the woman says, “I never see you,” as men we need to get out our woman to man translation book out and see that “I never see you” is translated to “I'm lonely.” This is a fact. This is true. As a husband you don't want your wife to feel lonely.  However, as a man we want to “fix” our wife so we give her facts (our native tongue) which requires her to translate it from man speak to woman speak. We have things lost in translation.

For me this is very, very, hard. I live in factville. My wife lives in feelingsburgh. When I don't acknwledge her feelings, it makes her feel like her feelings are worth anything, and consequently she will get defensive. She may feel you're not listening (as she hasn't been acknowledged) and raise her voice. Her raised voice causes her husband to become defensive as he feels attacked. We get on the crazy cycle and go for a ride.

Key Points When Responding

Guys: Step one – validate her feelings. This means you're going to have to leave factville, and travel to feelingsburgh. This is not going to be a natural step. You will need to ignore the reflex like reaction to FIX her. She's not broken. You need to listen. This requires focus. To validate her feelings you're going to have to step out of your shoes, and into hers. This doesn't mean that you are agreeing with what she said (she never sees you). Your goal is to understand how she feels, and then respond to her feelings (I am lonely). Instead of saying “What?” (invalidation – you're wrong), “I just saw you yesterday” (more invalidation, and now it appears you don't care). The better response would be: “I'm sorry. I miss you too.” This validates her feelings, and shows you care. If you feel you MUST do something (being a guy who wants to fix things) it would be good to add, “Let's plan somehthing for the two of us..”

Good Heart – Bad Execution

Ladies when a man bombards you with facts, we understand that this is not addressing your feelings. Instead of thinking of him as an insensitive jerk, realize he is trying to “fix” you. He doesn't want you to feel this way. Yes, we know it's not working and this doesn't get him “off the hook,” but I want you to to acknowledge your man is trying. He doesn't want you to hurt. Keep in mind, that men are not mind readers. You are not married to the amazing Kreskin (I”m dating myself), and he can't acknowledge what he doesn't know. This is where woman appear “Complex” and men appear “Simple.” In other words, tell us what you want. It's not fair to assume your man can read your mind. To say, “He should after all these years.” NOPE. Remembering is not our strong suit. It's a man – not an elephant. Phrases like, “If he loved me he would ___” may be setting up expectations that arean't realistic (especially if your man has no idea you want this). Also when you put pressure on him, he is more than likely to retreat to his “man cave” and not come out until he feels its safe (a place where he won't be judged, or scolded).

Put Your Name On It

One of the keys to marriage is accepting responsibility for your actions (those who have been here a while know I have no problem with this – to a fault). This means you need to realize you could be a better spouse. If you want to see a change in your spouse the easiest way to do this is to change YOU. When you work on being more patient. When you work on those little things that annoy your partner. When you work on you, you will see (eventually) a reaction in your spouse.  Mirror the reaction you want to see in your spouse in you. You want them to remain calm? Then you need to model that behaviour. You want them to admit when they're wrong? Then it starts with you. If you are going to counseling to “fix” your spouse (cause nothing is wrong with you), then you're going to be wasting your time (unless in extreme cases of abuse). You need to start with you.

One comment on “What I Learned on Spring Vacation – Marriage 101

  1. Andy Traub says:

    Thanks so much for this Dave. There are like 50 different things in this post that EVERY couple should know and do. I pray you and I are able to do half of them in our marriages!

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