She Wants To Plan When He Wants To Relax

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Learning to value and respect the needs of your partner.

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So…do you want to sit down and plan? 

I remember getting that question a LOT during my 28 yr. marriage.  It seems a “plan” was required for nearly everything.  Even moving furniture together required “a plan”.

She would ask, “When two guys move heavy stuff, they don’t even talk.  How do you get anything done?”  My smug answer was always, “With upper body strength, we can overcome the need to speak to each other.  Besides, by noon we’ve run out of words for the day.”

Hrumph!  (I think that’s how she would spell that.)

Choosing to generate feelings of love and connection can get difficult when each person feels their emotional needs are unimportant to their partner.

It’s taken me a ridiculously long time to get a clue as to why my now ex-wife always wanted “a plan” and why it was always so important to her.  Since I started my intense study into myself, male/female relationships, and divorce…at least a plausible explanation has emerged.

Warning:  If you buy into the explanation, you may also have to buy into taking some action you weren’t planning.

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The planner vs. non-planner marriage is something I see a lot of in the guys I coach.  Typically, it is the wife with the planning gene and the husband with the “why can’t you just relax?” gene.

When we discuss the ranking of their 6 basic emotional needs (a la Tony Robbins), an inversion presents itself.

Him:
Growth
Variety
Contribution
Significance
Love/Connection
Certainty/Safety

Her:
Certainty/Safety
Love/Connection
Significance
Variety
Contribution
Growth

Personal rankings vary and they don’t mean the ones at the bottom are not important.  Certain needs must be balanced with others, and a person’s ranking of how well their needs are being met can change drastically over a lifetime.  Check out this page by Ronit Baras for a clear explanation of these 6 basic needs and how they relate to each other and how they are displayed by many people.

The trend I see is that many wives have a much higher need for feelings of certainty/safety in their lives than their husbands do.  (Yes, sometimes this is a display of excess control, but not always.)

Husbands tend to rank their need for feelings of growth and significance much higher than their wives do.  (Yes, sometimes this is a display of selfish “workaholism”, but not always.)

We work on what each partner can and should be doing to help support and “fill the cup” of the other and HOW to do that.

For example, being “in on the plan” is one way you can “fill her cup”.  How does she try to fill yours?  Have you explained what that cup is for you?

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I’ve noticed a general trend. The wives I’m familiar with like to know what is on the list, the social plans for the weekend, what food must be purchased, what the kids will eat, and whether or not there will be enough coffee creamer for tomorrow morning. They cannot understand why these things are not even on his radar and sometimes judge him harshly because of it. They show little respect for his need for relaxation and introspection (variety/growth). On a personal note, I’m also one of those guys who just doesn’t care about those things and can live with the consequences of not planning them. I’d rather use my mind on other stuff.

She, on the other hand, is judged harshly for being a control freak and a busy body. He shows little respect for her needs for predictability and organization (safety/certainty). On a personal note, I’ve been very guilty of making those accusations…and worse.

Choosing to generate feelings of love and connection in each other can get difficult when each person feels like their other highly ranked emotional needs are unimportant in the eyes of their partner. This is when most fights start.  And the worst part here is that neither can verbalize the root cause of the bad feelings.  The “cause” of the fight morphs into something totally unrelated.

If she has ranked a need of hers as an 8 out of 10 and told him this, then he gets to choose whether or not he wants to demonstrate to her that it matters to him. I believe that the love/connection feelings will suffer in a relationship each time a partner willingly shows that the needs of the other are not important.

 

Photo by theogeo

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About Steve Horsmon

Steve Horsmon is a Certified Professional Life Coach and owner of Goodguys2Greatmen Relationship Coaching in Livermore, Colorado. He has appeared on local television, blog radio, telesummits, and podcasts all related to maintaining healthy relationships. Steve provides intensely personal, action oriented coaching services for men and women. He hosts private retreats and workshops designed to illicit that lump in the throat which inspires commitment and action in his clients. He has written articles and guest blogs for numerous relationship and expert websites including his own blog. You can connect with him via  Facebook too.

Comments

  1. I find your article very interesting, and a few things have “clarified” in my mind as a result.

    First, my caveat – I don’t know you, I don’t know your ex – obviously.

    Now my comment. As presented here, what you describe seems to miss a crucial point. Why are so many wives preoccupied with the details of a plan, or what some might simply think of as a list (or set of lists)?

    You approach it and then jut away without touching on the actual reason. You write:

    “The wives I’m familiar with like to know what is on the list, the social plans for the weekend, what food must be purchased, what the kids will eat, and whether or not there will be enough coffee creamer for tomorrow morning. They cannot understand why these things are not even on his radar and sometimes judge him harshly because of it. They show little respect for his need for relaxation and introspection (variety/growth).”

    Looking at that paragraph in parts:

    - socializing for the weekend, what must be purchased, what the kids will eat, coffee creamer – Isn’t it clear this is someone who is busy? Possibly busy morning until night, including the weekends?
    - not understanding why these things aren’t on the radar – Does that mean no knowledge of / involvement in doing laundry for kids, getting them ready for soccer & softball & ballet lessons and then taking them? Understanding there’s an orthodontist appointment and a school project that needs supplies purchased as well, and in the next 72 hours?
    - socializing –
    Don’t you usually bring a bottle of booze or a cake (she bakes) and have to arrange a sitter? Don’t you need time for those things, and cash for the sitter?
    ‘- she judges his desire for relaxation harshly –
    Does she GET any relaxation?

    Is all of the above (and everything else domestic & couple-oriented) her full-time 7-day/week job, or is she also working a “for pay” job in addition to the above?

    You refer to all of this as “a much higher need for feelings of certainty/safety in their lives.”

    I believe it’s a matter of logistical survival. Speaking for myself and the women I’ve known over the years, most of us professional women and mothers simultaneously, we’d love some relaxation and spontaneity, as we loved it before children (married or not). It’s just not an option.

    What I have observed: In couples where the husband/father shares in the parenting load, it isn’t about sharing the planning so much as it is about sharing the tedium and workload and thus freeing up time for the couple. More of a “being in it together” – all of it, while still understanding that Dad may be better at and prefer doing X while Mom is better at and prefers doing Y.

    Where I agree with you entirely and think women should pay attention – seriously pay attention – is the need to offer up some of that variety more often (we like it, too – sometimes we’re just too damn tired) – and that means in activities as well as the bedroom.

    I also think we’re more interested in growth and significance than you’re ranking seem to indicate – but again – both are trumped by fatigue and often resentment, in part because women don’t necessarily speak up in clear and non-accusatory terms and say what they (we) need – in all arenas of domestic life.

    It’s a very thoughtful article, and an interesting discussion.

  2. “Why are so many wives preoccupied with the details of a plan, or what some might simply think of as a list (or set of lists)?”

    The answer in my experience is because many of them place (consciously or subconsciously) a very high value on FEELING organized, in control, and certain of future outcomes. Achieving these feelings is sometimes a prerequisite to allowing themselves to fulfill their other important needs/desires. They sometimes have an inpatient, judgmental disdain for those around them who don’t share the same value. Sometimes they will withhold meeting anyone ELSE’s needs until this one need is satisfied for them. Husbands are an easy target. Understanding why many wives rank certainty/safety highly as a need is a much bigger discussion. My overriding point is that husbands (I address wives below) can usually do MUCH better when it comes to helping her meet her need. And waiting for directions/instructions is a very bad way to respond. She doesn’t need another 10 yr. old to manage.

    “Does she GET any relaxation?”

    Yes, she should get at least as much opportunity to relax (whatever it means for her) as he does. She should respect that HIS way of relaxing may be very different than hers. Your list of essential duties added things I agree are “logistical survival”.

    I think it’s hard for couples to agree what those items are and how they should be shared. That seems to be the battle front. Some of my male clients suck at seeing the obvious ones like laundry help, kid activity planning, financial responsibility, making dates, and home maintenance. I’m tough on them to step up, make time, and take ownership of some items without waiting for directions. It doesn’t matter if she works full-time outside the home or not. A good husband chooses to help out with important stuff without being nagged or directed – period. But, there is a limit. Not everything she thinks is mission critical needs to be mission critical to him.

    What’s a good wife do? First she finds out what HIS most highly ranked need is and chooses to care about it and talk about it. Her needs do not automatically come first. She realizes that SOME things are not mission critical and she has the choice of doing it herself or letting it go. She should remove the option of blaming him for her own stress. I think it’s easier for her to accept this when she KNOWS that he is pulling his weight with planning and owning the big stuff and really cares about her needs.
    I help guys understand that comments like, “You’re insane for needing the closets vacuumed before company arrives” don’t increase the feminine libido. And “You’re suck a friggin’ control freak- just relax” doesn’t increase her concern for his long hard week.

    I also help them understand that when they ARE pulling their own weight in a respectful, loving way, they can more confidently address the stressed out, “You can be SO worthless!” comment. No matter what, belittling and disrespectful behavior should never be tolerated by either partner.

    “Speaking for myself and the women I’ve known over the years, most of us professional women and mothers simultaneously, we’d love some relaxation and spontaneity, as we loved it before children (married or not). It’s just not an option.”

    The question becomes, at what point TODAY can we both relax? What is the goal for having earned the right to relax? What help do we both need to get there? Again, his list may be much shorter than hers. This is the tough negotiation. Do the windows REALLY need to be cleaned today? Who cares if your mother is coming? What can we agree is mission critical and what is not.

    I see women constantly denying themselves relaxation (and sex) just because they refuse to stop putting things on the list. And I see men constantly destroying feelings of connection and trust by refusing to even participate in the list discussion.

    “What I have observed: In couples where the husband/father shares in the parenting load, it isn’t about sharing the planning so much as it is about sharing the tedium and workload and thus freeing up time for the couple.”

    The women I know become generally pissed off at having to plan, manage, and direct all the time. They resent having to ask, imply, or suggest that some things are important and need to be done.

    “I also think we’re more interested in growth and significance than you’re ranking seem to indicate – but again – both are trumped by fatigue and often resentment, in part because women don’t necessarily speak up in clear and non-accusatory terms and say what they (we) need – in all arenas of domestic life.”

    Agreed! They all tell me this as well. The trend, however, is that when they become fatigued and resentful over not feeling organized, certain, and/or safe….they stay stuck in this emotion and can blame others for why they are not achieving their other needs.
    Thoughts?

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