This isn’t a one-way street, but what I try to remember is that I can only control myself and my reactions.
In the years we have been married, my wife and I have experienced a lifetime of ups and downs. There have been an enormous amount of good times. However, there has also been a sizable number of bad. The early years were spent with each of us trying to find blame in the other for the bad and not giving enough credit to our partner for any of the good. What I have slowly come to recognize is, that while she, of course, has an equal share of responsibility in what happens in our lives as I do, I can only control my actions and my reactions.
There was far too long a time in our marriage that I was selfish and downright childish about dealing with my wife and my family as a whole. I never took a look inward to see that there might be something I could be doing differently–never recognizing that there was a possibility that I could be at fault. I was horrible at noticing how my actions or inactions were affecting my wife, and what a strain it was all putting on our relationship with each other. It took a wake-up call for me to do some self-examination into the ways I was simply falling on the job.
We let our wives down more than we care to admit to and sometimes don’t even recognize we’ve done it. There are many ways we can fail our partners, intentionally and accidentally. Here are a few.
1. Don’t Support Their Outside Interests— This applies to both working mothers and stay at home moms. When our wives come to us to tell us about successes or failures in things that don’t involve us directly, we need to pay attention. When she is having an issue with a coworker or another mom in the neighborhood play group, it’s important that we listen. We have to keep in mind the times we’ve come home and dumped all our problems on them, and why it’s important to vent. Show them you support their activities, their interests, and their passions just as much as we desire them to support ours.
2. Ignore Their Influence On Our Children— Dads many times feel conflicted in the upbringing of their children. It’s usually one extreme or the other, either they feel the need to always be the good guy, or they feel they always have to be the disciplinarian. This, many times, can lead to undermining our partners and not taking their opinions and decisions into account. When we don’t recognize the importance of a balanced plan in raising our children, and we don’t appreciate the impact that our wives have on the lives of our children, we fail our wives, and we fail our children. Our wives cannot feel that their decisions in the lives of our kids aren’t important and respected. They must know that their judgments will be supported.
3. Forget To Say Thanks— If you’ve ever felt taken for granted, this one should be an easy one to recognize. It doesn’t matter if it’s something she does once a year or every day, we need to be able to say “Thank you.” Did she make dinner? Thank you! Did she take your clothes to the cleaners? Thank you! Was she forgiving when you were a jerk? Thank you! It’s not as hard as we think it is.
4. Never Make The Plans— Every decision doesn’t have to be left up to your wife. Where to go for dinner, or what movie to see are things we can decide without waiting for them to tell us. Why does it have to be our wives that recognize when we need a night away from the kids? Wives like surprises, and buying flowers the day after she says “you never buy me flowers” isn’t taking the initiative. Show some spontaneity in your relationship, put some effort into the romance.
5. Remain Silent— Wives truly are interested in what we think or what’s going on with our lives. If you have had a bad day and don’t want to talk about it right then, be able to communicate that to them. Simply ignoring or making grunting noises is not a healthy line of communication. Yes, men and women are different, we communicate differently and we sometimes as men don’t see the importance of a particular conversation. What we have to realize is that the topic is not always what matters, it’s the interaction with our mate. Be willing and attuned enough to engage with her when she needs it, or better yet be prepared to initiate the conversation occasionally.
6. Fail To Listen— Men we have to recognize what she is saying to us even when she isn’t saying much. I know we aren’t mind readers, and I know sometimes we zone out. However what we as men have to recognize, is that the relationship with our wife is far more important that a football game or the evening news. If you recognize something is bothering her don’t be the guy that says “I’m not opening up that can of worms.” She is putting out signals because she needs us, our support our words of encouragement but mainly sometimes she just needs to know we are listening, so be there for her I mean really be there for her!
This certainly isn’t a complete list of ways we as men can mess up, and we aren’t going to get it right every single day. I also realize it isn’t a one-way street, but what I try to remember is that I can only control myself and my reactions. So I have to keep trying to improve. Trying will always be better than the alternative.
Photo: Flickr/ theaterculture