The #1 thing husbands want is to make their wives happy and they are open to knowing how to do that. Unfortunately, for many reasons, this is a lot harder than it sounds. Biology, culture, and society are working against them. This leaves a lot of husbands, maybe even you, feeling frustrated.
If it also makes you feel like a failure, you’re not alone. In fact, one of the top complaints I hear from the men I work with is that they feel like nothing they do is ever good enough. No matter how hard they try, they don’t quite make the grade. If they did 9 of 10 things on her list, all they hear about is the one they didn’t accomplish.
Now, most of us would find this annoying. But, for men, it’s particularly troublesome. This is because feeling competent is critical to men’s well-being. It’s what lies at the heart of you wanting to fix things—around the house, in your job, and for your wife. This is because feeling competent decreases men’s stress levels.
Take the common scenario of you each talking about your experiences at the end of the day. Your wife most likely finds this sharing calming and connecting. She gets more relaxed as it becomes clear that things will get better. Her stress level goes down.
But for you, the conversation doesn’t really help. You feel minimal stress-relief because the problems are still there, waiting to be solved. The fact that they aren’t is a screaming acknowledgment of your failure.
It’s this “doing” mindset that creates many of the problems for men in their marriages. This biological inclination is magnified by social and cultural expectations. It underpins the transactional mindset men are trained to value. It’s the idea that if you “work” and “sacrifice” for her and your family, you “earn” her. “Helping” around the house, doing “extra”, should win you more points. No wonder it’s frustrating when it doesn’t.
But it’s the more relational mindset that allows for a successful marriage. This is what’s behind the myth that women know more about relationships than men. Women inherently are more empathetic. They experience the physiological benefits of connection more than men do. They get better at it because they receive a higher payoff. (Remember the impact of reviewing your day?)
Women have a head start on being relational. And because they do, society has weighted their relationship viewpoint more favorably. (Happy Wife, Happy Life anyone?) But that doesn’t mean you’ll always be playing catch up. Nor does it mean that everything has to be her way. She is not always right, and her happiness is not more important than yours. You each have responsibility for the marriage and its success or failure. Equally.
It’s well past time to bring male/female relationships into better balance. The good news is that empathy can be learned. As can effective communication and all the other relational skills you need to succeed at your marriage.
Failure doesn’t have to be an option. Success doesn’t require you to be less of a man, just to be a more relational one.
Previously published on foundationscoachingnc
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