Women’s emotional moods can be a minefield and withdrawing feels easier. Engaging in these moments may feel risky, but it is the most important thing you can do.
I don’t love baseball. I know it’s totally un-American, but it is true. However, that being said, baseball offers one of the best analogies for building a great relationship. After 32 years of marriage, plus 20 years of counseling and coaching couples, I found one thing that every woman wants from her man. And it is relatively simple to give her!
Women want men to TRY–to step up to the plate and take a swing–in all things relationship. Yoda was wrong. There is always a try, in fact, “Try” is one of the secrets to a strong marriage.
Here is the rub, though, men have little to no interest in trying if they aren’t pretty darn sure they will succeed or get “it” right. Men will jump in when there’s a good chance of success. Just think about how quickly men go into fix it mode and respond with, “I’ve got this.” “Here is what you need to do.” These responses come naturally and rapidly.
Every man I know has an aversion to “trying and failing.” They often say, “What’s the point, why try if I am not going to get it right?”
But TRY is THE secret to a stronger relationship.
Even if you get it wrong. Try. Even if you aren’t sure exactly what to do. Try something.
Be like the baseball player, who bravely stands in the batter’s box, uncertain of the pitch coming his way–unsure if he will hit a foul ball, connect for a double, or knock it out of the park–but committed to being in the game. Women love when men try. Whenever you willingly “step up to the plate” and engage, in spite of your doubts, you communicate your love.
Often when men first hear this analogy, they admit the fear of getting it wrong, of striking out, leads them to simply avoid the ballpark. Many of my male clients ask in utter disbelief, “You mean I can get credit for just stepping up to the plate and taking a swing? I don’t have to get it right or know the perfect way to handle the situation?”
“Yes!” I reply. “The fact that you are willing to try matters more than the actual outcome!”
Everyone wants to hit a home run, at the ballpark and in life. In a relationship, this would be “getting it right.” The right response, when she is crying or upset with you, or mad at your mom, or frustrated with the kids, or feeling fat. Women’s emotional moods can be a minefield and withdrawing feels easier. Engaging in these moments is risky, but it is the most important thing you can do!
I know it is scary. And unfortunately, you will most likely get feedback on your stance, swing, and the way you are holding the bat! Also known as her critiquing your efforts. Hang in there, men! Share the thoughts behind your actions and remind her that you are trying. Over time, she will see and appreciate your efforts. (Attn. Women: when your man steps up to the metaphorical plate and takes a swing–do not offer constructive criticism. Nothing shuts him down faster. Instead, appreciate his bravery!)
It seems foolish to willingly pick up the bat when you are likely to swing and miss or hit a foul ball. Staying on the bench seems safer, but then your wife feels alone. She wants you to engage. She wants you to TRY. This ONE thing has improved countless marriages!
For example, Bob and Sally, former clients, often argued about money, bill paying and debt. Bob avoided discussing money issues while Sally worried and checked the bank balance daily. Sally nagged Bob about the paying bills and dealing with debt. Bob handled the pressure he felt from Sally by withdrawing.
The more Bob withdrew, the harder Sally pushed.
The harder Sally pushed, the more Bob withdrew.
During one session, we discussed the baseball analogy and how it applied to their situation. Bob admitted he was not just warming the bench, but avoiding the ballpark all together! Sally acknowledged how her words and actions communicated that Bob failed in the money department. Sally said, “I just want you to be involved in our money issues. You don’t have to fix it, but please just help me!”
While it was easier to avoid their money problems, especially when Sally critiqued the way he handled things, Bob committed to trying. Sally agreed to support and not criticize Bob’s efforts.
Bob felt empowered for the first time, and asked Sally for patience and understanding, as he was bound to hit a foul ball or strike out sometimes. Sally felt permission to let go; she was relieved and grateful to no longer feel alone.
Bob stepped up to the plate by organizing the bills, working on a budget, and initiating weekly money discussions with Sally. Bob also scheduled a time each month when he and Sally would pay the bills and look over the budget together.
Bob’s willingness to take responsibility for the bills and no longer avoid money issues, reassured Sally. Sally worked hard to not offer any critiques or tell Bob how she thought he should handle things. Encouraged by Sally’s willingness to accept and appreciate his efforts, Bob felt emboldened to try more.
While this didn’t solve all their money issues, it did help Bob and Sally reconnect and strengthened their marriage. They began to use the baseball analogy in other areas where Sally wanted Bob to engage and TRY!
Yoda was wrong. There is always a TRY! With every couple I’ve coached and even in my marriage, the baseball analogy offers a way to understand the struggle and communicate about difficult issues. Men can simply say, “I’m stepping up to the plate.” And your wife will knows that you just put your heart on the line; you are willing to try because you loves her and don’t want her to feel alone.
Photo: Flickr/ Kristof Magyar