She looks over him at the kitchen table. He is home after a long day at work, eating a snack, reading a text on his phone.
She says something, then something else. He’s not sure what. Her tone says all he needs to know.
He looks up from his phone, reluctantly. All he wants is a few minutes of peace. A chance to arrive home.
“Did you see this?” she says.
He looks up and sees a shirt.
“How many times do I have to tell you? The whites…”
He takes a deep breath. It seems he can do nothing right with her lately.
His circuits jam up. Heat rises in his chest. The words stop before they leave his mouth. You’re not my mother!”
Still, an argument ensues. Despite his best intentions, he raises his voice and rages. She leaves the room. He’s failed her, again.
Alone at the table, he wonders, Why is she like that?
He scratches his head. Like a punch in the gut, a voice says – Why do you let her get under your skin like that? What got you so fired up?
What kind of man are you to lose yourself to her like that?
A similar story plays out often between couples. I see it in my coaching practice.
She’s always in my shit. She says I’m not enough. He doesn’t listen. He’s not present.
Conflict with a partner is a big edge, for men. We stake much of our manhood on her happiness.
“Happy wife, Happy life.”
I heard it spoken last week. A cop was talking to his on-duty partner at Rite Aid, buying a certain type of almond milk that his wife loves.
But when is “Happy wife, happy life” a form of tolerating her, instead of loving her?
The relational mindf*#k for men today is: She wants you to be tough in the face of her criticisms and tender with her needs. Tough AND tender.
Typically, however, we swing to one side or the other. So tough that we’re emotionally impermeable. Or, we’re so tender that she walks all over us.
How do we cultivate two seemingly opposite traits? Should we even bother?
Yes! But how?
The answer is, as inscribed centuries ago on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, simply ‘Know Thy Self.’
Today, for men, that means:
- developing emotional mastery, cultivating ferocity and tenderness within.
- reversing early childhood programming that says, ‘Emotions are for sissies.’
- confronting the inner perpetrator yelling, You’re a wimp for being weak. Or sad. Or fearful.
- reclaiming the power of your emotions (for yourself, your children, the world, and her).
In the heat of conflict, when you’re ready to explode (or check out), pause and remind yourself, knowing, “That’s not me: I’m more than that.
The truth is she is a reflection of all that you have yet to master within yourself.
Master your trigger, your hooks, the little boy who still runs you in heated moments. The inner critic who tears you up when you perform poorly.
These are the real battles. Between you and you. Not with her.
And so what if you perceive her to be a complainer, nag, or someone who just tries to bring you down? It’s possible. But you’ll never know until you master yourself first.
Seize the moment. Have the best relationship possible.
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