Steve Horsmon’s simple solution for saving a marriage: sometimes you have to shut up.
Are you a man who has ever heard these words from your wife?
“Just stop talking!! I can’t take it anymore!! Can’t you hear how you’re speaking to me?”
If so, perhaps this article is for you. You just might be one of those men who is trying to fix his marriage and his wife with words instead of actions. And she’s tired of it. And yes, I have some first hand experience with this and think I know exactly what you’re going through. I’m sorry about that.
The issue may be that you are trying to fix a problem with words that was caused by your past behaviors and emotions. As Steven Covey wrote, “You can’t talk yourself out of a problem you behaved yourself into.”
When a marriage starts to get rocky, a guy might find himself saying things like this:
• Why are you being so irrational?
• Why can’t you discuss things like a normal person?
• Everybody has more sex than we do. Why can’t you be like xyz’s wife?
• That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard! You’re insane.
• If I do what you want to do, will you do what I want to do?
There’s a pattern I’ve noticed in lot of the men I coach. These guys are typically very sharp, technically astute, logical, literate, and result-oriented types. But they are unaware of the slow and insidious ways in which they have caused their wives to lose respect and attraction for them. Because they have not been getting their needs met, they enter into a long, painful phase of causing more bad feelings than good. These men are used to talking their way into getting what they want. It works wonders for them at work and in their social life — why not their marriage?
It doesn’t work in their marriage — or any marriage — because it is actions that form the most credible and sustainable levels of trust, respect, admiration, and attractiveness in a man. It is the feelings we create that matter most. Our abilities to talk, persuade, influence, or debate are really not useful when trying to recover a damaged relationship.
I heard this great old song today and it reminded me of a message I’m constantly trying to get across to men. Keith Whitley wrote it in the 1980’s. It captures a notion that millions of women desire for their relationships. Most men think it’s a fairy tale. But most women crave these feelings and they will never tell you they need them or expect them from you.
“It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart.
Without saying a word you light up the dark.
Try as I may I can never explain.
What I hear when you don’t say a thing.
The smile on your face lets me know that you need me.
There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me.
The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall
Yeah, you say it best …when you saying nothing at all.”
You might say, “Okay. I want to save my marriage and you’re telling me WHAT?! You’re telling me not to communicate? No compromising? No negotiating? No explaining? No finding our common ground and working together?”
That’s exactly what I mean. Just shut up for a change. Why?
Because you got where you are for some important reasons.
One reason is the types of words and tone you choose when you speak to her.
But the real biggie is your consistent “energy” of bargaining, compromising, judging, demanding, controlling or expecting in order to get your needs met.
It’s funny — we don’t hear a lot of songs about women who crave those unspoken motives.
Some men screw this up all the time. They are SO focused on pleasing their wife and doing things to earn her respect and affection they wind up at the table of “talking”, “negotiating” and “compromising” to see if they might get a morsel of what they need.
Other men think they have done all they need to do to “deserve” some respect and affection and resort to tactics of demands, control, and ultimatums. They will resort to clever verbal and emotional attacks to hopefully “guilt her” into submission.
And their wives see right through it…every time.
And guess what?
It is the most unappealing, unattractive, spineless, sexless energy a man can give off.
Wives find it exhausting and exasperating. They do not know why their men don’t get it and will not just shut up already. This is the story of a lot of men. They don’t know how to create the environment women need to feel safe, respected, and sexy. They don’t know how to reset their energy in ways that their wife can feel the depth of their appreciation, respect, and desire for her. This is an energy of wanting her—not needing her.
This is also an energy of accepting her that comes from a place of love and your personal values for a healthy relationship with mutual appreciation, respect, and desire. This is important! This is not a one-way street. It is not “all up to you”. She has changes to make too. No doubt. In most cases, she is only waiting for you to lead the way and make it safe for her. By changing your energy, you finally give her a chance to demonstrate that she has her own values and high expectations for a rewarding relationship and is happy to be your equal partner in the process.
Men can be so preoccupied with “fixing” their wife or saying and doing everything right to get emotional validation and sexual rewards they refuse to believe that their tired old formula has never really worked.
So what do they do? They try even harder. Maybe if they have one more discussion, one more clever insult, one more clearly worded logical argument, or even one more total house clean while she’s away. Yes! That might convince her to connect. To touch. To appreciate. To finally “allow” sex to happen.
I get a lot of “flack” for telling men that their wives can sense their intentions. Of course, this is never meant to tell a guy he doesn’t need to communicate. The man I described above has no clue that his true self-serving and critical intentions are transparent to her.
The intensity of the hurtful insult or critical tone can be compared to a how he would feel if a woman made a critical observation of his penis size. Seriously. That is exactly how intensely a woman can feel a man’s negative, disapproving energy.
She will almost never come out and tell you how she really feels.
Because she is both confused and astonished.
She’s unsure how to tell you exactly what she needs from you especially when you seem so hell bent to keep doing it your way. What she needs is so far from what you’re doing, it’s almost hurtful to tell you how badly you’re doing it.
She’s astonished that you don’t know this. Granted, she probably has no good reason to be astonished.
She’s probably done a piss poor job of communicating her needs to you. She may have some emotional baggage. She’s not comfortable talking about it. She may suck at managing conflict and would rather just avoid you. And your father probably didn’t do a thing to clear up stuff like this for you when you were growing up. You almost don’t stand a chance.
Yes, I know it very well — first hand. I was lucky enough to learn the lessons from the ranks of the thousands of men out there. Finally learning the cause and cure of this condition is how men get back on track. It’s how they become secure, confident, and happy to be “work in progress”—but finally on the right trail.
Dr. Robert Glover’s book, No More Mr. Nice Guy does an artful job of explaining this “condition” in much greater detail. It’s part of my recommended reading for men trying to save their marriage.
My mission is to help you (or your husband) get on this trail and stay on this trail. It will be the most rewarding ride a man will take in his lifetime — first for himself, then for her, and then for his marriage!
Originally appeared on GoodGuys2GreatMen.
Photo by Anders Prinz