How to Let Your Husband Really Be a Man: A Look at Communication in Relationships
No more than 100 years ago, relationships looked very different.
Fulfilling their desire to hunt, protect and act as a hero, men were often out of the home providing food and other necessities for their family. Women, who are more nurturing by nature, would focus on creating and maintaining a peaceful, pleasant home.
Things have changed pretty dramatically over the years. Nowadays, women are often out providing for the family as well, leaving less time to maintain a “home”. And with no real hunting or protecting to do, men are not sure exactly what they want… outside of “We want football!”.
Maintenance of the home is often left for weekends, cutting down on a couple’s spare time, adding to pressure and changing the way we relate.
But as much as male and female roles have changed within a household, male and female needs have not. In Emerson Eggerich’s book, Love and Respect (my book recommendation for couples this month), he simplifies the basic cause of conflict in relationships to the following: Women need love. Men need respect.
The Cycle of Love and Respect
Now, both men and women need both love and respect. What Emerson is describing is the felt need each member of a couple experiences during conflict. And these needs can lead to a vicious cycle: When a woman feels unloved, she can react disrespectfully. When a man feels disrespected, he can act without love.
The University of Washington completed a study looking at 2,000 couples over the course of 20 years. One interesting thing they discovered is that 85% of those who withdraw from conflict in relationships are men.
When a man withdraws from a woman, this causes her to feel panic. “How can you treat me this way?”, “What did I do?”, “Why would you do this?”, and “Don’t you want to fix this?” are just some of the many questions that the woman begins to ask, experiencing this withdrawal as an act of abandonment or hostility. The man is not, typically, feeling hostile or planning to leave her. He is trying to protect the relationship he has with her by giving himself time to get out of his “warrior mode” and calm down.
Men are looking to feel respect from their woman during conflict, and they believe their woman wants the same. Men, then, withdraw to keep from escalating to a level of disrespect.
And here begins the cycle, because when the man withdraws, it plays directly against the woman’s need to feel loved during conflict. She is desperately trying to connect, identifying problems and trying to resolve them, which the man often experiences as her trying to control him or tear him down, not connect with him.
A Message to Women:
Men are not wired to gush about and analyze our feelings. You rarely see a man, in a conflict with a friend, say, “Bill, can we please get together and talk about our feelings? We need to talk.” Instead, men will just take some time apart, drop the issue and set it aside, feeling the relationship is more important.
A good question for both members of a couple to keep in mind is: “Will this matter a year from now?”
It is important to handle major issues in a relationship. It is also important to minimize the small ones. No one is perfect, and we often have to let the little things go to preserve our relationships.
A Message to Men:
Your wife is wired differently than you are. Women confront problems to connect with their husbands, and we can mistake this for control or contempt.
She likely talks about problems in the relationship, and even potential problems in the relationship, often in an effort to prevent major problems from coming up.
Her motivation is not to control, ruin or disrespect you. She is looking for reassurance that you, too, are invested in protecting the connection between you.
Her ongoing “observations” about your behavior are not meant to wear you down. She just wants to know that you are working as hard as she is to keep the love between you strong and safe. She wants to know her worst fears about what may happen are not going to come true and that you, also, are focused on helping her avoid and fix the larger problems that could come between you.
So… What Now?
Next time you experience conflict with your spouse, remember this information. Men, reassure your woman of your love for her and, women, remember that your man may need space and is looking for reassurance that you respect him.
If conflict persists, or you find yourself simply needing additional pointers for how to put these concepts, into practice, Contact Us at Stenzel Clinical Services. Our clinicians are trained to help couples navigate the toughest of conflicts, helping to rebuild, strengthen and renew relationships.