I realized this week a simple pattern with a lot of couples. And how did I figure this out? Because I fit into the same pattern. How I learn is pretty simple – life happens and I reflect on it to find understanding. Here’s what I realized: I give my wife too much credit while she gives me too little. Please know this isn’t an insult to my wife. When I say I give her too much credit, it has two unfortunate side effects. First, I take her and all that she does for granted. She’ll do something amazing and I won’t think anything about it because that’s what I expect from her – amazing. Unfortunately this means I don’t give her the proper appreciation or praise she deserves. She helps things run smoothly, so we keep on moving ahead while she feels forgotten.
The second unfortunate side effect of giving her too much credit is it leads to me being too defensive. Giving her too much credit connects to seeing her above me, which makes sense since she has a higher standard for cleaning, fashion, and social etiquette; thus, in some ways she is above me, and because of this, I’m too quick to want to defend myself when she’s not happy. Oddly enough, my wife has mentioned she has the same problem with me – she sees me above her, which is really weird to hear. She says she sees me as such a good person that it causes her to be way more defensive than she should be. This means there are two people being too defensive – that gets fun. We use two of the three main defensive moves. There’s “The best defence is a good offence,” and “The best defence is a good defence.” Some people are “The best defence is being condescending and making the other person feel worthless,” but that’s not what we do – fortunately, that ones the worst. My wife typically is the first category while I’m the second. Both suck; they just suck differently. My wife doesn’t think to apologize while I apologize too quickly. My wife is quick to sound angry while I’m quick to sound weak and annoying where I ramble and try to explain why I did what I did like a child to a parent. See? They both suck. Fortunately, my wife and I have been working on this and sometimes… I go in the attack mode, too… I still have a lot to learn. Fortunately, there is growth over our many years together; it’s just very slow. I can’t emphasize how slowly we’ve been moving, but that’s normal. I regularly have to give myself a time out with a time (as discussed in previous posts) and journal my thoughts to figure out what is bothering me so much. That’s right; everything I teach is self discovered… like a genius… who has to be hit in the head with a hammer to realize hammers hurt – very genius.
Of course, despite my wife being defensive with me (aka attack mode), she also doesn’t give me enough credit like a lot of wives do with their husbands. I regularly hear wives say their husbands don’t understand them or they don’t listen, but when I ask the husband, he always knows what the woman said – yea guys. They just suck at helping the woman feel heard – boo guys. That’s not completely true, sometimes the guys listen but we forget what the woman told us… but they tell us sooo much! There’s so much talking… at least that’s what other guys have told me. I typically don’t remember, not because my wife talks a lot (she actually talks less than the average woman, which is part of her ADD brain – too many distractions or hyper focus moments). I don’t remember what my wife says because my brain is exhausted from listening to people all day every day for work. I have my own excuse… which still leaves her feeling unloved. To help women feel heard it’s good to say more than “Uh huhn” with a blank stare. It’s good to repeat what the other person said condensed into one sentence, “So what you’re saying is (repeat something she said),” or repeat with a similar comparison in one sentence, “So basically what you’re saying is (a comparison).” This does wonders for helping a person feel heard and understood.
The other way women don’t give men enough credit is we are pretty simple (that sounds contradictory). But 95% of the guys I meet aren’t vindictive or manipulators. We don’t do things to be mean to our wives. Sometimes we try to be funny and she’ll assume we’re being mean, which is very hurtful to us – why would you think that? When we feel threatened, we’ll do and/or say things to be intimidating to subconsciously get the other person to back off like an angry gorilla, but the last thing we want is to be “mean” to our wives… especially when it gives them ammunition to use against us for the next twenty years. Guys also don’t mean to be neglectful. We typically give space to our wives when they’re upset because that’s what we’d want… or we’re scared of her; there’s a good possibility of that. Guys don’t ignore our wives’ emotions because we’re mean. We’re simple – it’s either giving you space or we’re scared.
One of the things that frustrates me the most is my wife doesn’t realize how simple I am. For instance, she assumes I have anger when I don’t – give me more credit than that. This is a common pattern I find with guys. We’re not as angry as we get accused of being.
Here’s a typical breakdown of a guy’s moods:
- Playful: we love joking. It brings healing and bonding. It keeps things light and fun. This side kicks into hyper drive when we’re flirting or have a good audience. When we’re joking, we’re the kind of person we want to be – confident and fun. Wives have an ability to crush this for guys and/or we get lazy and stop trying to be fun as the daily grind sucks the life out of us. Fun is the mode we want to be in, but we need to feel safe to get here. The downside is this is the side that can get us in trouble as we do things looking for fun that we shouldn’t be doing like drinking too much or talking to women we shouldn’t.
- The Middle Ground: A) Brain off: This is the magical zone where we are thinking of nothing. It’s a glorious place most women will never experience, but might get a glimpse of through things like yoga. This is part of why guys love to nap while women hate it: (woman) “You should be stressed like me or at least thinking of a million things you have to do.” B) Working Mode: This is the zone between Fun and the next category, Serious. It’s a happy place between the two worlds where we can still have fun moments, but we’re engaged in a task. It is connected to the Brain Off category because we’re just in a task losing all sense of time.
- Serious: Serious is what a guy does when he doesn’t feel safe to joke… or he’s a prude. Normal guys don’t like prudes – lighten up. Serious can also be what we do when something very somber is happening, but it’s not what guys typically enjoy, which is why guys can make jokes at funerals to try to lighten the mood. Serious is the place dad’s have to go to discipline and we hate it, especially when it can take awhile to recover. The only time we really like being serious is in the bedroom. We like to flirt and tease, but when the clothes come off, laughter should stop – no pants, no laughter. Unfortunately, some women enjoy joking in the bedroom because a woman needs to feel safe in order to have sex… ah, the joys of our differences.
- Upset: Upset is a heightened level of serious. This is where our tone gets excitable. It’s louder and firmer, but it’s not “yelling” even though some people may accuse us of that. Both Serious and Upset moods can leave us wanting to separate ourselves to process and/or decompress, which some women call moping. Guys who do this, however, are doing what they can to avoid being in the next category.
- Explosive: This is when yelling is yelling. Self control is gone and we’re in full “I’m trying to scare you” so you’ll back off and/or obey me. Some guys are too quick to get here. Sometimes this is a sign of really bad insecurity or it’s a sign they’re in a very low emotional health spot. Normal guys end up here after bottling things up and just taking it and taking it until boom! This is the category we want to prevent by properly venting by ourselves, but sometimes life is too much.
What makes me want to be explosive is being accused of being in the wrong category. I’ll be serious and I’ll get accused of being upset. I’ll be upset and be accused of being explosive. Nope, that’s not it at all. I’ll also get in trouble for being serious when my wife wants me to lighten up. The problem is I can’t lighten up if I don’t feel safe – telling me to lighten up really doesn’t help. Sometimes, this takes going to bed and waking up fresh. Other times it can be reset by seeing friends. I think the hardest thing for my wife is I have a hard time being Fun when I’m being a parent. It’s like when I was a volunteer versus a youth pastor. I was a lot more fun as a volunteer because I had no responsibility whereas being the head leader I was less fun because I had a job to do. This same thing happens in parenting. The worst part is even if I want to be fun, my kids will naturally upset me as kids do and then I have a hard time getting back to the fun zone because I don’t feel safe. My wife, however, can flip in an instant, which is good for moving on, but bad because our girls don’t take her anger seriously. I may not be fun, but my girls are more worried about me being angry because it takes awhile for me to normalize. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.
Thinking back to my dad, he was exactly the same and it’s a little sad I wasn’t able to see him being more in the fun zone because he died while I was still young. It’d be very different now. Now that I’m a grownup, he could’ve relaxed and been more fun because I wouldn’t be his responsibility anymore.
This week may you consider how simple guys are and how that can benefit you AND next week we’ll consider women more.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people