Monday, August 24, 2009

Men vs. Women, Part Five

Rather than this post addressing one gender or the other, this one will address both groups. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "The most important thing in any relationship is not what you get but what you give." Only 7% of communication is verbal. It stands to reason if your spouse is talking, you should be listening with your undivided attention.

Main Entry: com·mu·ni·ca·tion Pronunciation: \kə-ˌmyü-nə-ˈkā-shən\ Function: noun Date: 14th century1 : an act or instance of transmitting2 a : information communicated b : a verbal or written message3 a : a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior ; also : exchange of information b : personal rapport 4 plural a : a system (as of telephones) for communicating b : a system of routes for moving troops, supplies, and vehicles c : personnel engaged in communicating5 plural but sing or plural in constr a : a technique for expressing ideas effectively (as in speech) b : the technology of the transmission of information (as by print or telecommunication)

Communication. It should be so simple, right? It should be so easy to say, "hey, that hurt my feelings" or "I feel. . . . "

But it isn't. For whatever reason, as much as we talk, when it boils down to important relationship stuff, we fail miserably. I am not certain why we have such difficulty telling someone how they've made us feel (good and bad) or sitting down to talk out an issue, but some of us -- in fact, most -- are riding the short bus when it comes to communication.

Conversation is a must in any relationship. You need it to be connected to each other. You need it to have your feelings respected. You need it to sort through issues and problems and find solutions. You also need it to truly know someone. If you aren't communicating, chances are your spouse doesn't know who you really are.

Ladies first.

1. Men are not mind readers. I agree that if you are stomping around, slamming cabinet doors while doing the dishes he should have done, that he should at least have some clue as to why you are mad. Unfortunately, he's sitting there thinking "What in the Sam Hill is her problem?" Will he get up to find out? Rarely. Why? Because he knows asking is going to cause a fight and he'd rather sit in the recliner and play on myspace, thanks.

If you have a problem with your significant other, spit it out. Do your best not to be accusatory or whiny or vicious, but do tell him what is going on so he is not sitting around clueless and then blind-sided when you explode like a sleeve of Mentos dropped into a 2 liter of Coke.

We are all guilty of this. What I am now realizing is why on earth would I think someone can read my mind when he has already proven he can't manage to do things when he is specifically asked to do things? He can't. Period. It is unbelievably unfair to expect him to do so.

2. WHY, when a man does have the stones to ask us what is wrong, do we ALWAYS say "nothing?" Again, they are not mind readers. I understand it is uncomfortable to open up and talk about what is bothering us for fear of being ridiculed or dismissed. But if you trust your spouse the way you should, then you will know he or she will listen with his or her whole heart and work towards a solution with you. Unless they're jerks, and we will discuss this one further along.

When I say "nothing" it means one of two things. I am mad because he hasn't read my mind (which just makes me a moron) or I do not want to talk about it right now. So I must learn to say: I do not want to talk about it right now. When I am ready, I will let you know. We should *all* learn to do this. And if we say nothing for my first reason, we deserve to be unhappy for a bit because that is just foolish behavior.

3. If we want something, we must say so. As we have already discussed, they can't read our minds. However, let me tell you what else they don't do. They do not do subtle hints or mind games of any sort.

I have noticed we have a real problem telling him we need him. Why, I am not sure. For example, a wife doesn't feel well. Hubby is out goofing off with friends.

Wife says: I don't feel well.
Hubby says: I'm sorry, baby.
Wife says: The kids are driving me crazy.
Hubby says: Oh, honey, I am sorry.
Wife says: No one is here to help out.
Hubby says: Do you want me to come home?
Wife: It's up to you.
Hubby says: I will come home if you want me to.
Wife says: No, it's clear you don't want to come home.

I *know* why she is irritated, but he doesn't have the slightest freaking clue. She is irritated because she feels like he should have immediately volunteered to come home, because that is what she would have done if he were the one feeling poorly. Plus she feels like crap. However, now *he* is irritated because she has snapped at him after she told him it was up to him, and so now we have both parties angry with the other.

It would have been so much simpler if she had said, "Honey, I really feel horrible and I wish you would come home." Providing, of course, that he said, "I will be right there." I've had this exact conversation with someone and after ignoring me for about 20 minutes, I sent another text and said, "Are you coming home or what?" At which point, he replied, "You didn't ask." This person is just being purposely antagonistic.

If we want something, we must let go of this insane idea that he will just *know* what we want and do it. I blame romantic comedies. While I do love a good chick flick, the guy always seems to just *know* what she wants in the end. So now all women are thinking if our spouse/partner know us well enough, they will just know what we want. *insert eye roll here*

Yeah, right. Losing that misconception in five, four, three, two. . . one.

4. Do not tell him it is "fine" to go do something if your intent is to punish him for the next week. If you don't want him to go, say so. But have a valid reason. Don't say no just because you feel like it. If you've been following along, you know men need their guy time, and if you deny it, it better be a valid reason. Because if your inclination is to say no every single time, it is past time for you to have some self-reflection about your control issues or jealousy issues or whatever else is going on with you. Also, guy's weekend is just that -- guy's weekend. You cannot go. Bachelor parties are for the guys -- not for you. Unglue your hip from his, take off the choke collar and leash, and let him go play. He's going to love you even more.

5. Women (some men, too) communicate loudly and forcefully with one simple activity: the heavy sigh. It conveys so much when one partner is trying to talk. You are telling your husband that you don't give a crap about his point of view, you think he is ridiculous and you wish he would SHUT UP. Let's look at this from the other person's side. How livid (and hurt) would you be if someone did this when you were talking? You have to show respect to someone else's point of view. Especially for your spouse.

6. You do not always have to agree – and that is okay. You are two different people. Of course you aren't always going to agree. That doesn't mean you can't reach some compromise or agree to disagree.

7. Leave the emotions somewhere else when you talk to your hubs. The absolute least productive thing you can do is start sobbing uncontrollably. Yes, your feelings are hurt. But hysterical sobs do one of two things to men: a) they feel guilty and will agree to whatever you want because you are crying and they hate it; or, b) they get angry because you aren't being logical and rational. If you know you can't be rational, then don't have the conversation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with agreeing to postpone a "discussion" for a day or two. Now, before you misunderstand me, I am not saying you cannot cry when you are having a discussion. Things are said during arguments/discussions that hurt. Some issues are very emotional for us. You must focus on being logical and rational because you are far more likely to come to an understanding or agreement when you are acting like a normal person. Men (usually) respond to logic better than anger or tears.

8. Nagging. Okay, I am guilty. So very, very, very, very guilty of this one. It never
occurred to me until recently that the reason nagging doesn't work is because nagging about what he's not done or done "incorrectly," comes across as demeaning and belittling. Not to mention if you do it in front of other people (again, BIG fault of mine), it's downright embarrassing. Try and focus on the positive. Looking only at the negative behaviors in your spouse can be self-fulfilling.

So Bradley, if you are reading this, I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart.

9. Stop bringing up past faults/arguments. Man, this is hard to do. I try and succeed sometimes and fail spectacularly others. In the past three months, I have *really* failed spectacularly. I am hurt, I am angry, I feel used, deceived, ignored, and controlled. However, that doesn't mean I need to take every opportunity to remind people what a POS Brad has been to me. Griping about it doesn't change it, and it only makes me look like a bitter, spiteful, scorned woman.

The bottom line is that what happened in the past should stay in the past. You deal with it, and you move on as a couple. If you've got a lurking issue that hasn't been addressed, you need to do so – as a couple -- and then move on. Bury the hatchet, but don't, as Garth said, leave the handle stickin' out.

Gentlemen, your turn.

1. Staring at the floor while we are telling you how we feel is disrespectful and childish. Get your head up. Look us in the eyes. Listen to us. Interact. Show us you are listening.

2. Do not sit there, thinking about what you are going to say whenever I finally shut up. You are so busy thinking about what you want to say that you are missing everything else. And definitely don't sit there and think about things unrelated to the discussion at hand.

3. Remaining stubbornly silent when we are finished is also disrespectful and childish. Act like a man. Show you are worth her love. Tell her how you feel and show her that you understand or are trying to understand how she feels. Clamming up is counterproductive and will destroy your relationship. Try to come to an agreement or concede when you've never thought about things her way. Sometimes I wanted to take Brad by the shoulders and shake him until his teeth rattled because he would not show passion about anything related to our relationship. Argue with me, for Pete's sake! Show me you care!

4. Give her your undivided attention. Continuing to watch TV or text or play your game or clip your toenails is ridiculous. Again, act like an adult. Most of us have kids and are going to get to go through that crap with them. We did not, however, give birth to you. Think of this as a business partnership. I'm pitching an idea that could make or break our company. You'd pay attention then, wouldn't you? Marriage is no different, and definitely more important than your job.

5. Immediately becoming defensive and angry instead of listening needs to stop. So do temper tantrums. You're how old? Sure, no one likes to be criticized or be made to feel they are doing something wrong. But guess what? We aren't perfect. We hurt others. We anger others. When we are in a committed relationship, the person we've chosen to be with is going to see all of your nasty habits and faults and if anyone is entitled to criticize, it is her. If she is trying to be gentle, give her some credit and pull your head out of your butt. Also, trying to intimidate her into giving up is only going to make her hate you, stupid.

6. STOP INTERRUPTING. We aren't finished! Shut up and let us finish. Most of the time, you are jumping to some conclusion without listening to the entire thought process, and you are probably interrupting for no reason. Perhaps if you would shut your piehole and let us finish, you would realize there is no reason for you to throw your two cents in as the issue you *thought* was an issue isn't really. Also, talking at the same time to drown us out only gives us fleeting visions of your mouth + Duct tape.

7. Stop stonewalling. We *know* you don't want to talk about it. We *know* you'd rather play dead. Stalling a discussion serves what purpose? Rip the Band-Aid off, gents, and cowboy up. The issue isn't going to go away and stalling only makes her angrier. Refusing to answer questions is another form of stonewalling (not to mention passive aggressive), and it is unacceptable, too. We know you can think for yourselves. You proved that when you picked us. Flat out refusing to cooperate with your wife shows her you are rejecting her and trying to drive her away. Eventually, we will leave you. Because who wants to be rejected every time she opens her mouth?

8. "I don't know" isn't a freaking answer. I've told you how I feel, then I ask how you feel about it and you say "I don't know?" That's horse pucky, and you and I both know it. You know how you feel. You know what you are thinking. Saying you don't know is thoughtless and selfish. You are telling her you have a complete lack of concern and in fact do not care about her feelings and what she has just said to you. It's just rude and irresponsible. You are married now! You don't get to be irresponsible anymore.

It is also a cop out. You don't want to discuss the problem, so you are going to say "I don't know" in hopes she will get discouraged and quit the entire discussion. Unfortunately, with me, this usually works. Man, I hate being controlled.

9. "Because" is not an answer to any question. Period. You can't spend the majority of our married life trying to get us to mother you and then pull this move. Not only does it tick us off, it shows you have so little respect for us that you think you can treat us like your word is final. For me, my knee jerk reaction is "screw you, buster."

Both men and women:

1. Show appreciation. When he has done something sweet/special/helpful, tell him. I know it is annoying when a man puts a cup in the dishwasher and starts it and then acts like he "did" the dishes, but thanking him for starting the dishwasher is something we should do. Men, say thank you. It's not going to kill you to tell us you appreciate all we do for you. You notice that your drawers miraculously stay full of socks and underwear and t-shirts. Say something about it. Regularly.

For example, I am a huge fan of cards. I love giving and receiving them. I have sent cards to my ex on numerous occasions and it was very rare that he even acknowledged them. Is it any wonder that I felt unloved? It would have taken five seconds for him to shoot me a text that said, hey, I got your card, thank you, I love you. But you guys send pictures of your poop instead.

2. Don't place blame. It only creates defensiveness. It's really hard to do when you are *convinced* the other person is at fault, but if you want to resolve the issue, you must refrain from saying, "This is your fault, you jerkface." Tempting though it may be, the point is to communicate and resolve problems.

3. Stop being passive aggressive. When we bring something up that upsets us, "Sorry I've disappointed you AGAIN" and "I can never make you happy" is your attempt to twist things around and make it somehow our fault for failing to find you perfect. "Fine, you're right, you're always right" in a shitty tone is also unacceptable. Oh. And pretending you are asleep to avoid having a discussion is unbelievable. Grow some stones, for the love of Pete.

4. Get to the point. I am not sure why people do this, but we tend to hem and haw and delay getting to the point as long as we can. By the time you get to your point, you've lost your audience. I like to make a list. That way I can start off with my number one complaint and work my way down, without forgetting to tell him something so that I have to come back and mention something else later. Not only do I get it all out, he doesn't hear new issues every day.

I am sure all of you have communication issues you wish your partner would or would not do. If I've not addressed them above, then please, leave a comment.

Any way we can better ourselves as individuals and as a couple is worth the time. As couples, we have to be unified. There are many ways the outside will scratch, claw and bite at our relationship. If we're unified, we will survive. If there is infighting, we don't stand a chance in hell.

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