Let's Talk 'Bout MarriageJan 11, 2022
Let’s talk about marriage for a minute.
Isn’t it true that Marriage Therapists tell all their clients to increase their communication and their marriages will improve? Do I really need to spend $250 a session just to hear that?
NO! That is not true. (Plus, you know Marriage Therapists have more than one tool in their toolbox, right?!)
In fact, I don’t necessarily believe that more communication is the answer to help all couples get through tough times. Yup, for all you cynics, you read that correctly. Although (many) women like to communicate about what they’re unhappy about, (many) men hate those conversations.
It’s not that we need more Communication.
It’s that we need deeper Connections.
Most of my marriage therapy clients do actually communicate. They just don’t communicate effectively.
(Ok, ok. Effective communication where both parties feel validated and understood, and they both walk away feeling closer, just so happens to be a great tool also 😉. But today we’re talking about when that doesn’t quite happen.)
Do you feel that communication with your spouse about things that bother you leads to more tension?
“How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It?” is a great question, and it also happens to be the title of one of my favorite books about Marriage (written by Steven Stosny and Patricia Love -- that’s her real name. Cool, no?)
The book outlines a basic difference between men and women. Yes, these are stereotypical, and yes, of course, there are always exceptions and lots of nuance.
Tension in marriages often stems from how men experience the shame of inadequacy and how women experience the fear of loneliness. Men hate the feeling of shame. And similarly, there is nothing worse for a woman than the fear of being alone.
This subtlety creates havoc when couples try to improve their relationships through communication. The more they communicate – the worse their relationship gets. A man’s reluctance to talk about their relationship is because his wife’s dissatisfaction itself makes him feel like a failure. He feels ashamed. And shame is an emotion that men avoid desperately.
A reason why women like to talk to their husbands is that beneath the more overt tension is a loneliness making her feel anxious and sad. She feels alone and so she wants to reconnect by interacting and communicating. And fear of loneliness is an emotion that women avoid desperately.
Listen up women: There is nothin’ that a man wants more than to please his wife. Little makes a man prouder and have more self-worth than providing for his wife and his family. He wants to be needed. He wants his wife and family to depend on him. He wants to give his wife gifts. He wants her to be happy. He wants to be connected.
Research and clinical experience have shown that most men want a closer and deeper emotional connection just as much as women do. Many men regard their wives as their best friend and closest confidant.
But here is the difficult cycle:
When there is an issue in a marriage, the man feels that his wife is not happy with him and he is not meeting her expectations, he feels that he’s failing her. This sends him into the shame of feeling inadequate. To ease this feeling and his pain, his response is often distance. But this distance is the opposite of what the woman needs at that point – and it makes the woman feel more isolated and alone. Each time this interaction happens -- her pain of isolation and his pain of inadequacies gets deeper and deeper.
How can we move past this?
Aha. You ask a good question!
Both men and women need to make the time to create a more loving and connected relationship.
We don’t need a newsletter reminding us to be kind and telling us what to do. I even feel silly reiterating the basics. But, I will name a few because… that’s why you hired me.
We need to start with small gestures of kindness to our spouses. We need to genuinely take the time to get to know and understand each other. Be curious! We aren’t perfect either- and focusing on that should help us accept our spouses imperfections also. We need to appreciate what our spouses do right and thank them for it. Oh, and schedule vacations!
There’s so much more to say about this. I highly recommend the book (“How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It”). Click here to buy for a deeper understanding of this concept.
And just btw, creating a safe, secure, meaningful and happy marriage happens to be one of the best ways to guarantee that your children have healthy social skills and a marriage of their own to look forward to!
Consider this your Marriage Therapy Session for the week.
One last thought! I read in the research (AKA someone’s amazon review of the book) that this theme seems to be true about boys and girls, beginning in childhood. Boys have an innate fear of being inadequate, girls have a natural fear of being lonely. Interesting!