An Open Letter to Husbands …
You know the feeling, the heart-pounding, tight-chested, palm-sweating moment filled with dread. “OH NO. This can’t possibly end well,” you might think, as you watch her crying, listening to her complaining that she doesn’t feel loved.
The adrenalin has kicked in and you feel close to panic. All you want to do is get out of the room. Or maybe worse, you feel yourself getting angry.
Hopefully you don’t respond to either of those – but it’s likely you do, as most people (men and women alike) respond to situations like this or conflict with the “fight or flight” response.
This is your flesh, your nature, in action, cave-dweller against lion style.
And can I suggest ever-so-gently and with the greatest amount of respect, that how you handle this is going to impact whether you are warmly received (or hotly pursued) later?
Want to know what to do? And please know I’m not suggesting in the least that you don’t already know your wife, have great motives towards being the Best Husband Ever, nor am I calling you a slacker. I do want to help you hear some things you may not have heard before that could potentially change your interactions with your wife for the better.
I spend most of my time working with women who feel alone and unloved in their marriages. The truly sad thing is that seemingly most women fit into this category at some point during their marriages. The other sad thing is that many of their husbands just don’t know what to do. Please know that I encourage women to not just stick it out, but try to be great help to you, to respect and honor you, as their husband. You might check a recent post that tells them to stop complaining about feeling unloved.
Might I share a few ideas, things that might help you in your marriage relationship with your wife (and heat things up in the bedroom)? Not all of them will apply, and it’s likely you are already doing many of these, but there might be a few ideas worth considering… 🙂
First, consider things BEFORE she starts crying, before she starts complaining.
Think about her day so far, and the days leading up to this one. What has she done? When did she get up? When does she go to bed? If she’s working, she is likely tired. Research shows women need a little more sleep on average than men do – is she getting it? Did you know that by putting the kids to bed for her, or getting up a little earlier yourself to make the kids’ lunches for school or help get them ready, you may actually be saving her life? Research shows that a lack of sleep increases the risks for women of stroke, heart disease, inflammation and serious pain – especially if she already has arthritis, depression, and psychological problems. So if she’s freaking you out or waking up grumpy – as her husband, as her protector, she needs you to step in by stepping up to some of the work to help her get sleep.
Why don’t women take better care of themselves? Often it is because they are too busy. There’s always something to be done – and she’s bearing the burden for doing it. The kids need her, the laundry has piled up, the yard needs raked, dinner needs preparing, someone left dishes out, and the toilets need swishing. Research shows women wait longer to deal with heart attack symptoms, often to the point of being too late for early intervention. Women have also now surpassed men as more are dying from heart disease, and when they do get treatment, they often have worse outcomes and its often couple with depression. Research also shows that couples who share domestic tasks are actually happier than those that don’t. She also wants you to do the heavier stuff – like yard work, cars, home maintenance, and maybe even the bill paying. Things that require some muscle also help make you more attractive to her.
Know that if you are sitting around gaming at night while she’s engaged with the kids or doing chores, your lack of engagement and play time will likely add to her resentment and frustration. This will naturally cut down on her receptivity in the bedroom.
Want to see how the hours spent doing chores for men versus women compare around the world? Check this link. The article is mostly about India, but the chart is uber-cool.
Think you are sharing things 50/50? You’re not alone – many men agree. What’s troublesome, however, is that the women don’t, and the facts don’t support this.
What is interesting is that there are groups in our culture that will insist that men and women are alike in every way. This argument can be dispelled if we simply look at women’s ability to bear children and nurse, and our physical differences. Many of the research studies saying men and women are similar only focus on the similarities – of which there are many – and thank God for that, otherwise marriage could be like trying to have an intimate relationship with a different species, like if dogs tried to marry cats – it wouldn’t work.
But those differences matter. And we all need to be aware of them.
Women, for example, care a lot about relationships. That means they care about their marriage being good. They want to feel connected to you. And the little things matter to her. So when she’s got to pick up your stuff, put your dishes in the dishwasher, or repeatedly ask you to take out the garbage, rake the leaves, mow the yard, paint the hall, make dinner sometimes, pick up your underwear off the floor, etc., this can cause resentment because she’s tempted to not view you as a man, but rather a child. Here’s why: she doesn’t want to take care of you like she does the kids. She wants a life partner.
To put it in perspective, it’s akin to how you’d feel if you constantly had to cover for a friend at work, and he kept getting credit for the work because the boss didn’t know you were covering for him. Or if your coworker who worked less hours and contributed less on the project (because he was a slacker and spent his time golfing instead of working) got the same bonus as the rest of the team who put in long days, gave up family stuff and their golf outings to finish it on time. After a while, you might get tired of being taken advantage of like this. You might not give him such a high rating on his next 360 appraisal, right?
And please know that I’m not suggesting you do the more traditionally “feminine chores” – research also shows those things make you LESS attractive and have a little less sex than if you are doing the “masculine chores.” She wants help with the “heavy lifting” ones – probably because if you don’t do them, she has to – and she isn’t physically as strong as you are.
Check the comments about this topic on Facebook:
Knowing that she cares about relationships, understand that you are making a deposit in the relationship when you do traditionally manly things – without having to be hounded (she hates nagging as much as you do) as that presents you as a reliable guy with initiative – and she’s going to feel closer to you and have less resentment, which is likely to result in more action in the bedroom. If you like research, here’s a list of articles that talk about the differences in the genders. If you just want to relate better with your wife, check out this page for 101 Ways to Love Your Wife. Another awesome resource for you if you really want to dig into the research is For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn (it comes with a summary outline of the bullet points).
If you want to completely knock her socks off – ask her to take the Love Language Profile – and then read it, then DO things for her that speak to her love language without her having to ask.
And here’s a list of “Top 5 Things” you can do for your wife this week:
Bottom line – men and women relate differently, but if we will but have empathy for each other, understand some of our differences and put some effort into meeting our life-partner half-or-more-way, our marriages will be happier and we’ll model better things for our kids.
As her protector, she needs you.
Hope this helps. Like I said, not all will apply, but hopefully some of the ideas are worth thinking about.
Blessings to you, sirs!