Wednesday, June 5, 2013

De-frosting a husband.....A response to a reader's letter

Hi Rachel,
I really like your blog and outlook, and was curious if you could help me with something. I feel like I need to de-frost my husband! By that I mean he is just cold to me, also quiet and distant. We've been married for 15 years and have 2 kids, ages 8 and 10. Any advice for me would be much appreciated.

The Lonely Wife

Hi Lonely Wife! First off, I want to clarify, I am not a therapist or even married, but have a passion for love and am more than willing to offer you my humble, novice advice. It's hard to offer advice when you don't personally know a couple but I can generalize, and will do so! I am curious to know how long it has been this way with you and your husband- weeks, months, years? 

In general I feel that husbands want to know why their wives are always angry with them and wives want to know why their husbands ignore them. There’s a simple answer to that. Over time, marriages fall out of their cycle. For example, the more she nags the more he blames her for whatever the issue might be. The more he blames her for the problem, the more she nags, criticizes and harasses. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle: nagging angry wives match up with cold, blaming, quiet and distant husbands. And so it goes. The connection that you founded your relationship on slowly dissipates.  Each blames the other for the pain and neither seems able to break the grid-lock in their relationship.

That part’s simple, describing the problem. What to do about it is another matter. Both men and women fail to understand how sensitive emotionally a man can be. Generally speaking men are not as developed emotionally as most women, so emotional matters can scare him, but only because he has not been given the skills or the practice of managing himself in intense emotional situations. While women were growing up they were learning emotional relationship skills, even mimicking relationships with dolls. Guys on the other hand were out exploring, doing muscular activities, burping, and solving practical problems in physical reality. Few men understand things you can’t see or touch, like emotion, Santa Clause, and their wives feelings. Truly, it can seem as though men and women grew up on different planets.

Something I have learned along my journey is that whatever it is you want more of, you need to give more of. Quite the lesson for me, and I'm still learning. As the baby of 7 kids (I am the only girl, and have 6 older brothers) I was well taken care of. If I wanted something, I asked, and I usually got it. I found quickly in my huge and loving family, if I asked and someone wouldn't do something for me, someone else would so I did not learn to support myself very well. Now as an adult I am learning to backtrack that upbringing, and am realizing I need to take more responsibility for my feeling and my actions, and if I want something I need to learn how to give in order to get it, not just ask, sit back, and expect it.
So, enough about me, here are some thoughts for your situation...

Stop complaining and plan instead.
Rather than complaining to your husband how you never do anything together, step up and schedule a babysitter or nanny and take your husband on a date.

Go to Him.
If you want to be with your husband, be with him where he is. IE: Don't attempt to re-kindle your romance by inviting him to the ballet: epic failure! If he’s watching TV on the couch, sit with him on the couch and watch whatever he’s watching. If he’s in the garage tinkering with his hobby, go to the garage and help tinker with his hobby. Attempt to bring along a little emotional sunshine too, guys dig that. This will show him that your priority is him, not the activity.

Take it slow.
If there’s something important you need to talk about with your hubby, do two things before you start talking: 1. Set a time and place with him to talk about your topic of concern and tell him what your concern is. It is important to tell your husband the topic you wish to discuss, if you leave it open-ended, their minds wander with possibilities and they generally end up flustered and overwhelmed by the time the conversation actually happens. 2. When you begin talking to him, start slowly and avoid his emotional shutdown with your full gunnysack of complaints. Here’s some insight: If your husband cares about you, he wants all your problems fixed. If you continue to complain, he feels inadequate because it means he has not fixed your problems. What he doesn’t understand is that women sometimes just need to talk and whine a bit in the presence of someone they feel safe with and get “it” off their chests. However, when she does that, the man often feels like he’s let her down, otherwise she would be happy and not so “emotional”. Once again, he’ll make an attempt to solve the “problem”, or give up and go cold and quiet because “She is hopeless. I can’t ever please her.” Alot of women just want to be heard, some do prefer the advice in return, the best advice I can give here is to know your partner and fine-tune your actions to their needs.

Reach out and touch him.
When you feel angry, contemptuous, misunderstood, or lonely reach out and touch your husband but say nothing. If he looks surprised as you stand there with your arms around him or your cheek next to his, stay quiet. If he demands to talk about this physical contact or he is worried that something’s up, reassure him by simply saying, “I miss you, just relax and enjoy it."
Remember, based on gender stereotypes (which I have to use since I don't personally know you or your hubby) you have superior emotional skills when compared to your husband. Therefore it’s your responsibility to be careful and gentle with him when in emotional interaction. He can’t take emotional heat like you can so matter of factly. With that in mind, here’s a final tip: nagging and criticizing your husband will almost always get you the opposite of what you want.  Touch is powerful. Remind him of your gentle side, not your angry side.

Side by side, or head outdoors.
I've heard it frequently said that men have a hard time communicating face-to-face. It has something to do with their innate sports ability, and when you think about any sporting event, when two men are facing off, they are literally doing just that: facing off. They are staring at eachother square in the face, waiting to ball it out and compete. A discussion in a marriage should never feel like that. Instead we as women should strive to create a comfortable place for men to talk about their feelings: perhaps an outdoor deck, or on the couch. And instead of face-to-face try chatting side by side, it can be very beneficial and help men lower any communication walls they may have. Maybe even pour two glasses of wine, turn on some music, whatever it is that you as a couple enjoy, try and bring that to the table to comfort him. Remember, communicating is more than likely not as easy for him as it is for you. Another hint: alot of men prefer to walk and talk, so head outside, stroll to the park or to a local yogurt shop while you discuss whatever it is you need to.

So, lonely wife, I hope that helps. I hope that you are able to thaw out a cold and distant husband and maybe save a marriage! Love is worth fighting for, which you obviously know or you wouldn't have reached out. Best of luck to you and the husband!! Keep in touch.


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