Thursday, October 4, 2007

Smart Women Reveal All

There is a great post on Danielle Bean's site. The best quote from the comments is:

Men, generally, do not understand the concept of the "hint."

Guys, read it all to learn what your wives are thinking. There are many treasures in this refreshingly frank conversation.

8 comments:

Sophie said...

Jim I read Danielle's post the other day and some of the comments. Frankly, I was appalled, angry, and just sad over what was written, both by the commenters and Danielle herself. There are *some* good points made, I like that she talked about caring for our husbands, etc. However, I find it completely repulsive that there is virtually no mention of communication with our spouses. I find it sickening that women expect their husbands to just take hints (and many other things women just expect...). Why should they? Can't we wives (and husbands as well) just take the time to communicate our thoughts properly so they can be completely understood? Why should each party just settle for some *hint* of being on the same page, and being united in the same spirit, when with a little more effort and time and care for each other we *could* be on the same page and united in spirit. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I fail, on a daily basis in my communications. But I strive and would never expect my husband to just 'get it'. Nor should he expect me to. We are a team, we should unite ourselves in one mind, taking the time (sometimes a frustrating amount of it) to be sure our emotions, needs, desires, joys and sufferings are intimately communicated with our spouse.

Anyway, just some thoughts. Would love to hear more of yours on this. I'll stop hijacking your blog now. ;-)

paul said...

It probably isn't surprising that Sophie and I are thinking along the same lines, but I had a few thoughts this morning that I figured I'd shared.

There are two conditions, which if either are met, I will consider our marriage to be a complete failure.

1)I have to go to some source (book, blog, etc.) with advice "about women" in order to understand my wife.

2)I go to some person other than my wife in order to get advice on how to "deal" with her prior to actually talking to her about the issue.

The assessment of a failed marriage may seem harsh, but either of those two conditions would mean that my wife is no longer my friend, soul mate, or confidant. She, in fact, would be appropriately be considered a stranger.

When I see posts like the one on Danielle's blog, I get uncomfortable from the metaphorical stench from the unbathed elephant standing in the middle of the room.

The big gaping whole in Danielle's response (and in lots of the comments) is the need to talk to your spouse. If you want to know how to "deal" with him, ask him. If you feel you can't talk to him about it, that's the biggest problem and should be addressed first.

All the rest of the advice whether it be sensible or wacky just comes off as amazingly shallow (no diving allowed) without that pieces.

This is getting longer than I originally intended, but I have one final thought.

Is it strange that I more often take marriage advice from Pink Floyd than modern Catholic authors/bloggers?

Is it stranger if I haven't listened to the song in 8 years or more?

Well, in any case, I end up thinking about "Keep Talking" from Division Bell quite often.

"Why won't you talk to me
You never talk to me
What are you thinking
Where do we go from here

It doesnt have to be like this
All we need to do is make sure we keep talking"

JimmyV said...

Wow! I wish we could hang out more often; I'm forgetting what it is like to engage in an interesting conversation with you guys.

I interpretted the "hint" comment, perhaps incorrectly, as the commentor rejecting the idea of the hint in favor of direct communication. That aspect of the comment is what attracted me to it, so I am surprised that you don't seem to read it the same way.

Obviously, you two know how you work and have an understanding of how issues are handled but I don't think "keep talking" can work as a philosophy for all married couples at all stages of marriage. When Jen and I have an issue, it often must go unmentioned for a while before I can properly put it into words. It would be at best a waste of time and at worst a sin against charity the way I might talk about something. Also I do believe that talking is the primary mode of communication, but non-verbal communication must also be considered. Often Jen knows when I am stewing over an issue as soon as I start so that she is prepared for our conversation when it must happen. I consider learning non-verbal communication to be an important element of marriage and a way of demonstrating my love to Jen, but I'm a poor listener so I have to make up for it somewhere.

I'm thankful you only apply those standards to your own marriage, Paul, since I would have failed both before I was even wed. Perhaps, it is because of the array of books I read on male/female relationships that my opinion seems to be so different than yours. But, as always, I'm grateful that the Lord has put you both in my life. No doubt you will help me get closer to heaven.

P.S. - I only read the oldest 30 comments or so, so I can't really discuss what was in the other 60.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

I think you interpret the "hint" comment correctly. I won't speak for Sophie, but general it seemed to me that the comments were geared away from direct communication. That one comment being the notable exception.

The whole notion of stating things clearly and conversing rationaly comes of as foreign, which is sad, because while I might expect it amongst the general population, it is hard to take knowing that it is so rampant amongst devout Catholics (which I presume most of the commenters on Danielle's blog would consider themselves).

Jim, I think I should clarify my standards. (Giving and using chances to clarify being another hallmark of good communication :) )

Thank you for interpretting them as my own personal standards and not a general judgement - for that is how I intended them.

However, they are for in marriage and not pre-marriage. Let me explain. I would not have had a problem with me reading an "understanding men/women" book prior to marriage. Marriage is a big deal and its best to try and understand things and figure out what is real and fiction before jumping into the decision. For one of my classes in school I had to read portions of Men are from Mars/Women are from Venus, it was garbage. On the other hand JPII and others have had very useful insight into the difference between the sexes, etc.

However now being married it is different. If I don't undertstand Sophie, she should be the source for achieving understanding. If I reach a situation where I just can't figure out what Sophie is doing or why, I shouldn't (nor should I feel like doing this) go out and start reading books and blogs in the hopes of stumbling across some "secret" of women that will make things totally click. I should go to Sophie and explain the difficulty I'm having. Anything less is a serious step backwards.

The second standard is more serious. While in this case, I am applying it only to myself, it one that in general gets me really irritated with others when read things such as Danielle's blog post.

Husband and wife are partners. They are supposed to - according to their vocation - have a very tight bond. They are supposed to work things out together.

If a woman feels compelled to seek advice for how to deal with her "extra child" in a forum exposed to the entire blogosphere, before she sits down with he husband and discusses what she is going through, her marriage has serious issues - and they are more fundamental than the ones she is currently consdering.

I don't not think that I am guilty of overstating or over simplifying with the following. A spouse should be comfortable talking to his/her spouse about any topic that they would talk about with anyone else, excepting his/her confessor. A spouse should bring any marriage issue up first with his/her spouse, excepting his/her confessor/spiritual director. A spouse should be able to expect that should his/her spouse have an issue with their relationship, that he/she will be the first to know.

It doesn't take long to be able to hear around work someone griping about their spouse. It also doesn't take long in listening to find out that most of the time, they haven't communicated to their spouse about the problem, nor do they have plans to do so.

I think I have more to say, but I am losing the ability to focus, so I must take a break from that train of thought.

"I don't think "keep talking" can work as a philosophy for all married couples at all stages of marriage."

It may be too simply stated as there certainly needs to be a "keep listening" component. I certainly think that it is appropriate to take whatever time is needed to properly articulate a thought and do so in a charitable manner. Being thoughtful and charitable is certainly a requirement of good communication.

That said, I have found in my marriage times when I just had no hope figuring out the right way to say things, but I simply couldn't wait any longer (for multitudes of reasons). In those cases when I decided to not communicate at all about the issue, the results were bad. The only good solution I could find was to "keep talking". I essentially told Sophie that I had something I needed to talk about, but I didn't know how to articulate it. I then gave it my best shot and rambled a bit, seeking her aid in articulating the things I needed to say to her. That's when things turned out alright.

This works both ways, but I'll state it from the husband's point of view. A husband should be comfortable asking his wife how he should phrase something that he needs to say to her. I asked Sophie that before, "I need some advice on how to ask my wife about...". Spouses ought to be that kind of friends.

Paul said...

This is one of those topics that can really get inside me and twist around. As a result I tend to say/post stupid things too quickly. I love the chance to discuss things like this and don't want to mar that by failing to be even handed.

There are certain key phrases that set me off, such as some that I saw in the comments to Danielle's post.

I decided to take a step back and be fair. Originally I hadn't read all the comments, because I felt so disgusted. Well, let's say, it's easy to generalize when you don't account for the data.

So I went back and decided to highlight the good and the bad in my opinion. What I noticed is that some of the more recent comments were downright awesome.

So here goes:


Good:

"Presume that he means well and communicate if something needs to change, but don't assume that he's trying to ruin your life."

- Don't assume bad things. Communicate. Thumbs up.

"Every time I choose to be honest with my husband and then not nag, by God's grace things work themselves out."

- Communicate honestly. Don't nag. Thumbs up.

"I just cringe when I hear women refer to their husbands as "another child.""

- Cringing at stupid attitudes. Thumbs up.

"You have your vocation as a wife and mother; remember he has his as husband and father. Both are different. So what if he doesn't do the dishes. You're not out there getting pounded by unfair bosses and inept coworkers each day. One thing we have done in our marriage is make an effort NOT to "vent" or speak badly of the other person to other people. Even family or close friends. I think it's more of an effort for me -- women by nature are more talkative. If I have a problem with him, I communicate it to him and him alone."

- Communicating with your spouse about your problems. Six thumbs up (I'll have a reclining Buddha stand in for me on this one.)

"Our role as wives is to lead our spouses and our children closer to Christ and to becoming the person he specifically designed us to become. Some situations call for us to simply care for our families by caring for and meeting their physical and emotional needs on a daily basis. Some situations, where there is abuse, addiction or other crises call for us to take action. We do our families a disservice if we allow them to continue along a path that draws them further from heaven rather than closer to it. Pray continuously both FOR your family (including your husband) and WITH them. Consult with a trusted spiritual director for solid advice.
To use an old object lesson, the married spouses should model two hands together in prayer (each hand symbolizing the husband and wife) both pointing heavenward and focused on Christ. When you focus too much on each other, and forget the ultimate call to lead each other to Christ, the hands are no longer pointed upward but at one another, stuck in a position unable to move forward."

- Marriage is a spiritual vocation. Two thumbs up.

"My advice would be to have a gentle, loving converstation with him when you've had a good day together, and just honestly let him know what your thoughts and feelings are but then be SURE to counter this by telling him that you KNOW he truely is a stong, godly man in his heart and you are going to treat him as such from this day forward (allowing for the occasional temper flare, and of course followed by a quick apology)."

- Communicate with your spouse. Thumbs Up.

"After reading all the comments, I realized that I was not always calling my husband on things he "shouldn't" be doing, that is, owning up to his responsiblilities. I dont' mean, I'm going to pick on my husband and nag, nag, nag. That doesn't work. It only backfires. Doing things lovingly, and then leaving it for awhile usually is the best route. My husband happens to be one of those who likes to do laundry, and cooks on weekends to give me a break. I appreciate this immensely."

- Fraternal correction of spouses, instead of "accepting them for who they are". Don't nag. Appreciating your spouse. Thumbs up.

"I now this is a bit off-subject but I've seen a few comments on here about how men are "clueless' and need to be reminded we need them to "help out" with household duties. We ladies have to remember that we still do the majority of child-raising and that we who do have sons are raising the husbands and fathers to be of tomorrow and that we can make a big difference in the lives of their future wives and even their children. This goes for daughters also, but we need to make sure we raise our sons not to think of us a their "private maids" and give them an idea of women that carries on into their adult years.

I know alot of the time it is just "easier" for us to do the chores around the house ourselves, sometimes because we think it will not get done "right" unless we do it. But what are we teaching our children when we do that. We need to make sure BOTH our sons and our daughters know how to cook, clean up after themselves, do general household chores and even do their own laundry.

Maybe someday our future Daughter-in-laws will thank us!"

- Wow! Future thinking. We can do better than our parents. Two thumbs up.

"The roughest patch in my marriage came, funny enough, during our courtship. I was deeply in love with this man, but I was blessed beyond belief with the strength and wisdom to see clearly that certain behaviors and habits of communication were unacceptable. I was willing to help him do whatever it took to change, including (thank God) seeking professional help, but I would not marry without completing trusting that real change had taken place. It was very painful to put my love on the line, so to speak, but my father always told us with humor, "Look closely before marriage, and not so closely after." So I looked very closely. My husband and I came from very different backgrounds and his was pretty dysfunctional. He was worth the honesty and struggle. Hardly a day goes by that I don't call him "my Saint Joseph." We hope to cultivate in our daughters the confidence, wisdom, and independence to know what they want and deserve and how to be wiling to wait and sacrifice for it. So much of the work of building a good marriage--those honest conversations about what you want your marriage to become--can and should happen in courtship."

- Figuring out whether you should be married before you get married. Establishing communication about tough subjects before marriage. Two thumbs up.


"But it is nice to see someone affirm us over the media's portrayal of 'the bumbling, fat, ignorant, fool' that seeme to be the norm. But I must share that the service you mentioned must go both ways. Yes, we 'pay the bills' and 'change the oil', but the love and support goes both ways. We have to take care of her. I guess it boils down to a matter of both self and mutual respect. Self respect in that I would not treat her the way I would not want to be treated, and mutual respect because we are both children of a God who loves us and are special in His eyes."

- Spouse as partners. Thumbs up.

"Sometimes I think our leaders focus on wifely submission to the exclusion of the mutual submission and selflessness described in the Bible. If each partner could just view marriage in this way, there would be more happy marriages, I suspect."

- Mutual submission. Two thumbs up.

Bad:

"She replied that everyday she would forgive him for 15 things. Not pointing out his mistakes or oversights, but truly forgiving 15 things that bothered her, without his knowing or asking for forgiveness. She said that at some point each day she would lose count and just keep forgiving anyway. I think of that sometimes when I'm retrieving balled up socks from under the bed!"

- Failing to communicate. Lack of fraternal correction/spiritual concern for your spouse. Thumbs down.

"Her suggestion was to help us submit by respond to your husband's request with a single positive word. She told the story of a woman whose husband loved to go to a large wholesale club to shop. He would want to go after dinner and even though it wasn't the best timing for her and her three children, she would just willingly say "Sure!" and pack up the kids."

- Failing to communicate your full thoughts in a charitable manner. Thumbs down.

"If your husband has a habit of not being reliable about certain things, LET IT GO. You only dissappoint yourself by your high expectations. So, for your sanity, give it to God and let it go."

- Failing to communicate. Dissing expectations. Thumbs down.

"I will not get mad because he didn't un-ball his socks before throwing them into the hamper"

- The issue is here, "Have you agreed that socks in this house should be un-balled?" If not you should discuss it. If you have, then feel justified in a little irritation and mention it to him in a loving way.

"When I stopped nagging and controlling my husband and our lives, but simply stepped back.....it created a vacuum for him to step in and take over as the head of the household that I was unconsciously trying to be. We ladies have to "let" our husbands rule, and they will. He later told me that when the woman tries to control, the man simply runs away. Think about how they do that....run away to sports on the TV, work, golf, fishing, you name it. I started serving, let him run....and then he came back to a house (and spouse) he could lead."

- Lack of communication. Comes of as the woman having some unilateral master plan for reinventing their marriage. Thumbs down.

"It always helps to focus on the positive, and somtimes you need to find a good friend who knows how to listen, pray with you and keep things to herself."

- That friend should be your spouse.

"I can relate to Anon and the original reader's question, and feel like a doormat who has become very resentful as a result of always just trying to "do better" in the hopes that he will come around and start to love me, but never getting any of my needs for emotional intimacy met. What do you do when he is totally resistant to change or to getting help? In some cases the "just love and serve him" advice just doesn't work, and only makes things worse."

- Kinda shoulda figured this one out before "I do." If you were being deceived, get out.

"If you got out a ledger and accounted for all the times we as women had to bite the bullet for the family, most of us would probably find out that life's not fair, but those are the cards many women are dealt. Would you rather be right and alone or accepting of your situation and do what you can to make things better in your marriage?"

- Lack of communication. This whole "biting the bullet alone" from self styled victims gets tiresome quickly. Spend sometime developing your friendship with you spouse.

"In addition, some husbands might need to be told that we're making these sacrifices for them and out of love for them. We all get wrapped up in ourselves, including husbands. A gentle note or conversation about how the wife is working on this might give the husband the gentle push that he needs to notice and recognize it. It's a tricky situation, though, as he might have a hard time recognizing and reacting to the change. If I want my husband to notice something that I'm working on, I sometimes ask him to help me to work on it. I'm also not above just telling him that I'm telling him so that I can get some credit and he willingly obliges."

- Communication as a last resort. If you have to communicate, try and do it in a obtuse manner first. Two thumbs down.

"My husband is very happy to take what I give, but doesn't try to change his habits. Take up your cross and serve your husband. As long as he is not abusive or harming you or the family in any way then serve. You may gradually notice little changes in your husband where he wants to start serving you more. But even if you don't, make him happy. You made a commitment to God to honor and obey and through sickness and health. Follow your commitment. His failings in that area are something he will have to deal with between him and God at some point. You do what you are supposed to but don't nag him to do what he is supposed to. It may come with time. My husband is a very selfish man but I have noticed small, gradual changes and I thank God for that."

- Lack of fraternal correction. Lack of communication. Waiting for gradual changes. Thumbs down.

"There is a secret I learned years ago that not only helps me relate to my husband, but to men in general. It's simple, but it can be very, very important:

Men, generally, do not understand the concept of the "hint.""

- Post was actually pretty good. Only thing that gets me here is the notion that communicating clearly is a good thing is a "secret". I'm pretty sure the poster was using that in tongue in cheek way, but way too many people treat talking with their spouse as a foreign concept.

"Sometimes, we need to remember him not only as daddy to the children, but also as the love of our life. Even if he is not all that we think he should be, I found that by praising him tactfully and letting him hear me talk to the kids about him, made him grow and do better."

- Round about communication. Reeks of unilateral manipulations. "Maybe I can trick him into acting like a better man."

"My mom gave me the best advice right before I got married about caring for a husband -- let him have his way whenever possible. This solves the problem of fighting over little things as well as letting him be the head of the household! When it's bigger decisions, you obviously come to a conclusion together, but as far as where to eat out, how to arrange the furniture, etc. Empower him, let him be in control, and the home will run alot smoother ;)"

- Gag me with a rusty, spiked mace. (literary hyperbole)

"someone mentioned having no emotional intimacy with her husband, after years of trying. This is so so tough, and my heart goes out to her. Perhaps she might need to let go of that dream? As incredibly hard as that must be, it might actually be somewhat liberating to say, "For whatever reason, he is not willing or able to be emotional close; we can't really talk about our problems; he can't really be sympathetic to me. Today, I am going to stop expecting that, and just work on caring for him. He obviously needs it." Maybe that would free her a bit -- if she stops coming back to that same wound, it might heal somewhat."

- Poke my eyes out with a red hot poker, so I don't read that again. (again literary hyperbole - I just don't know what else to say to these last two)

JimmyV said...

Thank you for taking the time to give opinions on the comments, especially pointing out the specific aspects which are positive and which are negative.

There is quite a conversation to have here and it can pull in many things so I will try to be concise while acknowledging there are important things I will be leaving out.

Since we have allowed that there are times when a husband may not be able to phrase himself in a loving manner, I will extrapolate from that point. Through our courtship, and early in our marriage, I did not have good listening skills so I would often miss Jen's point and cut her off. These attempts at conversation often caused stress so we needed a strategy to handle them. It could take many attempts (days even) before an issue was resolved but we had to function as a family in the interim. In those times, I think it is good advice to forgo immediate fraternal correction in favor of loving forgiveness.

I am not saying that fraternal correction should be forever avoided in marriage; I am merely saying that it can be counterproductive and should be avoided at those times.

I do hope to write more on this in the future. Thanks for the intellectual grist.

Jen said...

I didn't really see anything wrong with the way that Danielle answered the woman. It may have been an incomplete answer, but I don't think that she steered her in the wrong direction entirely.

I think that the way she choose to respond was based on the woman's comment that her husband is essentially "another kid." Now, I've heard people say that jokingly but in general using that term for one's husband conveys disrepect for him and some measure of frustration with him. Given that, I think Danielle's answer was sound.

The woman needs to change her attitude before she can communicate effectively with her husband. If she goes to him and tells him, "stop acting like a child," he would, understandably be put on the defensive, and the conversation would likely become an argument. However, if she takes the time instead to serve her husband, her attitude towards him would be likely to change. In serving him lovingly, and sacrificially, she will begin to see him more clearly, and from a loving perspective.

Only once she gets her attitude back in line can she effectively communicate with her husband. And by her loving service he in turn will be more receptive to fraternal correction. Acknowledging this isn't manipulative, unless she doesn't take the time to change her attitude too.

I guess my point is that in all things we should work to change ourselves first, then work to help others change. Obviously, we needn't wait until we're perfect to correct others, but we should at least take the time to correct them out of love rather than out of anger or frustration.

JimmyV said...

Good point. I think you explained much more clearly what I was circling around.