Friday, November 11, 2011

A Newbie Husband's Guide to Dealing with Women

As a man who's been married for a year now, I've gleaned some insights into dealing with women that I thought I should share. You may have read these before and you may be arriving at them on your own. But if your'e a complete noob who's having trouble, I'm hoping this will go at least some small way towards helping you along. If you disagree or have something to add, feel free to comment. In particular, I do realize that my exposure has only been to a small fraction of womankind and so if I'm over-generalizing, I'd like to know. If you have reinforcing impressions after your experiences with women, I'd like to know as well.

1. In conversations, women speak with their heart not their mind.

When a man engages in conversation, there's a linear flow usually stemming from logic. Women don't talk like that. They weigh and judge what you say not just from the content, but how you say it, your body language when you say it, your tone, your look, everything. I would say, the content may not even matter if the rest is right.

When I quarreled with my wife in the early days, I would be saying the nicest things, in some cases admitting her point or trying to get us both to agree we were wrong and move forward, but since we'd be in the middle of a fight, my tone would be all wrong or I would be speaking loudly rather than softly. And this to her would mean I was fighting back.

So men, whatever you do, speak calmly and lovingly with your wife. Even if you're disagreeing or fighting back or explaining to her your own point, tone, volume, body language will mean to her that you still love her, and that is when she will finally weigh the actual content of your words. The moment you lose control of these others and go into male-style fighting mode, you will have lost her engagement in the discussion.

Also, when I speak her these days, I too engage my heart a lot more than my mind. So the discussion may be completely devoid of logic or any kind of connecting logical flow, but to her, it's a loving discussion. In the appropriate circumstances, let the heart lead your voice when talking to her. Engage your mind when making your decisions obviously, but engage your heart when discussing them with her, or conveying them to her. This makes a huge difference to making her feel closer to you.

Because one engages one's heart, the discussion also has no flow or logical structure the way us men are used to. But that is completely okay. Have a meandering conversation with her, saying whatever your heart feels, or listen to what she says and she will get closer to you.

2. Women feel better when they let it all out.

As a man, when I have a problem, or there's something that's bothering me, I see no point in going on and on about it since that's not going to solve anything. Instead, I go quiet, find a place I can be by myself, focus on the problem, weigh it and try and come up with a resolution.

Women cannot keep what's bothering them bottled up. It drives them nuts. They have to let it all out. Talking about it and letting it out helps them examine each thread of what's bothering them and let go of it. The solution is not the goal when they're doing this. It's purely to let the pressure out. When women are in this state, that's the time they need your support the most. I try to just listen to my wife while she lets it out. Sometimes this venting involves blaming me, calling me or my family names, taunting me and lots of other extremely provocative things that seemed designed to make me yell at her or call her names. In the early days, this is exactly what I used to do. But these days, I've instead decided that one of us needs to be the mature one here. I've weighed how my life is with and without her and decided the positives outweigh the negatives. As a result, I decided to take the high road and calmly, with loving tone and voice and body language, explained my side of the issue. Quite a few times, this appears to have no effect on her and she goes on venting. I've learned that this is quite normal and that the effect of my words will manifest itself only she's let it all out. It has become evident that all the things I say, as long as I say them right, *do* have an effect but only over time and that the effect will manifest later (see point 4).

As times like these (particularly during their monthly time), they value your support immensely. If you are their rock, standing by while they vent and scream and work it out of their system, they will love you more than anything else. Knowing this, it's become super-easy to endure this since I don't take any of it personally.

Another point to keep in mind is that until something completely resolves itself in her mind or is worked out her system, it will keep coming up again and again in the next session. This is why it's helpful to be her rock and help her let it out. Listen carefully and really sympathize with the right words, and it will help her a lot. It will also help her get something completely out so that you don't have to be bother with it again.

When listening to your wife, you would do well to learn about the various active listening techniques. What we men might think is listening isn't really listening for women. We listen to get the gist, the meaning of what she's saying and then respond to the point made. What she wants out of our listening is something else altogether.

One of the techniques I've learnt and practiced to help the process is something called 'reflective listening'. What this involves is just reflecting what your wife is saying back to her. There are various levels of doing this. The most basic level is where you'd just repeat the words back to her as an acknowledgement. The most advanced level is where you're getting a sense of her feelings and the underlying meaning behind why she's venting, and then reflecting those back to her. Say she says something like 'your parents are heartless and cruel people'. You might say 'my parents have hurt you so much!'. Essentially, instead of the words themselves, you got the feelings behind her words and reflected those feelings back to her with empathy and in a loving tone. The reason for why she's been hurt by your parents will become evident as the session progresses. You just help the process along by reflecting back. Apparently, doing this serve two purposes: it lets the listener know that you are listening and you are getting what they're saying, and secondly, it helps correct any misconceptions in your understanding. The first time I tried this, I was skeptical. Instead of solving her problems, all I'd be doing here would be just reflecting which seemed a bit useless to me. Boy, was I in for a surprise – the technique literally worked wonders. For a point where she was yelling and screaming and ready to break down, just my reflecting not only calmed her down but the end of the conversation was where she was acknowledging some things she'd done wrong, and she was asking me for ways to make it right! It's mind-bogglingly wonderful the way it works! Keep in mind that you don't want to imitate or sound like a parrot here obviously. Be subtle, and actually try to reflect the feelings behind her words.

The second technique is to use the 'I' word as much as possible than the 'you' word. The 'you' word invariably gets heard by the listener as an attack, even if you are being conciliatory. Express how you feel when she says this or that. This is a bit difficult but it again works wonders – it completely deflects any attacks because instead of attacking back with 'you', you're talking about how the attack is making you feel. Women react very positively to this.

3. Over-grown children

In a lot of ways, women are like over-grown children. You may have read this elsewhere and admittedly, it's a sexist thing to say. But to balance it, I'll say that in many ways, men too have their childish ways.

Women love gifts. They love surprises. They take it personally if someone doesn't wish them on their special days or doesn't give them a gift when they feel they deserve it. They judge people's goodness and worth based on gifts given and received.

Women keep score in all their relationships. They keep track of who's given them what and what they've given them. Who has invited them and what was made that day for food, how the occasion, who else was invited. Slights are never forgotten and will be paid back in equal measure at some point in future through some means.

Women need protection and caring. This is a good thing, not a bad thing. I read recently that when a man engages in a relationship with a woman, hormones kick in that build up the protective caring instinct in him and these hormones are part of what make a man a man. As a man, I love making my wife feel safe, loved and secure. It just makes me feel good.

4. When they're venting or fighting, what you tell them may appear to have no impact but it actually does and its effect manifests over time. Once they've resolved all the issues, they will retain what you said to them, good or bad. If it's bad, it will bubble up in a future venting or fight session so that it can be worked out of their system. If it's good, it will benefit you as they will give back the positivity in good times. My lesson from this has been that in fights, always say positive things. Because the negative things will not win points, but in fact cost you in the next venting session.

5. Women perceive more than men and have better memory than us

Things that have completely escaped me, of how people behave or how people are, things that I do that I didn't even realize, my wife perceives. It is said that this is because women observe much more than men. They don't only focus on a speaker's content for instance but the whole picture - how he or she is standing, behaving, their tone, volume, their actions everything. This tells them much much more about what's going on than us men who typically will only focus on the words to get the gist of what the speaker is trying to say. I've also noticed that my wife has an amazing memory. And researching it, I've found  that women in general have better memories than men. My wife remembers the minutest details of what happened 12 months ago at a particular instant in time, who said what, who was wearing what, the exact words that were said etc. She remembers exactly where she has put her particular set of earrings 12 months ago. Kinda mind-blowing! And this is why I've learned not to argue with her memory because I don't even remember what I wore yesterday or who said what, usually not even if I met a particular person or not unless I try and recall if there was something of significance that happened with the person. In discussions with her, I never argue about something that happened. I just say I wasn't aware that had happened, and if it's something she's hurt / venting about, I sympathize with her. This does wonders.

I've received some comments about this post saying that they've managed to "shut their wife's yapping" or something to that effect. I would say that you may definitely have shut her up but you've also probably started your wife down on the road to depression. This is what typically happens to women when they can't express themselves the way I've described - they lose the ability to love and that usually concludes in depression.

Marriage has become much smoother after learning these things. And I hope to learn even more going forward.

1 comment:

  1. A great and very helpful post. Thanks a lot buddy