My supervisor says that all men are afraid of their wives. When I first heard this, I cringed. I immediately wanted to argue such a bold and blanket statement: I found it to be depressing and sad. And yet…the more I process and observe, the more I know that it is truth, even if it doesn’t apply to 100% of husbands. Most men are, indeed, afraid of their wives. Have you ever seen a man cringe in fear from a look? Just a look. Have you ever heard a husband say, “my wife is not going to like this.” as if the thought of her displeasure makes him feel very, very afraid? Or for a husband to quickly say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” before one word even escapes his wife’s lips. An argument with a wife or girlfriend is worse than being punched in the face for most men. Just the slightest hint of an ensuing argument makes even the manliest of men run, hide, or become defensive.
Studies by the Gottman Institute have given us some insight into why arguing is so much more unpleasant for men: it affects them more physically. A man’s blood pressure and heart rate show much more significant signs of elevation during an argument than his female counterparts. Why? My guess is that us ladies are just used to fluctuating emotions and can physically go back to “normal” more quickly. Of course, our normal is usually a higher level of stress, so there’s that. But, I think it’s also because usually men can’t “win” fights with us (winning an argument isn’t really winning anyway since winning requires putting a person beneath you. It often includes a separation of intimacy and trust…thus winning actually isn’t winning when we consider the big picture). Sometimes men can’t process emotions and words as quickly as we can, especially when caught off guard. We have the power to make them feel like total idiots/jerks/losers in 2.5 seconds. It’s important to remember the power that our words have and use them for good (to encourage, support, and appreciate) and not evil (to tear down, humiliate, or criticize).
Another nugget from Gottman’s studies: Men who allow their wives to influence them are more likely to be happily married. With this in mind, it needs to be done delicately. Men are sensitive and have feelings, too!
Ladies, here are some tips:
- Treat your husband like an intelligent adult. One that you respect and give the benefit of the doubt.
- Do not reprimand him around other people, even your children.* In fact, try not to reprimand him at all.
- If he does something you do not like, try to wait until you are alone and say something like, “Honey, I know you didn’t realize, but it really bothers me when you tease our daughter like that. It hurt me a lot when my dad did that growing up and I know you don’t want her to feel hurt.”
- Help him to become a better man; don’t try to force him to blindly follow your will without explaining your reasoning and heart.
- Appreciate him. Mentally remind yourself of all the good he does and why you love him. Then tell him. Often.
- Listen to him. Offer understanding. You don’t have to agree with each other on everything. People (and husbands!) are most influenced by the behavior we model and the love we offer.
If you’d like help improving your conflict resolution, emotional and physical intimacy, or communication in your marriage, I’d be happy to help. If I’m not a good fit for you, I will make sure you find one! Please feel free to contact me with questions.
* Except in cases of abuse. Do what you need to do to protect yourself and your children.
**Men, if you suspect you are being emotionally abused by your girlfriend or wife, please check out this helpful article to further guide you.