Comedian Bill Engvall tells the story of waiting in an empty house, planning to surprise his wife with an evening of romance and intimacy. Obviously he was anticipating that it would start with sex, because his surprise was that he would greet her in the living room when she arrived home – and he would be totally naked. Problem was, she arrived on que . . . with guests – who came with her to see . . . him! Engvall explains that he launched himself into the coat closet, and was stuck there for some while, until the guests finally left.
Doesn’t awkwardness in relationships typically lead to avoidance?
I can’t speak for any of you, but I definitely prefer comfort. It doesn’t matter what the situation, whether it pertains to the current weather conditions, my mattress, the clothes I wear, or the relational interactions in which I find myself. I doubt you are much different. So with that in mind, what is it that we do when we know an interaction with our wives is going to be not-so-comfortable?
My default behavior is to deflect. And there have been times when I have behaved indifferently, hoping she would become frustrated and move on. Oh, and there’s always the “I can’t believe you are making such a big deal about something so trivial,” strategy.
If you are going to become your wife’s communicative hero, understand right now that your willingness to participate is far more important than your skills. Skills can be honed. The willingness to walk through something awkward with your wife is either there or it’s not.
Ever ask your son to ride shotgun with you on a short business trip? Or run errands to Home Depot (Can’t you smell those hot dogs now?)? What about telling him on Friday that you’re going to need his help with some yard work or a home improvement project on Saturday? When my sons and I were younger, I actually looked forward to those experiences, hoping they would be chances to further bond our relationships as male persons. And when they were really too small to help out much, and slowed me down with chores, they loved it too!
But then one day the stars fell out of alignment, global warming started warming, and the desire to even hang out with dad got sucked up through the hole in the ozone layer. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t do it, but they no longer wanted to. And more often than not, I would end up frustrated and disappointed, and eventually tell them to just go on back in the house and do whatever they wanted to. “I’ll just do it myself,” said I. “I can get it done quicker without you out here anyway.” Good thing I don’t know the first thing about being passive aggressive, huh? But the truth is that it hurt. Hurt that the sons I raised and loved didn’t already share my work ethic. Hurt that they didn’t care if the job was done to the best of our abilities. And when it got down to it, hurt that although they sometimes participated out of duty, they were no longer willing. Why would a 14-year old boy not want to hang out with good old dad, share a shovel or a hoe, and talk baseball or golf? I think I’m pretty interesting and also fun to hang out with! I like hanging out with me. Why shouldn’t they?
So you have agreed to have a conversation with your wife, and you know what it is going to be about. You know that in one way or another you are guilty in what she wants to discuss. You agree to communicate with her about this problem, but – you do not engage willingly. Although we all have the need to be heard, especially when we are hurt or frustrated, the degree of this need for women is far greater than it is for men. When she realizes that your willingness didn’t make the trip with you, rest assured she isn’t going to feel heard. What she will recognize immediately however, is that you have reluctantly dragged yourself into the conversation, and you find her concern to be of little value or importance. In other words, in her mind, you were condescending. If you think that’s going to get it done, you would be sorely mistaken. In reality, you not only refused to willingly offer your whole self to her in order to fix this issue, you have successfully added additional layers to whatever the problem was to begin with.
Once the pattern of apathy in communication is established, we get one thing we wanted (avoidance), and a dump truck load of things we didn’t want. The thing we are trying to do when we are unwilling to engage, is avert these types of conversations. But discussions will become fewer and fewer, until there is no value in them for either member of the marital union, and communication will cease between the two of us. The aftershocks of the failed interactions with our wives pack tier after tier of humiliation, disrespect, and disappointment onto the women we claim to love.
Let’s be real. Humiliation, disappointment, ongoing anger, disrespect, and condescending behaviors are not going to do anything toward building a marriage that will last. Not only do our wives not deserve this type of treatment from us . . .
. . . They won’t tolerate it forever.
Unwillingness or avoidance when it comes to making things right with our wives is cowardly. It takes courage to be real, honest, and transparent. And neither you nor I are exempt from having to “take our medicine” from time to time. Unwillingness to communicate with effort, and toward mutual resolution tells our wives that they are unimportant, and stupid.
So be present. Show up. Buck up. Take whatever responsibility and accountability is necessary for your part in any conflictual interactions with your wife. Work side-by-side with her to develop positive solutions rather than trying to beat her up with superior intellect, reason, and manipulation.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Rocket scientists not needed.
Wouldn’t adding the fruit of the Spirit to your countenance, attitude, and efforts, encourage progress and results?
And, as always . . .