Welcome brother! If this is your first time reading Woodshop Wisdom, this is a place where, every Monday, we answer a specific question from the men’s community. We give straight-forward answers to a variety of relationship problems and the challenges men face everyday as a provider, father and husband. And often we will challenge you to go much deeper in your understanding of the problem and how to think about it more effectively.
Let’s get started.
(This is from a female friend of mine) My husband and I are going to marriage counseling and it has been going well. Although at times I do get frustrated for how painfully slow he catches on to things. Our relationship is better than it has been, but we are coming up towards a busy season at work for him and I am worried we will go back to our usual dynamic. I will find myself stuck at home alone with the kids feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and under-appreciated. I tried to tell him about what I am worried about. He just gave suggestions as to how it will not be like that and I shouldn’t worry. He tried to fix it. What do I do to make him understand me?
Fellas, listen up real good. I am about to make your life way easier.
I will show you how to DO less to communicate more.
After she got done telling me the whole at-home situation, which I honestly don’t remember all the details, (the 10-minute explanation was condensed into the question above), I asked her this question “What did he say?” She replied, “I don’t know. He said some things about how I shouldn’t be worried and then some things about how to fix it.”
You see that guys? She doesn’t even remember what he said.
Even with all that talking they never communicated with each other.
You might be wondering why she doesn’t remember. You might be saying to yourself, “See, they don’t listen either…”
I don’t want you to slip into the blame game here. That contest ends with two losers and the score tied 0 – 0. How do I know that? I lived it brother.
Try this instead.
I asked my friend if I could take a crack at responding to her concerns how I think she would like her husband to. This is how it went.
I said, “Thanks for sharing that with me. I understand how you can be worried based on our history and what we have been through together. Those are very valid and understandable feelings.”
That’s it. That’s all I said. I then shut up and waited for her to respond.
After a pause (because I think she thought there was more coming) she said, “Oh yes, that would be SO nice. I feel heard and validated. I don’t feel crazy or that something is wrong with me.”
I said, “Then I would probably walk over and give you a big hug.” She squealed just a little over the phone. I continued, “What if your husband did that for you, just like that?”
She sighed and said, “I would melt like butter in his arms.”
That is how easy this can be.
There are things in play here that I think helps to be aware of in order to understand why this is so easy once we get out of our own way.
I think the #1 thing is this:
Acknowledge her current feelings as true and valid.
This may seem obvious, but what a woman feels is 100% true for them in that moment. The minute we start telling a woman that what they are feeling is wrong based off incongruent facts and figures is when they start to build a case around us for being “emotionally abusive” or “gaslighting” them. I have lived this nightmare! I was accused of both and I had no idea why until I realized this fact. Her feelings are 100% true. No exceptions. YOU may not be feeling those things, but she IS. Acknowledge her for where she is at and accept it.
Stop yourself from saying these words – “You shouldn’t feel that way because…” Never say that. I have divorce papers to prove it. 😊
The #2 thing is:
Do NOT attempt to change, fix, or persuade her into feeling something different.
This is where I got caught with the label of “manipulator.” When she was angry, I would try to make her softer. When she was sad, I would try to make her happy. When she was worried, I would try dismissing it as overly cautious or sensitive. I was constantly trying to change her feelings from “bad” to “good” for all of us to be happy again. The message she was receiving from me was “you are lovable when you are a certain way.” Not my intent by a long shot but that is how she felt. Guess what – SHE WAS RIGHT. (Do you see how I am modeling #1 above?)
Huge Added Bonus: No fixing = less work for you.
This is where it got so much easier for me. I released this burden from the unhealthy, codependent relationship we were in when I stopped trying to make everything better. I gave her back her independence when her feelings were hers to deal with. That created a space where we could work on our interdependence with each other. Every time I was trying to “fix” the way she was feeling was a message to her that shouted “YOU CANNOT HANDLE THIS. YOU NEED ME TO RESCUE YOU.” (barf, just threw up a little in my mouth at my past behaviors). Let her have her feelings.
Note: It may seem awkward at first if you are used to being the repair man. It did for me. It feels as though you are not doing enough. Just remember – if you are not personally feeling it in your own body, it is not your responsibility.
The #3 thing:
Appreciate the expression of her feelings and her heart.
The old saying “Praise the behavior you want more of” works for kids and adults. A simple appreciation for sharing their experience goes a long way towards signaling to her that you love all of her. Every single, crazy bit of her. It is inside of revealing one’s experience where a magical, intimate connection can happen. Promote that expression whenever you get the chance to.
The next time she comes to you with how she is feeling – Acknowledge, Accept, and Appreciate.
Thoughts From The Woodshop
A woman came in for some cabinets in her laundry room and back entry foyer. The consultation meeting was in my office during break time for my crew. The breakroom is right off the main meeting area and the guys can probably hear much of what is going on.
We talk about design and function for about an hour and finally decide on how she wants them built and finished. This meeting took a bit longer than usual because she didn’t know what she wanted exactly. I showed her countless samples and styles and received a lot of opinions on a lot of the options we provide. Not all the opinions were positive to say the least. Some of what she said was downright contradictory. I heard a lot of “No, I hate that” before we got to the “Yes.”
One of my guys comes up to me after the meeting, smiles, and says, “Boy, she sure knows what she DOESN’T like.”
I go through countless meeting like this and I guess I have gotten pretty used to it by now. I tell my customers that I need to hear what they don’t like sometimes in order to find out what they do like. The outcome we desire together is in inside of the conversation and in hearing the other person. I cannot ignore an opinion I disagree with or wish for it to go away. These cabinets are not going into my house. I don’t have to live with them.
The secret to these custom designed pieces is that I acknowledge their taste, accept their opinions, and appreciate them for trusting me with their desires.
Where to go from here?
I see you man. I see that you are ready to engage, you are ready to create something new. I see that you are ready to pick up the tools we have available and get back to building something in your life that is beautiful, impactful, and meaningful. I look forward to seeing it.
It all starts with a question – what do you want to build?
Most of us men spend a lot of time in our heads. We have conversations with ourselves but never show that thinking and feeling side to anyone else. The question and answer example above is exactly like the wise conversations we have every day ALL day in the Mentoring Men Community. This is the smartest, strongest, most caring and courageous group of men I’ve ever known.
We meet weekly for group coaching calls and have deep conversations with men around the world 24/7. This online men’s group is like none other out there. This is what we hear.
“Thank you, Thank You, Thank You for reminding me of who I really am and helping me kill that annoying hummingbird. My wife has seen an immediate change in my attitude and outlook while she has struggled to make progress of her own. She has even made the statement that “I want to be where you are and want to find something that I can connect with and that will make me a better person.”
Join us and start changing your life faster than you ever thought possible.