Wendy is a wonderful mother. She has two young children, the youngest of whom just started first grade. She has been a stay-at-home mom for the past eight years, and now she and her husband, Bill, would like to buy a larger home for their growing family; Wendy has re-entered the work force in order to make this happen. She's now working 20 hours a week outside of the home. Though it doesn't sound like too much, she's having difficulty handling the needs of her family, her job, and her home. She feels like she's doing all the work. In other words, she feels like Bill hasn't picked up any of the slack. She's feeling like a big ball of stress, ready to explode. And Bill has no idea how she's feeling.
One of the skills we women are born with is creating unrealistic expectations about the men in our lives, and getting disappointed when they aren't met. When Wendy and Bill planned for her to go back to work, they neglected to discuss and plan for the division of labor inside the household necessary to make this happen. Because of a genuine lack of communication, Wendy continues to spin her wheels, trying to keep all the balls in the air, while Bill, unaware of his wife's stress level, is simply happy with the increased income and his vision of their "dream home" coming true.
Wendy is quietly harboring resentment towards her husband, yet continues to stretch herself because she wants to feel like she can handle things. Sooner or later, something's gotta give. Sooner or later, Wendy needs to communicate her needs to her husband, in language Bill will understand.
This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Because of the differences between men and women in how we process emotions, misunderstandings and disappointments happen frequently between the sexes. How do you know if you're trapped in this cycle of creating unrealistic expectations and then feeling disappointed and resentful?
See if you recognize any of the following statements, and ask yourself how often they pop up in your head:
- If you only helped me, I wouldn't have to do everything myself.
- How complicated is it to…?
- Seriously?! You didn't even think to…?
- Let's see if he thinks about it himself.
One of the ways we get tripped up in communicating our needs to our partners is by expecting them to be mind-readers. Instead of saying to your partner, "If you love me, you'd just know what I need from you," say this: "I know we don't think exactly alike, so let me tell you exactly what's on my mind."
As much as we expect men to understand us, we also need to understand them.
Women are innately tuned to the needs of others. We like to nurture and protect. We like to help and aid. But men also have an innate desire to be needed and to provide for their loved ones. The key is to understand the different ways in which this manifests itself. So how can we learn to communicate better and make sure we don't get disconnected and resentful, but instead feel loved and supported?
The #1 secret to a good relationship: seeing him for who he is... rather than who you want him to be.
Your husband may not be a "knight in shining armor," but by following these tips that I teach my clients, you'll bring out the man you fell in love with, and who is there to support you:
- Toss The Illusion & Get Real: Don't expect him to be some made-up version of who you'd like him to be. See him for who he is, and focus on his strengths, not his weaknesses.
- Express Your Top 3 Needs (Not 20): Express them clearly and kindly. Explain why you need what you need, and know your bottom line. He won't know unless you tell him.
- Choose Being Happy Over Being Right: When you focus on being right, it stops you from being open-minded and working with your partner on finding a solution to a problem or working towards a common goal. Be willing to be flexible and compromise.
- Shut Up and Listen! Effective conversation involves listening more and talking less. When you and your husband are in a conversation, focus on listening, really listening to what he has to say, instead of focusing on the next "right" thing you want to say. Take a deep breath, and think before you speak.
- Lighten Up! If you really want to be heard, lower the level of your intensity and lighten up. Ask more questions instead of being bossy. Relationships are a give-and-take, and a good sense of humor is a must.
- Compliment More, Criticize Less Enough said. Speak to him the way you'd like to be spoken to.
Relationships are a balancing act. Our lives change, and both partners need to adapt to the circumstances. Creating balance during transitions involves clear communication, unconditional love, and realistic expectations.
Remember this: "People are who they are. When you believe a person to be something else, you get hurt and angry and feel deceived. The fact is, while a man's actions or words may hurt, you're the one who saw him as someone other than who he really was. It's all about expectations. Whatever actions someone takes are likely to be totally congruent with who he really is, not who you imagine him to be."
-Christine Arylo, Choosing ME before WE
See your man as the prince he really is, not who you want him to be, and you're more likely to start feeling like a queen.
Michal Spiegelman Balance Expert & Life Coach
For more amazing relationships advice, visit my site at balancedmoments.com.
More Marriage Advice from YourTango: