(photo from awkwardfamilyphotos.com)
As we walk out of Amor de Brazil after her birthday dinner, she says, “Why did we go there? I feel like a caveman! You need to go back and take your buddies.” She’s half-joking.
Men walking around with meat on sticks asking, “Want some?” What a great concept for a restaurant. Brenda enjoyed the surprise, sampled everything, and loved being together, but it wasn’t her thing.
I took her there because I wanted her to experience something different and I had no idea what kind of surprise she might like. So I made an executive decision.
After forty years of marriage I have accepted that there are some things I cannot do. She of course has known this all along, but she may have hopes that it can change. I know at least four things that will not change and so here’s a reminder of these Four Male Marriage Incompetencies that we have to live with.
1. I can’t read your mind
If you’re going to tell me, “I really didn’t want to eat there,” AFTER we eat there, then you can tell me before. No, the birthday dinner was not an example of this, but every other time we eat out is. Seriously, I want to know beforehand, because I want to make you happy.
I don’t know how you feel.
I don’t know what you want.
I don’t really know if you’re happy.
I should know (if I really loved you!), but if you haven’t told me, assume I’m clueless. This applies to the serious stuff, not just where to eat.
So you could: Pretend you’re married to a person with a part missing–the ‘read your mind’ part. Then assume you have to make up for that missing part by telling me how you feel and what you want.
And I should probably: Ask you and believe what you say.
2. I can’t keep up with your logic and thinking
You’re way too fast for me. This is not a compliment or a complaint. Before I understand what you just said, you move on. So I try to move on with you but my mind can’t nimbly change subjects like you, so I end up back yonder somewhere.
Then it happens again. And again. In the same conversation. In the same minute. Now I’m WAY back there. I’m so far back there I can’t even hear you anymore. That’s what that blank look is on my face. When I say, “You have to stop,” it’s not because I don’t want to listen or because I disagree. It’s because I’m tired and must rest.
This frustrates me, and leads to us bumping heads. We may not even really disagree, but since I don’t understand what you said or what you want–and then you pause and expect a response–I just do the best I can with the little I understand.
You’ve heard that men think in boxes and rooms. It’s true. Now, we definitely look for ways to connect the boxes and rooms, but for the most part we must leave one room in order to enter another. Your rooms don’t have walls. You live in all the rooms at once.
So you could: Slow down. Just talk slower. Pause. Say, “Do you understand what I’m saying?” If I say yes, say, “OK tell me what I’m saying.” That will probably bug me so you’ll have to remind me I told you to ask.
And I probably should: Lighten up. No need to get frustrated. A frustrated man is not very attractive, right? (See I DO remember what you say). And I should ask questions as you go to make sure I understand.
3. I can’t stop trying to solve your problems
It’s a man default. It goes with my manly chest and my virile head of hair (hahaha!) I know you just want to be heard, and I do want to just listen, but I can’t. I
must . . .
solve . . .
The chances of this changing are the same as the chances of you hating chocolate. This is actually good, because when you DO have a problem to talk about, here I am wired and ready.
So you could: Give me a heads-up when you just want to share your feelings. Yes, you actually have to say, “I’m not asking you to fix anything.” No, it probably still won’t work.
And I probably should: Ask you, “Do you want me to fix anything?” This is where you would sacrifice your desire to just share and be heard, and you would say, “Yes! Please fix it!” so that I might have my purpose fulfilled.
Which reminds me . . . (#4 continues after this)
Sorry for the distraction. Finally . . .
4. I can’t be Jesus for you
I’m just a man. I cannot be a source of deep inner satisfaction for you (that hurts me to say because I want to be that).
You know all those wonderful love songs about how awesome and perfect and wonderful the other person is? Those songs are about Jesus’ perfect love but the songwriters don’t know it. That love exists, but not from a man, not from me. It’s not fair to either of us for you to expect that of me, and it hurts our marriage.
So you could: Let Jesus be Jesus, and let me be me. Go to him for what only he can give, and to me for what a man can give.
And I should: Try to be more worthy of your love, even if I can’t be Jesus. Because you deserve a far better version of me than you’re getting.
What else does a wife need to remember? Are there other Male (or Female!) Marriage Incompetencies?