Monday, January 17, 2011

“For Men Only” Part 1 - The Deal Is Never Closed

“And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church.  He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word...  In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies.”  (Psalm 43:3) NLT

Husbands, have you ever been exasperated with the seemingly insurmountable complexity of your wife?  I’m pretty sure this is universal.  We perceive that sometimes their actions are completely random with no logical explanation at all.  It’s like the way I view cats.  I don’t have a lot of experience with cats, honestly.  My entire life has been spent with a dog or two in the house.  What little experience I do have has led me to believe (accurately or not) that cats are completely unpredictable and uncomprehendable.  One minute the cat’s looking you in the eye and the next minute it’s standing on top of your head with no logical explanation for what just happened.  I think men tend to see women this same way.

Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn released two complimentary books a few years ago called “For Men Only” and “For Women Only”.  My wife and I each read both books and spent time asking each other questions about the things found in the books that we found especially interesting.  First I read “For Women Only” to see how much of the book about men made sense.  She did the same with my book.  It turns out that, though we each said there were subtle things in the books that were untrue of us, the books had tons of great insights.  There were things we hadn’t really realized about ourselves until we read the books and spent some time thinking through it.  For the next couple posts, I want to give a few highights of things in the “For Men Only” book that were especially helpful to me.

The Truth About “I Do”

It’s no surprise that women need to feel loved.  What is a surprise is that buried inside most women--even those in great relationships--is a latent insecurity about whether their man really loves them, and whether the relationship is okay.  This sense of vulnerability may usually be under the surface of their minds, but when it is triggered, most women show signs of distress until the concern is resolved.

You can read “show signs of distress” as “drive their man nuts” if you want.
For example, have you ever wondered why your wife:

1. asks, “Do you love me?” even though you’ve done nothing to indicate you’ve changed your mind about loving her? (In fact you just told her you loved her this morning on the way out the door!)

2. takes your need for space or “cave” time as an indication that you’re upset with and trying to get away from her?

3. seems to turn critical or pushy for no reason you can figure?

4. gets crabby or “excessively emotional” and seems to push you away--but is unhappy or angry when you stay away?

If you’re like me, you react to these seemingly unrelated behaviors with confusion and frustration.
But our research for “For Men Only” has persuaded me that every single one of those behaviors is related, and many are easy to resolve.
As the token embedded male for our surveys and focus groups, I was in for a number of surprises on the subject of women’s relational, triggered insecurity.

My First Surprise--How frequent these feelings are

Seven out of every ten women said their relationship and how their man felt about them was anywhere from “occasionally” to nearly always on their minds.  Fewer than 20 percent said that they wondered about it only when things were difficult.
My Second Surprise--How intensely painful these feelings are

Almost every woman I asked said she cared about her man so much that when this relational insecurity was triggered, it was very painful--sometimes almost debilitating--and it became difficult, if not impossible, for them to get it off their minds.
You and I have every right to think the woman we love shouldn’t feel insecure.  We’re faithful, we go to work, we do love her...and we’re still here.  But just because we think our wife should feel secure doesn’t mean that she always does.  Which leads me to my third realization.

My Third Surprise--How resistant to “logic” (ie. my logic) her feelings remain

As Shaunti points out:  “It’s irrelevent whether she should ‘know logically’ that she’s loved.  If she doesn’t feel loved, it’s the same for her as if she isn’t loved.”
So how do you and I address the fact that our wife carries around this fundamental insecurity about our love?  Based on all the research, there are two key solutions:

1) In the face of insecurity, reassure her.
2) Even after you’ve caught her, continue to pursue her.

Thankfully, both are completely doable for ordinary guys like you and me.

I’ve listed below some practical ideas found later in the chapter about how to reassure her.  Each of these has a section underneath it in the book giving more detail.

1. During conflict, reassure her of your love

2. When you need space, reassure her that it’s not about her

3. If she needs to talk about the relationship, do your best to listen without becoming defensive

4. If she is being difficult, don’t stop--keep reassuring her of your love

And finally, another excerpt about continuing the pursuit:

Pursuit is action--it’s what you did when you first saw her and wanted to make her yours.  It prevents a lot of her insecurity.  It fills up her emotional bank account.  And pursuit is what she still deeply desires and needs in her marriage, even if us “close the deal” kind of guys are already on to the next big deal--completing our education, launching a career, raising kids, perfecting our golf swing...

All worthy goals, mind you.  But they tend to make us forget that the pursuit of her that we thought was completed really isn’t.
Big-screen answer:  Give chase.
Pixel answer:  Ask yourself, What did I do when I was dating that made me so pickin’ irresistible?

For me, this was great practical advice.  I’m still working on learning how to implement this, but it’s getting better and better.  I’ve had to be very purposeful about it.  It isn’t the kind of thing you read and it just becomes a part of you.  But I ask you, is she worth it?  Did you drop your pursuit on the floor when you got married?  Most of us did.  If so, how do you pick it back up?  Let’s be creative and pursue the mess out of her, even if she’s standing still!  If you catch her, give her another head start and try again.  I believe without a doubt that you’ll thank yourself for it later.

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