Thursday, September 6, 2007

Learning to be a Spouse--Houdini doesn't live here any more

Something in the previous post on flowers for Shabbos clued me in to the subject of this post. The previous post was in reference to a comment that young husbands should bring flowers of their own volition, not because someone told them they should. I believe the previous post shows why a young husband might not think of flowers on his own. And that brings me to the subject of this post: Mindreading.

Although there is a lot of discussion today that is trying to show the contrary, men and women ARE different. They may have different approaches to problem solving. In general, studies show that girls are more verbal than boys. They also place more reliance on the spoken word then boys do.

So girls talk a lot more then boys do. They talk to their mothers, to their sisters, to their friends, and to their classmates. They ask lots of questions. Through talking they come to know about a lot of the "rules" of relationships. They do this starting at a very young age. They also become adept at reading the non-verbal signs--listening for tone and looking at facial expressions and body language. Really good female friends can "read" each other without a word being said. And because girls are adept at verbal communication, they also tend to "shortcut" a lot when speaking--their female listeners can easily fill in the blanks.

And then girls get married, and they marry boys. And they expect that their new husbands will intuit precisely why their feelings have been hurt or what they want for their birthday, or why they are upset. In short, they expect that, like The Great Houdini, their husbands will be mindreaders. After all, their best friend would know right off what was bothering them, or how to ask the right questions. And shouldn't a husband be at least as good as your best friend?

And they expect that their new husbands will, on the basis of one incident, be able to "intuit" what they should do in all cases.

I said before that husbands are not born; they are made. Well, wives are not born either; they too are made. Your relationship with your husband is going to be a lot different then your relationships with any women. You are going to have to forget some of the "old" rules and develop some new ones.

The first step in this husband-wife relationship is this: don't assume he knows: tell him. Tell him in detail. Define terms if you have to. You want flowers for Shabbos? Tell him! And then tell him why you want them, and how you feel when you get them, and how you feel about him when you get them. And yes, tell him what benefits accrue to him when you are happy. And if he still doesn't get it, explain some more. And when he brings the flowers, tell him how wonderful that is, and how wonderful he is and how happy you are.

A lot of young wives would be far better off if they forgot about "magic" and realized that there is going to have to be some plain speaking on their part if there are things they want, or things that bother them. If your husband is "clueless," give him a clue, give him lots of clues.

If I were to hear a woman, married for many years, say "My husband just doesn't understand me" I would react in one way--and I would be worried. But when a newlywed says this my reaction is "Of course he doesn't understand you! How could he? You haven't told him how to do this."

Farmers know this: if you plant seeds and then don't cultivate them, water them, nourish them and do this day in and day out you are not going to have a crop. Do you want to be a good wife? Then stop playing guessing games and speak. Speak more than once. Put in the work and then you will have a "crop" to reap.

And while you are practicing how to be a good wife and actually say what you mean instead of assuming that your husband will know this "from the thin air," please remember that "Rome wasn't built in a day."

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