I remember a particular period of time in my most recent marriage where I was stressed out from dealing with my life such as it was. We were having money problems in part because of the inordinate amount of child support that came out of my paycheck for my two children. At this point literally half of my income was hacked out of my paycheck and whisked away. I had just changed jobs from being in restaurant management to working as an entry level maintenance man. This meant of course that I had taken a huge pay cut. If anyone knows anything about child support you know that just because you lose your job or take a pay cut doesn't mean that child support is adjusted accordingly. No! It stays the same unless you request a modification. Anyway, the wife and I continually had issues related to money. She would become frustrated and lash out at me because I made half as much as she did gross and one quarter of what she made net. When we would get the extra paycheck that came twice a year, income tax return, or christmas bonus it would end up going towards getting caught up on bills instead of savings or getting something nice. As a result she would nag me to death to go out and secure a better job. Additionally, she began to say things like "I make X amount of money per hour so I should be able to live like I make X amount of money per hour." "Since you're the one whose paycheck is small you need to be the one to go out and find a way to bring in more money." I truly felt like a waste of space and like less than a man. I was working more hours than she was and getting as second job was difficult because I had to be on call sometimes at work. What job is going to give you 2 weeks off every 4 weeks? Additionally, our sex life suffered in part because my confidence wasn't there due to thinking in the back of my head that I wasn't good enough for her. Despite her prodding to look for a better paying job I didn't even try to look because I had little experience in this new field and just couldn't take the rejection which I perceived would be inevitable. It took me two months to find the job I had because of a lack of relevant experience. That in and of itself coupled with her incessant bitching about money had left me discouraged. I desperately needed to hear some words of encouragement from her. I needed to know that I was important and needed. I wanted to hear that she loved me no matter what and that we would get through this together.
Needless to say, all we did was talk at each other and not to each other. I was unable to really hear what she was trying to convey to me because all I saw was my own problems and emotions. On many occasions I explained to her how I was feeling and what I was going through emotionally. In my mind there was no way that she couldn't understand my struggles. I even used the "When you say/ do (insert words/ action) I feel (insert resulting feeling)" form of communication. I mean I had read books on relationships and communication so the problem couldn't be me! Right? Wrong! Conversely she did a lot of ranting and complaining with very little specificity regarding how she was feeling. She was telling me the truth about how she was feeling but they were the symptom of a greater underlying problem. This of course added to the reasons why I didn't really listen to her. You see, I had become a bit arrogant. I was more educated on relational and communicative thought processes and techniques so I knew there were core issues at work of which she was either unaware or unable to communicate. I was even so was so bold as to tell her how she felt and didn't really listen to what she was saying. Yeah, I heard the words but not the message. As a matter of fact neither one of us were truly listening to the other. I spent so much time trying to get her to understand my point of view that I was unable to hear what she was attempting to convey to me. She wasn't listening to what I was saying because I was coming across like an arrogant asshole and because she felt what I was saying as nothing more than excuses.
I later came to understand that her lashing out wasn't because she was a heartless materialistic bitch but rather because she didn't feel safe and secure. She wanted to have a child and didn't want to do so under financial duress. In addition, she didn't feel like I was doing a good job holding it down as a man. I should have at least made the attempt to get a better job. I may not have gotten the job but that wasn't what was most important to her. I just needed to show that I was willing to make the effort. Men, if your woman doesn't feel safe and secure emotionally, physically, and financially there will be some form of adverse relational repercussions. We have to do all we can to make them feel as safe and well taken care of as possible. The sincere effort towards that end is usually more important than the result of the effort. Make them feel as though you will move the heavens themselves to meet their needs. You may fail but don't let it be for lack of effort. Communicate to them that they are beautiful and say and do things to make them feel like the only woman on earth. Shit don't just make them feel that way - don't cheat. If you have to cheat just leave or man up and come clean. Women aren't as ignorant as we think to our philanderous behavior. You will feel better without that monkey on your back. Hiding your secretive actions is hard work at times. It's better to just not do it. I was unable to understand that at the time because I wasn't listening. All I could think about was my problems and how she didn't seem to understand them.
Ladies, not everything your man says is an excuse. We may already know we messed up or that something must be done about whatever is pressing at the moment. It may be that we need a sounding board, a listening ear, someone to whom we can vent. We, like you, just want to be heard and validated sometimes. Men are always expected to be strong and in control but even the greatest of warriors need rest. No one can fight 24/7. There will come a time when we need to recharge and if the woman in our life is doing more to drain than recharge we withdraw from you emotionally and even physically. It is during that time when we tend to lose sight of that for which we are fighting. Kiss us, love on us, sex us up, and most importantly give us rest! Let us vent to you without you taking it personal so much. Remind us why we fight the world and why we fight for the relationship. Listen to what we are saying. Hear our stress and don't use it against us later as ammo for why you think we're not being enough of a man.
The bottom line is that we need to take a step back sometimes and not only learn to communicate clearly but listen intently. Communication is a two way street that requires mutual respect and understanding without which all you will have is misunderstanding and conflict which is a quick road to the end of your relationship.
In the next blog I will be covering body language and tone of voice. Please feel free to make your comments regarding my blogs. You can either comment here or on twitter. I am truly interested in what you have to say whether its for or against what I have posted. I am not perfect. I'm just a man with an opinion.
Until next blog...