Husband, your wife will test you. She may try anything and everything to see if, no matter what, you will be there for her. All of sudden, for reasons that you cannot identify, your wife may get angry, sad, mean or nasty. Remember what we wrote before. Women see themselves as vulnerable. They need to test you to make sure you are the rock they need.
As Dr. John Gottman found in his research: “the less you take her moods personally, the better off you will be. Believe it or not, her moods generally have nothing to do with you.” We have found that this is understandably very difficult for husbands. Here, the woman you love is angry or sad. And she can be releasing anger or sadness in your direction. You are a man. You think this is your fault. But you did nothing wrong. You think you have to fix this but you can’t figure out what is broken. Relax, odds are, it’s a test, one your wife herself may not even be conscious she is giving you.
When a woman tests a man, he has four choices. He can run away and hide by withdrawing, by trying to avoid his wife or leaving the room or not spending time with his wife. He can try to fix things by offering solutions. He can yell or be abusive right back (“stick up for his rights”, in man parlance). Alternatively, he can love her harder. Which do you think is going to give comfort to your wife?
Recall what Gottman wrote that we just quoted. Don’t take it personally. Don’t forget that your wife is not deliberately pushing you away. You will just feel like that. Remember, it won’t necessarily even be your fault (unless you really did make a mistake). Unconsciously, she needs to be sure you are there for her, even if she is not as pretty, as charming, as witty or as young as she once was. So force yourself to think she is pushing at you to see if you will explode or run. Want to prove you are strong and masculine? Keep showing her you love her even if things are tough and eventually (in what seems like an eternity but is actually just minutes or hours) she will love you back.
Tony Robbins suggests that women can be like tropical storms. They blow through, wreaking havoc. The classic male response is to withdraw. Males pull back. Who wants to suffer through the storm? Get out of there, say our natural impulses, get shelter! But, if you want a great (or even good) marriage, don’t run. Stay present. Keep paying attention. Keeping saying and showing that you love her. As Robbins completes his metaphor, after the storm passes, the sun comes out and all is tranquil.
In addition, sometimes, objectively, there will be hard times. Sometimes, life throws us curves (or life tests, as we prefer to think of them). Sometimes, husbands mess up and have to take some heat. How can you do it?
There is a film by Cloe Madanes and Tony Robbins, Man Enough to Stay the Course where Robbins shows a husband how to deal with an abusive, storming wife. Among other things, Robbins teaches the husband how to stay present, to stay focused on his wife and to continue to project love despite her abuse. As the wife sees the husband doesn’t run, doesn’t fight back and continues to love her and actually even loves her harder, she melts. Even some time later, it is clear the rift between the couple has been healed.
You, too, are man enough to stay the course. You love her and she loves you. Usually, we suggest that if you are doing something and it is not working, you find another technique. Here though, the solution is not to love less but to love much more. Give her your undivided attention. Show her your love. Eventually, she will return it. And the best news is that, as the marriage gets better, the storms are less frequent and are milder. That is your reward for getting it right.
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