I can’t think of a better example of what I will call sabotage than an example in Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. In it she talked about a caller to her radio show whose husband refused to eat chicken. One night the caller made her husband a chicken noodle casserole, and lied to her husband about what was in it. Once he ate it, she then revealed her lie to “prove” to her husband that he liked chicken just fine. Dr.Laura’s response was a wise one: she asked the caller if she wanted to stay married.
This sort of nasty tactic takes forethought and deception. Whether it is feeding the husband something he asked her not to on purpose, meddling with his job, or messing with the TV on the night of the big game, it is all pure selfishness and disrespect. It usually appears when a wife doesn’t feel like her husband is a good leader, and doesn’t deserve to be at the head of the marriage. She undermines him then reveals it to see if he will take command and stand up to her in a meaningful way, or sulk.
What a woman needs when she plays this sort of game is a massive show of manliness. She needs to be told that she crossed the line, that he is angry, and that he won’t put up with it. Generally, this behavior demands consequences to the relationship. In this case, I recommend demanding a full and formal apology, and demanding that she apologize to everyone else involved as well. That apology must include a set of actions for making amends, and a withdrawal of some of the positive things that happen in the marriage like dates until it happens.
Snooping and Prying
Privacy has a limited place in any marriage or good boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Too many secrets will spoil the relationship. That said we all need some sort of private space and an opportunity to talk to friends in order to process feelings. Men also need to be entitled to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, and not be harrowed and nagged into revealing our every thought.
For the former, if the wife is intruding into your “guy time” or poking around the man cave needlessly, you need to address it directly.
“I don’t appreciate you invading my space like this. I trust and love you, and hope you would do the same, but we need time to ourselves and with our own friends if we are going to be at our emotional best with each other. I would not dare poke around your craft supplies, or spy on you during a girl’s night out. I expect the same from you. I would like you to apologize, tell me what you were looking for so we can have a straight talk, and then promise me that it won;t happen again.
For your private thoughts, things can be a little more problematical. Women, in general, are more verbal than men. They like to voice thoughts and feelings. Sharing secrets is a tool for bonding for women. Men, on the other hand, through a fusion of culture and biological imperatives, keep our cards close to the vest. While it can often pay to be a little more open with our wives, it is unreasonable to expect us to become another one of our wives’ best girlfriends. In fact to be open with our women more than we are inclined might make them feel close in the moment, but would, in many cases, erode their respect for us in the long run.
Men are not defective women. We have reasons for processing things differently and different needs. Drawing a firm line when it comes to emotional prying is important. Usually it is enough to say “I don’t feel like talking,” but sometimes a woman feels a need to push, to which the natural response of most men is to become defensive and angry.
It helps to remember that she is doing this because she feels emotionally disconnected and needs to know you are available to her, and that she does not understand why you need to retreat into your emotional cave from time to time. But it is also still disrepsectful of your boundaries. The way to handle it in this case is to shut down the prying assertively, then offer closeness.
- “Listen, I really don’t want to talk about my feelings right now. I am still processing them. It’s not that I don’t love you or trust you, it’s just how I work. I am happy to spend some us time, though, if you want to go for a walk.”
- “I am putting up a black card on this discussion. My thoughts are my business. I’m not saying I don’t want to spend time with you; I just don’t want to talk about me.”
- “I am finding this very disrespectful. I would not dream of pushing like this to force someone to tell me their thoughts. I want it to stop. We can talk about anything else you like, but not this.”
- “If you really want to know what I am feeling so badly, you need to try a different approach. If you want to play truth or dare, I’m game, but you’d better be ready for some pretty dirty dares.”