Ending Conflict & Building a Better Relationship with Your Wife (pt. 9)

Angry Mask
Angry Mask, by PDPics

Often, the biggest obstacle between having a good and positive relationship with out wives is not our wives – it is ourselves.

When we take other people’s behavior personally, we become defensive.  We see a call for help as an attack.

When we feel vulnerable or defensive, we tend to shift he blame for the situation on to others.  Or we lash out to try to scare people off.

When we are tired, we don’t want to make the effort to understand others’ needs

When we are feeling lonely and neglected we can expect our family to understand and take care of us – and feel hurt when they don’t – rather than reaching out and making a connection.

I have three men ask me a variation on this question:

Brian, what if I am just too angry to want to pass a fitness test?  What if I want her to feel unsafe.

My answer is this.

You’re better than that.

You might be hurt, upset, feeling lonely, angry, and defensive, but if you are still with her after this sort of behavior, it is because you love her.  And it is because you have made a vow to protect her and cherish her, which means something to you. Today men have no need to commit, if you chose to be married or are committed enough to read something like this, it is a reflection of the fact that you believe that vows, duty, and matrimony mean something.

That may not be much of a comfort in the moment, though.

The feelings we have for the women we love are intense.  All of them.  Romantic relationship are charged with primal energy and need you will never feel for a friend or your family.  The love is more intense, the desire hungrier, and the happiness more complete.  The anger is also fierier, the disappointment crushing, and the frustration more intense.  But it doesn’t matter how intense your feelings are, because you are a Man, and you have the power to command them.

There are four things that any married man needs to learn in order to have a good relationship:

  • Forgiveness
  • Detachment
  • Self-Relfection
  • Decompression

Forgiveness

chinese character for forgiveness
Chinese character for forgiveness

Learning to forgive is critical for a marriage.  You may be hurt, angry, or frustrated in the moment, but that feeling only has one purpose: to let you know that something has to be done.  To hold on to it any further than that is to poison yourself and your relationship.

Forgiveness is a decision and it is an action.  It doesn’t mean forgetting your wife’s behaviour, or acting as if she had no choice.  Instead it means deciding that the feelings you are struggling with right now have no place in your relationship in the future.

Once you have made that choice, the next one is to choose not to let this moment and these actions dictate how you behave towards her in the future. The doesn’t mean pretending that they didn’t happen. Only that you choose actions that say “This is not the moment that defines our relationship.”

You’d be a fool to forget your wife throwing a shoe at you, and if she’s acting with the same anger again, you’d be wise to be ready to duck, but the actions you chose should be actions based on the wife you shared a good relationship with in the past.  Not the “crazy show throwing bitch” you are looking at right now.

Statue of Sidhartta Buddha obscured by leaves
Statue of Sidhartta Buddha obscured by leaves, by Cbill

Detachment

Remember as well that the behavior you are seeing is not about you.  It is about your wife’s pain, fear, and insecurities.  Feelings are an internal way we process the external world.  They are rarely a good reflection of it.  How she is acting doesn’t dictate who you are.

Likewise, your feelings about her actions aren’t a true picture of who she is.  Being angry at her doesn’t make her a bad person, any more than her being angry at you makes you a bad person.  Your feelings can’t affect her, and hers can’t hurt you.  Only action and behavior can do that.

Once you learn to stop taking her feelings and actions personally, then they become a sign:  if she is behaving in this way, then there is something she needs from you.  Your job is to figure out what it is, see if you can give it to her, and along the way, coach her to communicate with you in a more constructive way.  Consider reading Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabatt Zinn (link), or The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz (link) for more on how to see your feelings objectively.

Self-Reflection

The more you understand yourself and your feelings, the better you are at managing them.  One of the most powerful things you can learn to do is stop and take inventory.  When you feel that storm of emotions coming on, learn to pause and ask yourself some questions before acting:

  • What am I really feeling right now?
  • What memories and past hurts am I drawing on to today’s problem?
  • How much are these feelings about me and my guilt, shame, or fear, rather than the other person?
  • What problem are these feelings pointing to that I can solve?
  • How much am I projecting bad intentions or ill will onto the other person?
  • What can I constructively do to blow off this steam?

Get in the habit of taking a walk away from a situation when feelings become overwhelming. Most of the time, the problem will still be waiting for you when you get back, so why not take your time, clear your head, and be in your best discipline for dealing with it?

I also highly recommend writing in a journal to help you develop better skills when it comes to working out what is going on in your head.  I have an easy guideline, here.  I also found Journaling: How to Write a Journal in a Way that Improves Every Aspect of Your Life by Kyial Robinson an good read on journals (link).

Unhappy Mask
Unhappy Mask, by PDPics

Decompression

Men need time for themselves to process their feelings.  Intense emotions like anger and despair require us to take some quiet time in an inner space that the Thai people refer to as “The Cave”.  Many men have learned that if they retreat into their inner space, that other people will pry and pester them.  Or they were taught that they have to express every feeling.  Trust me, you don’t. But you do need to confront and process them.   And that means taking time out every day to yourself for reflection.

I recommend taking 20 minutes a day to walk, work out, tinker in the garage, read, or write in your journal between the time you end your day’s work and the time you return to your family.  Give yourself time to release the bad feelings of the day so that you can be with your family in good spirits and give them th love and attention that they deserve.

When it comes to big feelings, you may need to channel your emotional energy into a long-term project.  Men dealing with intense grief or stress often recover best not by talking, but by thinking and doing.  Writing letters, creating a monument, dedicating his work, or expressing himself in art are often the best means of decompressing from pain a man has.  Dr. Tom Golden’s book The Way Men Heal is an excellent guide to how men most effectively process painful emotions (link).

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Ultimately, in order to have a good relationship with your wife, you mus have a good relationship with yourself and with your emotions.  The best way to tame your wife’s behavior is to become master of your own, and the best way to develop character is to know who you are.

Being a husband means becoming a better man.