In our early years of marriage, Gary was working hard to establish his career. He worked for a boss who was eccentric and wanted Gary to discuss business with him late into the evenings. With two young children and a wife at home, Gary hated these meetings but felt obligated to accommodate. Needless to say, over time, I felt resentful and disappointed. I decided to rebel one night and pack the kids up and take them to a hotel for the night so Gary would come home to an empty house and feel our pain. When I went in to my daughter’s bedroom to get her ready, she was sound asleep and looking very peaceful. I didn’t have the heart to wake her or haul them both off to a hotel just to protest my point. I slept on her bedroom floor that night. Gary and I had a much needed talk the next day.
This was one of the earliest disappointments of my marriage. You have yours. As women, we long for our husbands to meet our deepest longings- to be pursued, to be loved above all else, to be protected, validated, treasured. When we don’t feel our husband is satisfying our longings, we experience disappointment. What we do with our disappointment is critically important.
While a wife’s deepest need is to feel loved, a man’s deepest need is to feel respected. Most of the ways women express their disappointment actually undermine the very thing they long for—a more caring, attentive, loving husband. What do we typically do?
- We get angry—an effort to get him to see our need and change his behavior.
- We criticize—an effort to get him to see our way is best and change his behavior.
- We withdraw sex—an effort to motivate him to change his behavior.
- We withdraw emotionally—an effort to punish our husband so he changes his behavior.
- We escape—we give up on our husband and attempt to get our own needs met.
When men sense our disappointment or disapproval it goes straight to the core of their being. They deeply long to be enough for us, to be adequate for our needs. They feel respected when they feel they’ve done a good job. Our anger, criticism or withdrawal, cause them to feel they have failed. When they feel they’ve failed, what do they do? They typically get angry or withdraw. Our longing to feel loved is not satisfied.
So what do we do with our disappointment?
With major disappointments, wives can choose to communicate these in a way that is respectful and increases the chances will be heard and received with an open heart. Here’s a recipe for sharing with your husband that will do just that:
- Express appreciation for his efforts and affirm his positive intentions (helps him feel respected)
- Let him know a specific feeling that you experience when the situation happens. For example, “When you forgot our date night, I felt unimportant and sad.” (helps him be less defensive than focusing on him)
- Assure him that your intention in bringing it up is to have a closer relationship (helps him stay open)
When used consistently over time, women have experienced noticeable changes in their husband’s desire to stay engaged and to respond positively. Try it out and let us know how it goes!