Romance for the Clueless Husband Part II - Tilling the Soil

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Introduction

Have you ever come home with flowers to your wife only to hear "Hmmm... Ok." as she moves on down the hall? Maybe your first thought was "Wow, that was insensitive..." Maybe you would love to say that out loud but you know that she has a collection of "insensitive" things of yours she would be happy to unload on you if given a reason (some of them recent). Maybe you would love to say anything at all at this point but you know deep down that it's very likely that somehow you have earned this response. If so, this is great news! For one thing it means you are likely the problem, which is great because you are something you can actually control. It also means that there is hope. If you can see the problem, you're one step closer to fixing it..

Over time, I have studied my own behavior and monitored the responses I get from that behavior. And, I've tried not to write off those responses as general female craziness like we men sometimes tend to do. Instead, I've tried to look for patterns that can be leveraged in an ongoing attempt to understand this complexity that I call my wife. On top of that, I have seen some great relational seminars, conferences, books, etc. And with all of that, I can honestly say that when it comes to romance I still sometimes feel like I have no clue. I definitely want to figure it out, and I am slowly working toward that goal.

I will say this: I don't think there is a man alive for whom this comes naturally. Most of us have what I would consider to be an innate, severe, romantic disability. We can certainly get better over time, but not without a lot of work (something similar to hardcore physical therapy). That certainly doesn't give us a pass on this. Our women need us to step up and learn how to make them feel loved, wanted, and respected. So let's start wading in! If you have ideas, please share. We can all learn from each other. Feedback from the ladies is certainly welcome and appreciated as well. Heck, maybe you can straighten us out a bit.

Preparing The Soil

I think for many guys, romance falls into three categories: flowers, candy, and physical touch. Others of us only have one category (I'm sure you can guess which one). There is so much more at our disposal than that, fellas. We desperately need to add tools to our toolbox. But first, we need to start thinking of romantic gestures as if they're seeds that you want to plant. Good luck getting anything to grow if the soil you're working with is bad. And yes, your wife is the soil (stay with me here). So how do you make good soil? I think there are three foundational keys to romance that, if you don't get these right, nothing romantic you try to do is going to make any difference.

1. She needs to feel understood.
2. She needs to feel supported.
3. She needs to feel respected.

Below are more detailed comments on each one. Let's start tilling some soil, gentlemen!

She Needs to Feel Understood

I have heard that women mentally are able to multitask much better than men (see the link at the bottom for more information). I totally believe it, for two reasons: 1. I've seen my wife do it. 2. I know I can't do it. I used to think I could multitask. I've since learned that it feels like I'm multitasking but what I'm actually doing is task switching. In other words, I have to temporarily suspend the current task so I can focus on the new task. If men are a single processor CPU, women are a quad-core.

For instance, I do not have the ability to navigate an area of town I've never seen before in my car and carry on an intelligent conversation at the same time. I can have a conversation, it's just not intelligent. While I'm trying to figure out what the heck to do at the red light, my brain has put the actual conversation on auto pilot. I wonder how many of you women have seen this phenomenon before. "Uh huh. Uh huh. Wow, really? No kidding." We think we're actually getting away with it, but women are generally much smarter than that. If you catch a guy doing this and you can tell that his brain is wrapped up in something else, ask him a complex question that cannot be answered by yes or no. It will completely screw him up and he will have no choice but to come back to reality.

Conversational auto-pilot seems like a wonderful thing to us because we really can't do two things at once effectively and we really want to finish what we've started. It's actually an ok strategy if all of the following are true:

  • What I am doing is more important than the feelings of the person I'm ignoring.
  • I care more about this particular task than I do about my relationship with the person I'm ignoring.
  • I'm actually talking to my dog, who will love me regardless of how much I disrespect him.

When talking to women, it's not so great. So how do we avoid this pitfall? One very simple answer is to actually look at our wives when talking to them while doing nothing else at the same time. Simple, and effective! Practically, this means:

  • pause the DVD player. You have the remote and you know how to use it.
  • pause the DVR or Tivo (don't worry, it's recording for you). If you can't do that, it really is better to just mute the TV (unless you can reach an agreement with your wife that all new conversations that don't constitute a crisis must start during a commercial). Your wife is worth it, isn't she?
  • close the lid on the laptop while she's talking to you. Don't try to type while one of you is talking. You can't pull it off and you will end up missing something important.

Speaking of which, has your wife ever jumped on you because she's sick of imforming you about the same life detail over and over? It drives my wife crazy. In my case, this happens primarily because of my occasional use of conversational auto-pilot. Women, don't talk to your man about something important unless he's actually looking at you. Seriously, this one is on you. If you're in a completely different room from him telling him something important, all bets are off. You're not doing yourself any favors at that point. If you want to tell him something and he's on the computer, ask him to face you so you can talk. Don't start until you have eye contact. Again, simple and effective!

And finally, when your wife comes to you about something she's upset or angry about (whether it's about you or not), don't try to fix it unless she asks you to problem solve it with her! This one is such a struggle for me because I am naturally a problem solver. If there's a problem, I instictively want to jump in, fix it, and move on to the next problem. Apparently that's just part of my God-given wiring. I get a little bit hammer-and-nail happy. But a woman's first priority is to be heard and understood. Ask your wife if this is true for her. I bet she'll say yes. My wife often says "I just want you to be in it with me." While there are multiple applications of this, a big one is for me to be in it with her emotionally and to make that a priority over whatever the solution might be. Not doing this right will make her not want to share things with me, because she isn't getting what she needs from the conversation.

She Needs to Feel Supported

Part of being "in it with her" is being on her team in the home. When my wife has a bad day, I should be there for her. I should be involved in the day to day parenting issues. She definitely shouldn't feel left to deal with all of that herself. If she makes a disciplinary decision when I'm not there, I need to uphold that! My wife tries to text me any major disciplinary events that occur during the day so I'm aware of them when I get home. The worst thing I can do is kick her legs out from under her when I walk in the door. The child needs to know that she and I are 100% united and on the same page. He should not be able to triangulate one of us against the other.

Guys, let's be reasonable. If your wife works outside of the home then how does it makes sense for you to not share the duties around the house? I think the same thing applies if your wife spends all day at home with the kids, especially if they aren't school age and she has to deal with them all day long. My wife gets to offload my 7 year old son to school for 7 hours every weekday, but when I get home I take over, including the shower and bedtime routines. I also try to deal with whatever child-related crisis is going on once I get home. By the time I get there, she has been managing him for 3 hours. Clearly it's my turn! I still help around the house as well (and not just yardwork). I have my list of chores, and once a week I cook dinner so she can have a night off (usually on Saturday). At the end of the day, our wives need to feel supported and that we are on their side. Ask her to tell you where she feels like she needs help.

She Needs to Feel Respected

If she doesn't feel understood or supported, she probably isn't feeling respected either. At the very least, she isn't feeling like she's very important to you. It is impossible for any person to feel loved when they don't feel respected or important. Don't fly by that too fast. Let it sink in. We all do things that affect that feeling either positively or negatively in our spouses. It could be tone, or harsh words, or just generally being inconsiderate (ex. going out with friends without discussing first to make sure you're on the same page). These things will derail your attempts to romance your wife. First make sure she feels loved in your day to day routine. Once you have that down, then it's time to step out of your routine and start doing the special stuff.

To Be Continued

So now hopefully we're working with good soil. What's next? Here's where the rubber meets the road, as they say. In the third installment, we'll start actually planting seeds.

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Comments 12 comments

lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Great stuff. I am not finished reading yet as i am heading out the door. Under you category Preparing the soil I would also add to the list "She needs to feel cherished." However, if you do the other things on your list, you will be making great ground to do just that. Look forward to reading the rest. Blessings as you seek to be the husband God has called you to be.


no body profile image

no body 4 years ago from Rochester, New York

I am a simple man. I closely observe and have been observing for a long time. First there was Ralph Kramden, then Archie Bunker, then Homer Simpson and now there are hundreds of clueless men. I read in the ancient document called the Bible of how a man should treat his wife and it does not resemble anything that I see men doing today in popular culture. Really? A wife needs to get their husband to look at them? That sounds like what a mother has to do with a child, a teen. If this is the case and most men are that immature, no wonder women scream and give up. Men are cozy in their man cave and are served hand and foot. I read how to treat my wife. I am to love her as I love myself. I listen to myself all the time. I do not ignore myself as if it is the neighbor's dog barking. I love to be touched and I love attention. I love respect, admiration, encouragement. All of these things should be given to her and if they are not she should have the right to kick my butt for it. When I got married to my wife, I sat down and talked to her and told her that I was going to try to be the best husband I could be by being the best Christian I could be. I told her that she should let me know if I was not listening to her and I would tighten up on me. I am very easily distracted and I know it, so I turn the TV off if I sense something important is in the air. I am also slightly hard of hearing so I have to take extra pains to make sure every word is understood because one or two words can make a huge difference. I am quick with an appology but I also buy balloons and trinkets all the time (she doesn't like flowers). I do not want my "gifts" to speak for me. Here is my "flowers level" appology. One more slip up and I'll owe you dinner and maybe a night off. So superficial. I want her feeling secure in my behavior in our relationship because it is based on what God says to do. She knows that she has all of me and is therefore secure to give all of herself to me. I hate most television shows because men are so pathetic, lazy, stupid, non-responsive or they are so feminine you wonder if they are a man at all. Those drive me nuts too with all the political correctness and feminist men out there. If men live by the Book, they will be men and will not lord it over their wives. Their wives will be the "despot" of the home as God intended. (The book says nothing about me being king of the castle, but it does call her the queen!) The men will not be lazy but an active participant in all her live and concerns. I know as much about her body and all things woman as she does because I read up and study about it. If she has to live it I have to live it. Same way with me and the man problems I will face as I get older. Neither one of us is a world unto ourselves. I guess this article got me fired up. I see men all around me that love being clueless and their wives having given up on them. I want to knock them on the side of their head and say wake up. Instead, I just pray for them and let them be an example to me of the life I will not lead. Great article. Bob.


sonfollowers profile image

sonfollowers 4 years ago from Alpharetta, GA Author

lambservant,

Thanks! I always enjoy reading your responses. About "cherished", would you say that feeling cherished is a prerequisite to you being able to properly receive romantic gestures that come your way? Or would "cherished" be the result of a man fully implementing the entire picture (understood, respected, supported, and romanced)? I know it's fuzzy and not something to which you can just attach a magic formula. The main idea I was working from with this hub was that I've seen foundational relational issues derail attempts at romance (ie. preventing the romantic gestures from being received well) and these are the three I came up with. I'm definitely interested in how "cherished" fits into that for you.

I look forward to your comments on the rest of it as well, once you've had a chance read the whole thing.

Thanks!

Mike


sonfollowers profile image

sonfollowers 4 years ago from Alpharetta, GA Author

Greetings, no body.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Get fired up all you want. I think it's great. :)

I do think probably male cluelessness was around well before Ralph Kramden. :) To me, it's similar to finances. Many of us leave the nest without the financial skills to stay out of trouble. We weren't taught to avoid debt (especially credit cards), we weren't taught not to use a house loan for debt consolidation, etc. We had to learn the hard way. We don't all walk away with the relational skills necessary to navigate marriage effectively. It is what it is. My goal with this series of hubs is to throw out a bunch of tools that men can pick up and use if they find them helpful. Each person has to decide what makes sense to them.

I also think that there isn't a one size fits all implementation of romance, and that which implementation is best has nothing to do with the man but rather everything to do with the woman. It's all about her needs and desires. I think the smartest thing we can do is cater to that, which means we need to ask her what she wants instead of telling her what we're going to do for her. Sometimes we try to give to our wives based on what we would want ourselves (thinking that will make them happy), when really they don't want what we think they want at all.

I think my favorite thing you said in your comments was that she needs to feel secure in the relationship. I think that is definitely one that could be added to my list. If they don't feel secure (ie. "I want you and only you, I'm not going to leave you", etc.), then I think that will definitely impact our ability to be romantic. If they're constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop or wondering who we're out with, they won't be in it with both feet and romance simply won't have the emotional impact for them that we want.

Good stuff.

Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to hearing from you in the future.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Hey SF, I'm back. This was good stuff. As to your question, if you do all of the above, your wife will feel cherished. Now I have a question for you? Does your wife know about your efforts to be a better husband? Has she seen what you've written? No right or wrong answer, just being nosey. I commend you for your insights and transparency. Eagerly awaiting installment 3. Blessings.


sonfollowers profile image

sonfollowers 4 years ago from Alpharetta, GA Author

lambservant,

That's a pretty funny story, actually. I wasn't really discussing the writing with her, even though I had had lots of conversations about the topic with her in the past. She sat next to me one night while I was writing and saw what the title was. She told me later that it actually irked her. :) What was going through her head sounded something like "I can't believe he's getting up on his high horse acting like he's got romance all figured out..." She read it later and told me it was much better than she thought it would be. :) She was glad that I was actually being transparent about it rather than coming off like I was some kind of relational psychologist (which obviously I'm not). Honestly, some of this stuff comes from the variety of seminars I've been to and books I've read. Some of it is actually things I learned from her. The rest is just stuff I learned over time (past mistakes, etc.). I actually had a lot more I wanted to cover in this one but it was getting too long... :) I'll try to throw that stuff in later on. #3 coming up!!

Thanks! See you around!


lambservant profile image

lambservant 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

That's funny SF. Keep working at it. The most important thing is to seek God and listen to your wife, spoken and unspoken. You are both in my prayers.


sonfollowers profile image

sonfollowers 4 years ago from Alpharetta, GA Author

Lambservant,

Yup. We just do our best to learn and grow. I of course mess things up sometimes. We all do. I think the important thing is to keep striving to be who God made you to be. Don't let yourself be stuck where you are. That's what I work towards. She's a really good sport about it really. She sees where my heart is, which I appreciate.

See you around!


shofarcall profile image

shofarcall 3 years ago

Hi Sonfollower,

This hub is to be commended and made statuatory to be hung up in every married couples home and be read regularly!!!

I am one of those women who has been married once, (for 18 years) tried out in relationship a few times after that over the next 18 years and discovered that all those essential things you mention in this hub were missing, so decided I would give it all a miss. They have been good years since, as my focus has been able to rest fully on the Lord. And how rewarding that has been!!

I really do commend you, as do all the other women commentators, for wanting to know how to romance, please, respect, support and love your wife. She is one blessed gal!

Somewhere in this hub, you commented that "I don't think there is a man alive for whom this comes naturally." (even though it DID come naturally during the courting (whoops! old fashioned expression!) stage!

And there is the rub......I don't think there is a woman alive who would be able to fully grasp/understand the above statement !

Why? - Because every woman knows that when you love someone, truly love someone, it does come naturally. (this is our understanding of love) Love does not die, (in fact you would die for that person) so all those things that you felt before marriage grow, rather than die (with time her love dies too because it is not reciprocated) The joy of having even more time together, WANTING to please your partner, (not having to make a conscious effort to) knowing that you now are one rather than two, wanting what is best for them, rather than what is best for yourself. Love feeds off love. Unrealistic?

No, but rare. I have seen this in marriages where Christ is central and where both partners are equally engaged in the relationship, naturally!

As I said, rare but not unrealistic. You were right when you said, somewhere, that it is the world, things that are more 'important' that get in the way, take priority over one's life partner and Christ.

I am going over to part 3 now. God Bless and I am awed at you tackling this very complex subject. God Bless.


shofarcall profile image

shofarcall 3 years ago

I am back again. I have just read no body's comment - I never read other comments before writing my own, as I want to be sure not to be influenced in my own response - My heart sang as I read no body's reply as I felt the truth of what he was saying and describing. A total committment to one another in all respects.

You are a Godly man no body, and for the most part, that is why there are so many clueless men out there today - because they do not know God nor the scriptures that make it clear how a marriage is to be. God Bless you and your wife.


Dawns0705 3 years ago

Great stuff. Is there a book? Recently married my long time bachelor husband and he thinks its totally unnecessary.


sonfollowers profile image

sonfollowers 3 years ago from Alpharetta, GA Author

Not from me. :) But I do have some great recommendations. On the third installment of this series, I presented some resources that I found to be very helpful. In addition, I highly recommend two other books (one for you and one for him). "For Men Only" and "For Women Only". These are great reads for a kickstart into understanding each other. My wife and I each read both books, and it was amazing how much we both agreed with the content of the books written for our partners to read. It ended up being very eye opening for both of us. I even learned things about myself in the process that were true of me but I had never before connected the dots or thought of it quite like that.

I hope those recommendations help you. I married my wife 3 years ago and we're both 40 now. This is her first marriage, so she spent a long time being single. It's been quite an adjustment. :) In the end, both sides need to put in the effort to figure each other out. There's work involved with making any relationship (old or new) fire on all cylinders. I think that, if we let it run on autopilot, we'll eventually wake up surprised and frustrated with where we ended up. That was my experience with my first marriage, and I definitely want to avoid the trap of becoming complacent this time around.

Thanks for visiting, and nice to meet you!

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