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Why Men Need to Speak Up in Relationships
Honey, You Run the Show
In my years as a marriage and family therapist, I have come across many different types of couples and relationship dynamics.
I have found that narcissistic and controlling men tend to be overwhelming in relationships. They want things their own way and when they talk to their spouse it is not about the relationship, but about themselves.
It's all about him. She is there to meet his needs. The spouse in this relationship has no say and has no voice. According to the narcissistic male, the woman is to be seen but not heard.
Obviously, the controlling and narcissistic male should speak less and listen more. This kind of relationship is clearly out of balance.
In many relationships, however, it is more common for the man not to have a strong voice in the relationship. He lets his wife run the show. She takes care of the home and makes important decisions, sometimes without him. He might even let her speak for him. He feels that this is how relationships are supposed to work. Boy, is he wrong.
All I Want to Do is Please My Wife
When I practiced marital therapy, I heard the phrase frequently spoken by men, "All I want to do is to make my wife happy."
On one level, making a wife happy is not such a bad idea. But it can be detrimental if the the focal point in the marriage is to make the wife happy. These men tend to miss one very important thing--making themselves happy. If the man is so focussed on pleasing the woman, how much time and effort does he spend in getting his needs met?
My guess is none.
It's sad in the way, the man has good intentions and he loves his wife very much, but he forgets about himself. He doesn't figure himself into the marriage equation. It is about making his Princess happy. His Queen of Sheba warm and cozy. His Duchess of Wellington laughing and well-attired.
Unfortunately, he can become just a loyal servant. The marriage becomes a monarchy with the queen ruling the country. The man becomes secondary to the needs of his queen. And the man enables this.
Women Might Like it Better if You Spoke Up More
All is Not Okay
It is my experience as a therapist that an overly placating male does not make a very good husband. This relationship has a lot of flaws because the man does have a voice, an equal say in things. The imbalanced dynamic of this type of relationship is sure to crack one day.
All might seem okay for awhile. His woman seems happy and therefore so is he. He, in a sense, becomes co-dependent. All is right in the world if his wife is feeling well, happy and satisfied. So he runs around like a headless chicken putting out fires and being overly responsible for his wife's happiness.
He thus simplifies his life and his marriage. In his mind, all he needs to do to be successful in a relationship is to just please his wife.
In some cases, the man learns that the more he tries to satisfy his wife's needs, the more she wants--and the more she expects from him. She becomes accustomed to this dynamic where he is the pleaser and she is the pleased.
So he has to work harder to make her happy. It's an uphill ride sometimes on a sheet of ice. He never quite gets to the top of marriage nirvana; he keeps spinning his wheels, sliding backwards.
So eventually he gets frustrated at some point into the marriage.
He realizes that the marriage is all about her.
He realizes that he's not happy with the way things are in this marriage.
He realizes that he's unhappy and tired of doing all the work.
He wants a change but doesn't know how to change.
Guys, Be Proud of Your Voice
A Good Book for Both Spouses
My Needs are Important, too?
But he's so used to pleasing the woman that he doesn't know how to please himself. He, perhaps, was raised in a family where his father did the same thing. No one ever taught him any different. No one modelled for him how to get his needs met, let alone understanding what his needs are.
So when he discovers the marriage has been all about her, from the first time he set his eyes on her--from what kind of marriage ceremony and how many children will they have and where they will live--he realizes that he hasn't advocated for himself. He hasn't stood up for himself or expressed his needs at any point in his marriage.
He then asks several important questions to develop insight into what he wants or needs from the relationship.
What are my relationship needs?
Are my needs important?
If I express my needs will my wife stop loving me?
If I express my needs will my wife be responsive?
How do I put my needs into words in a way that my wife will respond in a positive way?
Too often men are afraid to ask what they want and they begin to act out and consequently create harm in the relationship. They may have an affair or they may spend more time at work or they may become angry--or worse yet, they may start using drugs or alcohol, thinking that getting high or drunk might help things in the short term.
But there's a better way for men to express their needs--to open up their mouth and become assertive. To express their needs in a way that is direct, but not aggressive. To express their needs to their wife with love and respect.
Repeat After Me
Now guys, clear your throats. Exercise your vocal chords a bit.
do ray me fa so la ti do...
Good. Now repeat after me:
I will not be afraid of my wife.
I will not be afraid to speak up and voice my needs.
I will voice my needs in a respectful and assertive way.
I will try to encourage equality in our marriage.
I will try to encourage love and respect.
Taking care of myself in this relationship is a good thing.
I will not feel guilty for asking for what I want.
More specifically, men. Do you need more hugging, touching and other signs of loving contact in the relationship? Do you need your spouse to be more positive about you, as well as encouraging and complementary? Do you need your wife to do more things for you to lighten your daily load like picking up your shirts from the cleaners or medication from the pharmacist? Do you need more alone time with your wife instead of always sharing her with the kids or with her family? And do you need a sweet loving gift every now and again like your favorite candy bar or a copy of your favorite baseball magazine?
If so, ask her. Speak up. Voice it loud and clear. Your marriage may depend on it.
Men, do you voice your needs in the marriage?
A good relationship is when both people speak up and when both people are able to get their needs met.