Not sure if you’re aware or not, but you guys are known for the “fixing.” This is one of the inherent differences between men and women and it tends to cause a lot of issues in relationships. Women talk and deliberate, and men fix.
Let me give you an example. Your partner is complaining about gaining some weight. Maybe she just hasn’t been able to take off the baby weight, or maybe she’s put on a few pounds because she’s not putting her fork down when she should. Regardless, she complains about it to you. You then offer “helpful” suggestions about all the ways she could lose weight:
- “You could come with me to the gym,”
- “You just need to eat a little less at each meal,” or
- “It would help if you stopped eating after 8:00pm,”
These are all excellent ideas, but you need to stop. Yes, I said it, you need to put a cork in it and stop offering suggestions.
Here’s the deal: women like to process and discuss and it does not mean that we want you to come up with an answer to our problem. We just want you to listen and be sympathetic. The issue is that you guys don’t “share” like this unless you want some solutions to fix the problem, so you assume that your woman is sharing because she wants your help fixing it. That’s a faulty assumption.
First of all, if you’re with a woman who can’t figure out how to lose weight on her own, then you have bigger problems than this little article can handle. I mean, really, you think she doesn’t know to eat less and exercise more? You think she’s not beating herself up ALL DAY LONG about that cookie she ate or that she had four tablespoons of salad dressing, instead of two, at lunch? Yes, this is how women think and, trust me, she’s been obsessed about her food and body all day. She’s stared at her butt in your full-length mirror for way too long this morning and is plenty critical of herself with no help from you.
You offering suggestions does three things, and three things only:
- It makes her resentful and angry that you’re not listening and now you’re “nagging” her.
- She’s now obsessing about how you think she’s fat too…
- It makes you frustrated and angry that she’s complaining (again) about her weight and not consistently doing anything about it (despite your awesome recommendations).
Now, maybe your partner isn’t complaining about her weight. Maybe it’s about her mean boss, Barbara, or how long she had to wait in line when she was grocery shopping (yes, your suggestion that she go at a different time was ignored – see what I mean?). It doesn’t matter the complaint; it only matters about your response.
Your response needs to be sympathetic without being condescending. Here are the two things you need to do to get your woman to listen to you:
- Speak to the feeling. So, you might say, “I’m sorry you’re not feeling good about your weight.” If you want to have sex sometime before she loses that 20 pounds, you’ll need to throw in, “I’m turned on by you all the time, so it doesn’t matter to me – but I’m here if you want me to help you in any way.”
If it’s about Barbara at work you might say, “This sucks that she’s still doing X. I hate to see you upset about her.”
- Next, ask a collaborative question. A collaborative question is one that will start a dialogue. I say not to SAC your relationship, so don’t offer Suggestions, give Advice, or C Instead you could ask any of the following:
- “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
- “What could I say/do right now that would make you feel better about X?”
- “Can you tell me more about X?”
- “Can you name one thing that would be the most helpful to you right now?”
Two caveats: First, you need to do these two things in order: feelings first, questions second. Next, don’t ask a question that’s really making a suggestion. This would be anything like: “Have you tried setting your alarm earlier so you can get up and work out first thing?”
These are your only responses, gentlemen! Speak to the feeling and then ask a question. No recommendations, suggestions, offerings, great ideas, tips or proposals.
Now, let’s say you have noticed that your partner is getting chubbier and it is becoming an issue with you feeling attracted. For something like this, I say don’t name the feeling or ask questions as a first effort. There will be time for this later. Instead, lead with how you’d like things to be.
Some examples of how to do this would be:
- Offer to grocery shop with her and pick out healthy foods together
- Cook some healthy meals for the two of you (or the whole family)
- Tell her you want to lose weight or get in better shape and ask if she’ll help you.
- Invite her for a romantic bike ride and picnic where you pack the basket with healthy snacks.
There are ways to truly support her and steer your relationship in a healthy direction, without telling her she’s fat and you’re turned off. For those of you thinking this is manipulative and relationships should be based on honesty and directness, I would argue that this supportive route is honest and it’s also kind. It puts you together as partners in your relationship. Instead of it being her problem that she needs to fix it becomes a “we” problem that you’re in together. This is the true meaning of partnership and this is how you build trust and closeness.
By speaking to the feeling and then asking collaborative questions, you’re showing your partner that you’re listening to her. When your partner feels heard, she’s going to feel more connected to you, so she’ll be more open to your ideas and thoughts. Before you know it, she’ll be listening to you too.
Michael Schaffter says
Gee I never thought of this in that way. I was always the fixit guy. Always thinking too technical, I would probably sound like I was on the big bang theory, lol. Yes, its an “our” problem. Its good to always ask how she would like things to be or ideal situations.
Finally, an article worth reading about relationships between men and women.
Im a women and I LIKE when my man goes into fix it mode. Even if I bring him a feeling.
Like, if I say, I feel so overwhelmed and tired by work, I dont want him to say “I hear you. It must feel like alot”…..i mean, how does that help me?? I want solutions.
And if he would say “How can I support you so you don’t feel overwhelmed?”, Id be repulsed! So he is asking ME how to direct the situation? If I knew how to do that I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. duh
Ive heard the whole “women speak “feel” and “men speak “do” for decades. Its not a new concept.
However, I think making a man respond in a way thats not “like a man” isnt allowing him to give the woman his masculine gift of action. If you force a man into the feminine role, it will depolarize the relationship over time and destroy the sexuality.
Better, I think, to have some strained communication from time to time than physical flatness and neutrality.
Let the dynamic be messy. Life is messy sometimes.
And ladies, be more vulnerable as women.
If, as in the example, a woman is complaining about not be able to loose weight, then she is actually NOT being vulnerable to her primary emotion. She IS speaking “DO” as well. She is telling what she cant “DO”. Why wouldnt her man suggest ways to help her do it? Why is he burdened with reading her mind and feelings if she cant be vulnerable to them and express them?
If the real feeling is, which it likely is, that she feels unattractive because she feels fat, then she needs to express THAT.
“Husband, I feel fat and I feeling ugly and Im afraid you do not find me desirable anymore.”
If she says THAT, he will respond to her feeling. There is no action asked for in that statement. Only a vulnerable heart seeking love.
I think to express what you (the woman) cant achieve and then get upset at your man because he ways to achieve it, is silly.. oh I know its because when he responds like this you take it as a confirmation that he does, in fact, want you to loose weight….and oh it know you also take it as confirmation he doesn’t desire you anymore. This is often what women will feel in this situation, even though the man never said anything of the sort!
So for 2021, Im actually going to put more ownership back on the ladies. Ask yourself women, are you really speaking “feel”, OR, “are you feeling but actually speaking DO?
If I say to my boyfriend, “Im not sure if I can do this”, he will give me ways to do it.
If Im feeling fearful about it, he wont hear that part. I need say it, So instead, I lead with it..
Below is an actual conversation we had. It was beautiful 🙂 I felt so held and supported by him.
I say, “Im afraid.”
He says, “I know.”
I say, “I dont want to feel afraid about this.”
He says, “There is no reason to be. You did this before.”
I say, “But last time this happened. Remember?”
He says, ” I do. But we corrected it by doing XYZ.”
I say, “True. So I need to do XYZ?”
He says, “Yes. Like last time. Follow XYZ.
I say, “You will watch me while I try again?”
He says, “Im right here.”
Can you FEEL the clear communication and constant connection? The authenticity?
I didnt lead with “I cant do this. ” (To which he would have responded, “you can”), I lead with “Im afraid.” And he validated me “I know.”
Why make the man have to say, “I know you might feel hesitant and afraid, but you can do this”. Thats ALOT to put on another person.
Never make another responsible for your experience. Express your truth and let them offer you their natural gift. Needs are acceptable. Neediness is not.