Do you know who Dr. John Gottman is?
Long revered for his work on love, marriage, and divorce prediction, Gottman’s writings are considered the gold standard of the industry. He’s done extensive research with thousands of couples inside his Love Lab at the University of Washington.
Here’s something he said that got my attention:
“More than 80% of the time, it’s the wife who brings up sticky marital issues, while the husband tries to avoid discussing them.”
More than 80% of the time. That’s insane!
- When life says, “Time to step up. Time to bring your best. Time to run toward Goliath,” we shrink instead.
- When life screams, “Growth moment,” we ignore the invitation to grow and get better. We sidestep responsibility and run to the gym or go back to playing video games.
- When life asks, “Who wears the pants in this family?” we shake our heads from side to side and silently mouth, “Not me,” then point at our wives.
So yes, there’s a man in the house, but she’s not very well-suited for the job. Oh, she’ll do it, but she’ll resent you for it.
She’d much rather trade places.
She’d much rather soften and fill the home with her feminine energy.
She’d much rather follow your lead.
Again, more than 80% of the time it’s the wife who brings up sticky marital issues, while the husband tries to avoid discussing them.
In my home, it hovered near the 100% mark.
Here’s what avoiding important conversations — conversations that could have changed the course of my marriage and life!—said to the woman I shared a bed with:
- “Honesty …intimacy … connection? Nah, I’m good.”
- “I’d rather stay small than grow and build a better marriage. I’d rather pretend everything is OK than have to face my inadequacies as a husband.”
- “In the story I’m writing, you don’t matter. Get used to not being a priority around here.”
- “I’m careful about working out and eating right, but I’m willing to roll the dice in our marriage.”
- “What’s the problem? We’re having sex twice a week. I’m happy.”
It’s hard to believe, but I actually used to think, “Huh …I wonder why isn’t she attracted to me anymore?”
IDENTITY: AVOIDER INITIATOR
“Our biggest successes are born out of discomfort, uncertainty, and risk.” – Gary John Bishop
OK, let’s tap into your masculine energy stores. They might be buried beneath years of neglect, but like the ring of power in Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth, your masculinity wants to be found. It’s trying to get back to its master.
This week, use the element of surprise to your advantage. Bring up a sticky marital issue after you’ve put some thought into it and have a solution to present. Something like this:
“I’ve been about us this week. I’ve been thinking about how important you are to me. The last time you brought up [the issue], I fed you a bunch of one-word answers and tried to avoid the topic. I only made it worse, didn’t I?
“Yeah, I thought so. Here’s what I’m thinking: From now on when [the issue happens], I will [proposed solution that helps your wife feel loved and cherished].
“How does that sound to you?”
Or maybe it doesn’t call for an immediate solution. You can still strengthen your marriage simply by being the one who brings it up!
Yes, I said that. You can still strengthen your marriage simply by being the one who brings it up!
Remember, this is about leadership, not about having it all figured out. So instead of presenting a solution, ask your wife to help you understand how she feels about the issue at hand. That’s the all-important part most of us miss anyway.
Something like this:
“I’ve been thinking about us this week. I’ve been thinking about how important you are to me. The last time you brought up [the issue], I fed you a bunch of one-word answers and tried to avoid the topic. I only made it worse, didn’t I?
“Yeah, I thought so. I’m obviously missing something. Would you help me understand how [the issue] makes you feel?I’m sure you’ve told me before, but tell me again. I’m ready to listen this time. I want to know how you feel.”
Welcome to SEAL Team Six.
Imagine if you flipped Gottman’s 80/20 on its head!
Imagine if you were the one to bring up sticky marital issues 80% of the time compared to your wife’s 20%. Imagine the marriage you’d have. Imagine the man you’d become!
But Jeff, I suck at this stuff.
You used to suck at riding a bike, too. We all did! This isn’t something you’ll become proficient at overnight. It might be months before you remove the training wheels. Just get started!
Fear is OK.
Anxiety is OK.
Fumbling over your words is OK.
But standing still isn’t!
Handing the leadership baton to your wife isn’t!
Avoiding important discussions and leaving the health of your marriage to chance isn’t! Keep moving toward discomfort, uncertainty, and things you suck at. Revel in it! It’s what we’re made for. You’ll build credibility with yourself and with your wife.
PUT IT TO WORK
- Use my script as a guide.
- Fill in the blanks. Write out what you want to say.
- Say it.
Refer to your notes and read them if you have to. I’m serious! Your wife won’t care! On the contrary, she’ll be moved. She’ll be beaming. She’ll be drawn to you.
Her husband is putting his ego aside and caring for her heart.
Her husband is leading the charge toward a closer and more intimate marriage.
Her husband has his pants back on.
For now 🙂
Note: If you want to read more from Jeff and learn how to lead your marriage in the best direction rather than remaining passive, check out Better Man, Better Marriage on Amazon.