Sunday, January 07, 2007
Marriage and tuning in to her
'We think this part of the article is important......
Hart notes that in the average office environment, we have to keep our emotions in check, "otherwise we're seen as vulnerable. If we're seen as emotional, we're seen as out of control -- and of course that's the kiss of death." But unless we trade in our emotional distancing for emotional responsiveness when we get home, we will lose that home. The guys who have figured out the secret of modern masculinity will come home and "take off the emotional armor," as he puts it.
Or they won't -- and they'll get divorced. Roughly two out of every three divorces are initiated by women. Sanford Braver, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, surveyed hundreds of divorced men and women for his book Divorced Dads. The top reason women gave for a divorce was "losing a sense of closeness."
Marital researchers are saying lately that emotional closeness is the only thing the contemporary marriage has left. If she doesn't feel connected to you, is there any reason for her to stick around? Most women would say no. Not practically, not morally, not financially. She had better feel close to you. If not, there's the door, and a lawyer is propping it open for her. When she goes, the children will follow.
Ironically, women still start out their marriages thrilled to be Mrs. You. Then comes Junior in a baby carriage, which nobody's ready for. According to a University of Washington study of newlyweds, nearly two-thirds of wives suffer a big decline in marital satisfaction within about 2 years after a baby is born -- despite what you see in the Huggies commercials. After year 10, satisfaction rises again -- but only for men; it takes women 15 years to see a bump in satisfaction.
Men are rather famous for coming on strong before marriage and putting our feet up afterward. Marriage researcher Howard Markman, Ph.D., author of Fighting for Your Marriage, once told me that, after men get married, a sort of "benign neglect" sets in, as they turn their attention to other things. "It's the biggest error men make," he said. "The man just starts taking the relationship for granted. He's assuming it's going to take care of itself." But, clearly, it doesn't.
We've had a nice little chat, sitting out here in your driveway. Now, before you go into the house, tell me: What are you going to do differently?
First off, you're going to take charge of this transition. If you need 20 minutes to decompress, take it. If you need 20 minutes sitting quietly with your wife in the den with a glass of wine and absolutely no children, do that. (My friend Kathy made that a house rule. She's still on her first marriage.) Whatever you need, man, just make it happen. "Nobody has to be a victim," says Marianne Legato, M.D., author of Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget. "Eventually, people learn to wait a minute."
Okay, your 20 minutes are up. Let the games begin. Your wife wants a word with you. Sit down. Listen. Let her talk. You don't have to match her level of emotional intensity. "If other things start cropping up -- like all your offenses for the past 15 years -- just stop and say, 'This doesn't help. What is the issue today?' Stop a discussion that is counterproductive," Dr. Legato says. But do it respectfully. And be patient. "Gently guide her to the issues she really wants to talk about. Give her room to calm down."
In short, let her feel close to you.
A recent major study of 5,010 couples found that women are happiest in their marriages when they get their husbands' attention. The single most important factor in her happy marriage is her husband's emotional engagement. What does that mean, exactly? I put that question to Steven L. Nock, Ph.D., a University of Virginia sociologist and the study's coauthor. He says it simply means "men showing interest in the routines of their wives' lives -- the routine, mundane things that men normally don't talk about." Granted, it's not most men's style to do this, an acknowledgment Nock makes personally and professionally.'