You say in your angry Amazon review of For Women Only and For Men Only, that a therapist recommended the books to help your failing marriage. Yet the For Women Only research has, in your view, made things worse by pointing out why your husband isn’t happy. (And presumably, why you aren’t, either.) You called me a “dumb broad” and threw the books in the trash.
Four things I want you to know:
1. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I am so sorry your marriage is struggling. It hurts my heart to see people hurting and lonely in what is supposed to be the most abundant of human relationships. The main thing that drives me in all this research is the desire for broken marriages to be healed and for all marriages to thrive. I’m sorry that isn’t where you are right now. I prayed for you and your husband this morning.
2. It sounds like your husband is hurting, too. If I’m understanding you correctly, your husband agrees with the three out of four men on my For Women Only survey who said that feeling inadequate and disrespected by their wife is so intensely painful, they would rather feel alone and unloved if they had to make a choice. But they would rather not have to make that choice! If your husband is like most men in this type of situation (more than 97%), he loves you. He cares for you. Even in struggling seasons, he cares. He wants to make you happy. But just like you have reached a point of feeling unhappy and unloved, he is feeling terribly disrespected by you. And that is such a terrible, painful feeling, he wants to get away from it. But if he’s like the vast majority of men on my surveys, being away is not his first, second or twentieth choice. What he probably most wants is to have you – and for you to show him that you respect him, believe him and appreciate him. (Just like you need him to show you what you most need.) That is why the therapists recommended the books to you: because they reveal the deep emotions behind your angry, upset faces, so that you know and can give what each other most needs.
3. Calling people names won’t ease your pain. Being kind might. You are feeling hopeless, angry and upset, and lashing out at others (your husband, me, the clerk at the grocery store…) may make you feel better for a moment – but far worse in the long run. Yet kindness has the power to heal. I’m in the middle of writing a book on this right now, but since it won’t be available for a year, let me ask you to please consider doing the 30-Day Kindness Challenge. The key is to say nothing negative to or about him for a month, to find and say one affirming item of praise each day, and every day to do one small act of kindness for him. I’m sure there are many underlying issues going on, and this won’t magically solve them. But it will make them a lot easier to solve, because they will help you see him differently – and, hopefully, soften his heart toward you as well.
4. Ask God for help for your own heart – not just his. In your post, you specifically share that you’re a Christian, so you are my sister in Christ. And since you’re my sister, I want to urge you to go to our heavenly Father for help. Not to change your husband first, but to change you. I hope you are willing to fish your book out of the trash, take a deep breath, and as you read sincerely ask God to open your eyes to those ways you have deeply hurt your husband without ever intending to. Yes, he has almost certainly hurt you deeply as well. I have no idea from your post whether he is willing to work on himself in any way. But as you have probably heard many times, you cannot change him – you can only change you. And the most powerful change for a marriage usually comes when we lay down our right to be understood and treated in the way we think we should be, and focus on relating to the other person in the way they most need. That is the reason for the “for better or for worse” vows of marriage; it is an unconditional promise, regardless of whether we get anything in return. Sadly, there are no guarantees in this imperfect world. But the beauty of how God made men, women and marriage is that in most cases, laying down our needs and focusing on the other person, often results in also receiving what we most needed all along.
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Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.