Guys, I know from the For Men Only research that you want to make your wife happy. And in many ways you already do! But if you want to hit the happiness jackpot, here are the four phrases that (in roughly 80% of cases) will put you into hero category:
1. “Here, let me do that…” Saying “What can I do to help?” is fantastic. Stepping in and taking something off her hands feels to her as if a couple of dozen roses were dropped in by parachute.
2. “You’re right, I didn’t do that quite right. Show me again.” Let me guess: when you stepped in to take something off her hands, she corrected you or showed you a “better” way to do it… right? So you thought Nothing I do is good enough for you, and you backed off. Men, here’s what you need to know: we women truly have no idea that you secretly worry about being inadequate. So when your wife implies something wasn’t done right (the way you dressed the kids, the way you cleaned the kitchen), she simply doesn’t understand why that would make you upset. She doesn’t intend to criticize you; she’s merely taking you at your word that you really want to help and showing you how best to help. If you can believe the best of your wife’s intentions, assume she is not secretly thinking you’re an idiot, and hang in there instead of backing off… you will truly be a superhero to the woman you love.
3. “I’m angry and I need some space. But I’ll be back in a bit. We’re okay.” When you’re furious or hurt and need to get some air (or time in your man cave), you’re trying to process the argument with your wife. You’re figuring out what you are thinking. Or maybe you’re just doing work stuff and have switched off the “husband” box in your brain to deal with later. But regardless, your wife is standing outside the man cave with her stomach in knots. She’s subconsciously wondering if this is the argument that hurts your love for her. She may go about her day, but if she’s like most women in the research, part of her brain is worrying, Are we okay…? So reassure her before you get that space; you’ll be protecting her from hours of subconscious stress or even pain.
4. “I’m so sorry that happened. How did that feel?” Because you want to be a hero to your wife, your instinct is to say, “I’m so sorry that this bad thing happened at work– here’s what I suggest to fix it.” You think being a hero means removing what caused the pain. Right? But for most women (although not all) removing what caused the pain is Step Two. Step One is helping her talk through all those jangling feelings she’s dealing with. Because of the way the female brain is wired, that is what will reduce the pain most. After a few minutes, you’ll see her tension ease as she feels heard and cared for her. Then you can move on to Step Two to solve the problem if needed. But more importantly: she’ll feel so loved. And you’ll have the satisfaction of another superhero job well done.
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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.