A couple we know recently got engaged via an elaborate proposal that had clearly taken Justin, the groom-to-be, an immense amount of planning and effort to pull off. A mutual friend, upon hearing about it, told him, “Good job. Only 9,999,999 tests left to go.” Laughing at his friend’s good-natured cynicism, Justin nevertheless realized there was some truth to the statement. He said, “She wouldn’t just tell me she wanted me to come up with something big like that. She said, ‘Whatever you want’ but I suspected that she didn’t really mean it. I wish she would’ve just told me. But at least I got it right this time.” Like most guys, Justin wondered: why do women “test” and “play games” with their men at all?
Guys, there are three key reasons why your wife wants you to figure out what she wants, rather than just telling you. (These aren’t my opinion, but are the result of years of research and nationally representative surveys of women for my book For Men Only.) I know they might seem absolutely crazy, but once you realize the truth of these factors—and learn to see and respond to them—you’ve truly cracked the code. The things that probably most confuse you about women won’t confuse you (quite as much, at least!) anymore.
So read closely—and if you don’t think these reasons could possibly be true, just ask your wife!
Reason #1: If You Make the Effort To Figure It Out, It Means She’s Worth the Effort
You know how you look confident but on the inside you privately worry whether you measure up? Well, your wife has a different private worry: somewhere deep inside, every day, she wonders whether she is worth loving. That question never goes away (just like you probably never get to a point where you feel as confident as you look). So each day, she’s looking for your signals as to the answer to that question. It reassures her that she must be worth loving when you make an effort to understand what she needs and wants rather than making her tell you. For example, it reassures her that she’s special when you study her enough to know that she is completely frazzled and that it would mean a lot if you offered to take the kids so she can rest—without her having to tell you that.
Reason #2: If You Figure It Out and Do Something About It, It Shows That You Care
You think it’s the action that matters—which is why you wish she would just tell you what action she wants. You’re wondering: Do you want me to take the kids to the park so you can rest? Do you want me to take you out to a quiet dinner for your birthday or have a get-together with friends? While you’re upset with me right now, do you want me to apologize or leave you alone? In the midst of those conundrums you’re probably thinking, “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it!” But remember that the “doing” isn’t always the most crucial thing. What matters to your wife is the fact that you make the effort to figure out what matters to her. It shows she is worth the effort (see Reason #1) and—even more important—it shows that you care enough about her to make that effort for her.
Reason #3: If She Has To Tell You, She’ll Never Know Whether You Did It Because You Wanted To Or Only Because She Told You To
Guys, we women don’t always realize that you want to do those things that will make us happy. In other words, because of that secret “am I lovable?” insecurity, we subconsciously might not believe that you want to do things for us because you care about us. So when we tell you what we want you to do, and you do it, we honestly, truly don’t know whether you are doing it because you really wanted to—or just because you’re putting up with us and doing it because we asked you to.
So men, here’s the key that will unlock the door to your wife’s confidence and security: pursue the lifelong practice of studying your beloved, then put what you learn to work. Don’t roll your eyes whenever you come up against a situation that feels like a test. (As you might imagine, that just makes her self-doubt even worse!) Instead of expressing frustration, be patient. Approach each situation as an opportunity to show her that she is someone who is lovable—and loved. And as you build up that certainty in her, over time, you’ll encounter those tests less and less often.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge demonstrates that kindness is the answer to pretty much every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.