“Why can’t she just see how irrational she is being?” “Why won’t she just tell me exactly what she wants?” “She has no clue how hurtful she is being – how could she do that to me?” “Why can’t she love me the way I think she should love me!”
These statements are pretty good indicators that you’re making a common mistake many men make.
She is not your equal.
And by expecting her to be your equal you are setting yourself up for misery.
The Mistake of Expecting “Equalness”
Let’s clear up an obvious concern. I’m not talking about equality.
There is absolutely no debate about the equality of any two people on earth.
Her personal experience at every stage of her growth is different. Her parental, social and societal programming is different.
I’m referring to equalness as the notion of sameness. While we are clearly equal – we are NOT the same.
As Alison Armstrong tries to teach women that “men are not just hairy women”…I try to teach men that women are not just men with boobs.
And it’s not just gender differences at play.
I explain to my clients how every single life experience she has had as a young girl and woman has created a perspective nothing like ours. Her personal experience at every stage of her growth is different. Her parental, social and societal programming is different.
While we are equal we are not the same in how we process facts, thoughts or emotions.
The only logical approach in a relationship with her is to choose to understand her.
But instead, we make the mistake of trying to either compete with her or fix her “faulty” programming.
When I’m working with a frustrated man who can’t connect with a woman, I usually find him trying to understand the problem from one narrow perspective – his. He tries to run everything she says or does through his filter of how people should work.
He thinks she “should” be different. She “should” see things his way. She “should” react a certain way.
And nobody likes to be “should” on.
The Downward Spiral Begins
Here’s the big problem that comes next.
When we try to hold someone else accountable for being something they are not they will move away from us.
The direct or implied pressure of judgment, expectation and disappointment is too much to bear. The only direction they can move is AWAY.
This feels to us like distancing, coldness, anger, resentment, detachment and disrespect.
By continuing to impose your rules for how she should view the world, how she should think and how she should feel you will only create more distance and emotional danger.
The most devastating emotion we feel is rejection which actually registers as physical pain.
Nothing good happens from here.
Next comes our feelings of shame, desperation, anger and resentment. We respond with criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling – Gottman’s Four Horseman of the Apocolypse.
I think you know how the rest of the story goes from here. Not well.
The solution is to first realize what you’re doing and why.
The next step is to choose to change your perspective. She is not the same as you are and never will be.
The competitive instinct to defend your feelings and “win” every disagreement comes from an adolescent mindset – from fear.By continuing to impose your rules for how she should view the world, how she should think and how she should feel you will only create more distance and emotional danger.
You need to achieve a state of emotional security, confidence and independence that allows you to detach from needing to be right. The competitive instinct to defend your feelings and “win” every disagreement comes from an adolescent mindset – from fear.
It is virtually impossible for man to achieve the necessary emotional maturity, intellectual clarity and spiritual gumption he needs from an adolescent mindset. Sean Stephenson, a 3 foot tall powerhouse of a man, taught me 3 words that form the foundation of healthy masculinity.
Those words are: CALM, DELIBERATE, and PLEASED.
When a man decides to do the work to become naturally calm, instinctively deliberate and pleased with who he is…nothing rattles him much.
He sees conflict as opportunity. Differences with women become curiosities. Emotional triggers become a sign for something new to learn.
He learns to accept others for who they are without the need to change them or win an argument. He is crystal clear in what he values and what he expects from himself and for himself.
It’s like a new operating system.
This isn’t a Zen thing.
It’s simply becoming the man you want to be.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project by Steve Horsmon
Jude: The Divorced Dadvocate
I am Jude Sandvall and I am a divorced, single father of 3 children. My divorce and the subsequent years are a case study in facing and overcoming the most difficult challenges in learning to thrive after divorce. I’ve been through it all including the court process, co-parenting, dating with kids and more!