My favorite premarital advice was from a friend of my mom’s. She said, “When your husband tells you he didn’t know, believe him. He really didn’t know.” I giggled. Boys. So clueless, right? I think we women enjoy eye-rolling at our men a little too much. They’re cute, but oh so dumb.
“My husband would literally never eat lunch if not for me.”
“Why can’t he just take off his pants IN the bedroom room and then put them away IN the closet?”
“If he leaves his cereal bowl on the table one more time…”
“He didn’t even know where my socks were.”
Words straight out of my own dang mouth.
Is it possible that men aren’t dumb? They just speak and think a little differently? Like a lot differently. They must. And Joel and I have, over many a tense pillow talk convos, tried to hash this out. I think he’s being inconsiderate, he says he simply didn’t know. I say he’s being thoughtless and heartless, he said he simply was unaware. I think he’s being insensitive and selfish, he argues with confused eyes and a stern tone that. he. didn’t. know.
Research has shown that guys’ brains work a little differently. I get that there is some science to this. Psychology Today published an article called “Brain Differences between Genders.” The study was really interesting to read and definitely shed some light on the differences in emotional processing that take place in males and females. The last paragraph of the article sums up the findings well:
“Males tend, after reflecting more briefly on an emotive memory, to analyze it somewhat, then move onto the next task. During this process, they may also choose to change course and do something active and unrelated to feelings rather than analyze their feelings at all. Thus, observers may mistakenly believe that boys avoid feelings in comparison to girls or move to problem-solving too quickly.”
So maybe he didn’t really know. Maybe I was just being a girl feeling all the feelings, and he was just being a guy who heard me, but then felt ready to move onto his next task.
We’ve been together for 5 and a half years. Married for 3. And have raised a little human together for 1. And sometimes I lay in bed next to my darling, thoughtful, and deeply introspective husband and feel like I don’t know him. I get that he uses more gray matter which makes him have tunnel vision sometimes and I use more white matter so I can jump between tasks quicker and what not, but he’s my BEST FRIEND. Right? Shouldn’t he know his wife’s needs? Shouldn’t he be desperate to listen to my external processing? Can’t he see that I’m upset and need some TLC?? Preferably in the form of rubbing me on the back and saying “Mm, hmm” to every sentence I say?
Whenever Joel and I start arguing over these reoccurring themes of misunderstanding, it seems that we never really come to a conclusion. Usually we just need to sleep on it. And in the morning we wake up snuggled in each others’ arms and realize that whatever we were arguing about isn’t going to change how we feel about each other. And it’s more fun to forget about it and focus on how much we love each other. Because we do!
And here’s what I know. Here is what I have to remind myself of. And this is what Joel, with gentle pleading, wishes I would meditate on before I get upset with him.
1- Joel cares about me. He is of course concerned with how I’m feeling.
2- He is listening. As I rant and get angrier because I assume my rants are hitting the cement wall that is my husband, he is always listening.
3- He wants me to be happy. Not just seem happy or look happy. But to have and know true joy. If something is interfering with that, he is interested in helping me fix it.
If you even know a fraction of Joel’s personality, you must know that there are few men as sensitive, thoughtful, wise and caring as he is. Listen, when I married him I got to have my cake and eat it too. I got all that and a bag of potato chips. I knew the man waiting at the other end of the aisle on our wedding day was the cupcake, icing AND the sprinkles. But it’s hard to think on these things when I’m feeling misunderstood on such a fundamental level. Not to mention that being a mom adds like 20 colors to my crayon box. And I want Joel to color with all of them and keep them all sharp.
Olson had been cranky all day yesterday. Molars, a rash, a poor appetite, and weird poop. Just, all of the stuff. I had taken him to the grocery store and before walking inside noticed a lovely smear of poop that leaked through his jeans. I took him inside to change him on the cold changing table and that threw him into hysteria for the remainder of the grocery trip. When Joel got home from work, we loaded up his car and headed to a friend’s house to decorate gingerbread houses. I was visibly worn and not saying much. Joel asked me how my escapades were today. “Finally!” I thought. “Well,” I started timidly.
“It’s been a bit stressful. Olson has been pretty whiny.”
Joel fiddles with our dash cam.
“I took him to the grocery store and he had pooped through his pants. So that wasn’t fun.”
More fiddling and no “Mm, hmming.”
“So I’m pretty worn out.”
I decide to stop talking because of the lack of “Mm, hmms” and the continuous fiddling.
Silence ensues for the next 3 minutes, which in female mind is at least a half hour.
I decided to practice my own preaching. I thought on what I know to be true of Joel. He cares. He’s listening. He wants joy and happiness for me.
As I’m thinking of these things, Joel lays his hand on my leg. Usually I pull away. I left it there. I took some deep breaths and just kept waiting. We pull onto the highway and Joel says, “Alyssa, do you know how much I love you?” A smile stretches across my heart. I answered for him to tell me how much and he proceeded to fill my love tank with words.
That could have gone soooo differently.
There are going to be times when Joel responds to my needs as though he’s reading from a script I could have written. There will be other times when my patience is tested and he takes his time to respond. And there will probably still be those rare times when I feel like I’m talking to a wall and go to bed hoping I’ll forget how angry I am that we speak different languages. Feeling misunderstood and unheard. But what fixes probably 95% of these frustrations is the ability to be:
- Patient. Give him time. His internal clock is different than mine.
- Rational. What do I know to be true of Joel and what are the lies I tell myself?
- Forgiving. Right away. Before he’s even made an error.
I can’t be as mad when I’ve already forgiven him.
Men, I understand that we women are not easy to appease. We’re moody, we want different things in a matter of minutes and Target cures too many of our ails. It’s a two way street.
Joel and I feel sometimes like we are the most complex and weird people. Maybe we are. But probably not. We just speak different languages sometimes and it’s our job to love and forgive each other when that happens.
I started writing this blog on a night where I was frustrated with Joel. But I knew I would forgive him for whatever it was that was angering me. And I wanted to process all of these feelings. So thanks for hanging in there with me. I hope your Christmas is so merry and bright this weekend!
*You can read the article mentioned above here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hope-relationships/201402/brain-differences-between-genders