What's Wrong with My Spouse?

I had an interesting conversation with a couple the other day about the dance that happens between men and women in married relationships. It is fascinating how we all seem to follow patterns without really understanding what is going on and as a result have conflict over thinking the other person is insensitive or not committed to the relationship when in reality, that person really not that much different from the typical man or woman out there.

In a typical relationship during the dating phase a man pursues a woman and seems to be super connected. When they are together he is intense in his connection and seems to be the most romantic and attentive man in the whole world. He makes the woman the center of the evening and everything he does seems to revolve around her. At the same time she responds to him in a way that says he is the best man in the whole world. She looks at him in such an admiring way the he is captivated by that and feels like he can take on the whole world with her by his side. Most words out of her mouth are words of encouragement and praise.

Then this couple gets married and lives with one another for a while. Over time she starts to feel like maybe his whole dating thing was just a way to trick her into marrying him. He doesn’t seem as attentive as he used to be and she is not getting as much focused attention as she seemed to get when they were dating. He seems preoccupied most of the time and doesn’t seem to want to spend much focused time with her unless it is scheduled or on a date night, but even then it doesn’t feel the same. He starts to feel like he went from being a man who could do nothing wrong to a guy who can do nothing right. Her words of praise have seemed to be replaced with words of criticism. Rather than a look of admiration he feels like she looks at him like an artist who doesn’t like what he has painted and can’t quite figure out what is wrong. They both feel like the other person has changed and have no idea how to bring the other person “back.”

Tho understand what is going on we need an understanding of the differences between our dating lives and married lives and how men and women perceive and live differently. Men tend to have the ability to focus on one thing at a time with intensity. This tendency for men to focus means that they can usually only handle one thing at a time. That is why a guy can be working on a project and the whole house could be burning down around him. Women tend to see everything as interconnected. One thing springs into another and so on. That means everything means something and women have the ability to be aware of everything around them at the same time and tend to see links between things and constantly be processing things in their mind. Just talking about this you can already see where conflict could come into a relationship.

Now go back to the dating phase of the couples relationship. For a guy that intense focus shows up in the times when they date. For that date his only focus is her. So she is the recipient of all of his attention and it feels great. But there is a point where that date ends and the man goes back home to his own place and she goes to hers. They both have to work usually so their contact is limited to some extent. What she doesn’t know is every man sees his home as a place of solitude, where he can let down and kind of disconnect from the world where he has been giving focused attention all day. So guys kind of check out many times when they get home.

What he doesn’t know is when she gets home she is still processing everything that happened and looking forward to the next time they are together.For the woman her admiration of him is based on her thoughts about him and his ability to make her feel secure through his attentiveness. She figures his thoughtfulness is interconnected with everything he does and he thinks about her every moment because, after all she is interconnected and that is how her world works.

Fast forward now to the marriage. He comes home from work expecting to unwind and disconnect from the world. She is waiting for him to come home to engage in his world and share all of the things that have been happening in her world. You can see the disconnect that happens. She views his lack of desire to connect on an ongoing basis as a sign that he has lost interest in her and he views her disappointment in him as a sign that she no longer thinks the world of him. Over time, he starts checking out more and she becomes more critical of him in an attempt to get him to connect. What they both need to understand is how each of them are built and then respond in kind. He may need a little more space to unwind and she may need a little more interaction spaced over time. I have found that when the wife gives the husband a little more space and the husband checks in with his wife on a regular basis combined with an intentional date night or some intense time together once a week helps the couple feel connected.

Most of the issues we face in relationships are based on viewing things only from our perspective and failing to see and understand the whole picture. When we do understand, however, and put into place a plan that takes into account our differences, our relationships will grow. Sure there are times when we are all insensitive, but every time we feel our spouse is insensitive may not be insensitivity at all but simply the way they are as a man or a woman.