A couple came in for marital counseling. The presenting problem was something else, but what emerged as part of their conflicts with each other was interesting. The wife claimed he did not demonstrate his love and care. I asked her how she wanted demonstration? What actions was he to adopt to show his affection; the actions that would convince her he loved her and the family? She was at first perplexed on being confronted as such. I asked her if she expected him to do some household chores, like dusting? She agreed. Though whether that was on her mind, I do not know.
The husband erupted. He said he was not going to do it, it was her job. And he did not expect her to do it, she could have it done by paying someone. She could not expect him to do it, she knows this. I asked him what problems he had with household chores, he said it was not the chores that bothered him.
She has the habit of comparing him with men who do household chores. He said these men either know/like the job, or did it because they did not want conflict. He was not going to change himself, not become some relative she admired. So this seemed to be a raw spot for him. One which she was striking very often.
He said he has put their children through good schools and colleges. They are settled, he shows his concern in form of buying things needed for the house, paying all the bills and taking care of medical expenses, through private hospitals. He claims these are all a strain on him financially, but he does it willingly since they are his family.
But doing household chores is not his forte. She can do it herself or get it done, that is her choice. When he comes home, he wants to relax and not run around doing chores. If the house is not dusted, he is not bothered. She needs to stop trying to change him.
Maybe this is where she is going wrong. She could have asked him to help her in certain chores, without comparing him with other men they know. He says she needs to accept him as he is, not try and change him. They do not seem to have much financial problems, so she could organize some outside help. That one suggestion of dusting brought on so much of pent up anger within him. So it is clear she needs to change tracks.
She needs to understand his nature, and get him to demonstrate his love within his nature. He says if he does not love his family, he wouldn’t be providing them with luxuries. It could be pointed out as his duty but he says he could just as well save for his old age. They could get by with minimum comforts. It appears right to him, so getting him to change this attitude will take time. That too only if he feels he needs to change.
He did say initially he tried to help, but since he got only complaints, he stopped. I asked his wife what happened? She said he wouldn’t do it the way she wanted. She came across as a bit of a perfectionist, so she was not satisfied with his way of doing things. He has totally withdrawn his help in domestic chores.
Their presenting problem was discussed, but there seems to be a lot of stated and unstated expectations that have not been fulfilled. It will take a few more counseling sessions to unravel all these and for them to arrive at certain acceptable compromises.
Yes, women are emotional and men are more rational. Yes, some men brought up in all male dominated families seldom have empathy towards women. They do not have the basic understanding that all women may not like the rough and tumble of a man’s way of looking at things. Women look for demonstrated love, they know the love and concern exists. But they like being told and shown in ways that appeal to them. This is not understood by all men. They feel it is not natural to keep saying, “ I love you, I care for you”. They feel their actions show the love and care. What they fail to understand is that these actions are not what the women expect. Their expectations are different and more emotional in nature.
Most men do buy their wives gifts. Some take them shopping and state the budget, or give the women money and ask them to get their own gifts! Some women prefer this, for various reasons. But many women want to be surprised. They do not mind the gift is small, they want the surprise and the thoughtful gesture of having remembered the birthday or any important day. This is not lesson for men to go out and buy some knick-knacks and pass it off as a surprise. Do not take the easy way out.
Some women are grateful they are remembered. But most women want something special, something that enhances their personality. It could be a surprise spa time, a surprise birthday party, special booking for a candlelight dinner, or a sexy lingerie.
For this a man has to be tuned into his woman, understand her and know her preferences. If he has no clue, he is doomed. His girl will remember his practical gifts, like a non-stick pan, but will yearn for the romance.
It is a never ending conflict. Most men have no clue how to be romantic, they shy away from romance. They feel uncomfortable and want to be left alone. Tell them there is a medical crisis, they will be rock solid and supportive. But ask for a romantic evening, they will be miles away!
Of course they can learn to be a little romantic. It is not all that difficult or embarrassing. You must be willing to be uncomfortable because the goal is to make your girl happy. You never know, you may get to like it very much and become a veteran! Someone who can even take classes for the diffident.