Recently I peeled an egg with a band-aid on the thumb of my dominant right hand. I struggled with my left hand, but I eventually succeeded, with only a few gouges in an otherwise smooth white surface. For a man, trying to decipher what women want is a similar task.
When I work with couples, I often draw an illustration of three overlapping circles in the air: one represents the mind of the wife, one represents the mind of the husband, and one represents the mutual psychic space created especially for the couple. In my picture, the couple’s space sits in the middle, overlapping the other two.
You guessed it: husbands live in their own circle, and wives live in the mutual circle, relatively inattentive to their own. Ask any husband what he wants, and he will invariably answer that he puts considerable effort into trying to make his wife happy, but that effort often goes unrecognized, partly because his words come from the perspective of his own circle, and partly because the actions are misdirected, or, the good actions are undone by unforced errors.
Consider the following example: a man works all day in the field, and he comes home proud of his efforts to provide financial support for his family. He triumphantly tosses his work boots into the mud tray, but a substantial part of the mud flies off onto the floor. His wife, who has been working at her paid job from home, plus sweeping and mopping the floor, immediately notices the dirt. She feels that her burden of housekeeping goes unrecognized, and he feels that his providing has not been overlooked. I need not recite the words between them that ensue: we all know that story
What is a guy to do?
Recalibrate your words. Speak to the mutual circle. Instead of: “Honey, I’m home!” say: “Wow, look at that clean floor! How was your day at the office?” Recalibrate your actions. After your long day in the field, when you arrive home, your workday has not ended, you are starting a new phase of work. Your work is to notice what your wife has done around the house, and find tasks you can pitch in on, or at a minimum, don’t undo her work. The pipe, slippers, and newspaper can wait.
Our wives are reasonable. They will reward you handsomely for relatively small steps in the right direction. You will find your new assignment fun, in time, as you see the positive results you get. The challenge will be endlessly stimulating as you discover new depths in the invisible world of her unconscious mind.
If you want to take the method to the next level, tell your wife, “ I can never catch up for all the work you’ve done around the house all these years, but I can start now to do a few small things.” She will appreciate your efforts in word and deed.