What’s the matter?

I recently sat with a couple struggling with communication.

He said she gets mad when he asks her how she is doing. She said he’s always asking her “What is wrong?”

This is very common amongst couples and it speaks to critical differences between men and women.

For the women:

You need to understand most men are like puppies: We are scared to death of you and yet we want to please you.  He doesn’t understand you and is afraid that he did something wrong that made you mad. If you don’t know, men like to be in control. But he is not where you are concerned.  When he does something wrong, frequently, you will not say it directly (for fear of being seen as a bitch) but you let him know by your looks or actions.  This freaks him out because he doesn’t know what he did wrong and you won’t say so he is left guessing and out of control. Going back to the puppies comment….he wants to please you and is scared to death of you (If you don’t understand this, imagine what it might be like to live and sleep with an angry woman.).

So to resolve all this, he asks, “What is wrong?” This question, by the way, has “man” written all over it: It is direct; It is focused on the problem; It is action oriented (Let’s figure out what the problem is to solve it.), etc.

For the men:

The problem with this comment, however, is that it implies there is a problem and that the woman has it. Women don’t like this….they don’t want their man, or anyone, assuming they have a problem. Further, if there is a problem, most women assume that you should know what the problem is because we talked about it… at some point in the past.

What to do:

Men: STOP asking “What is wrong”! Engage her in another way, “What are you thinking?”, “How are you feeling?”, and “What is your mood?” Further, accept the fact that she may be mad but she may not be mad at you and even if she is, she has been mad at you in the past and you didn’t die.  Talk with her about it. If you forgot to do something, admit it and go on.  That won’t make you less of a man and you are not the first man who has forgotten for do something and this won’t be the first time you forget something in your life with her. Further, if you did what you thought was right, say that. You have a right to stand up for yourself and your decisions. If you tend to forget too much, you need to take responsibility for this.  Many men have to write things down about agreements with their spouse about important things, i.e., how to do the laundry, etc.

Women: Tell him directly what is bothering you and/or what he did wrong. Be aware that the aforementioned puppy analogy exists. We are concerned if you are mad and we don’t want you to be mad at us.  Be aware that men can’t always tell the difference between your angry face and that face you have when you are concentrating.