What does “done” mean? Done means you don’t want to eat anymore, there is no more wine in the bottle, the meat is properly cooked. You don’t just wake up one day and decide you are “done” with your family. I doubt the men in these families did that. But they didn’t talk to their wives about their concerns either.
Men aren’t inclined to talk about their feelings to their wives or anyone else. We just try and suck it up. It has to be a learned behavior. To most women (my wife included) talking about their feelings comes easily. They tell their girlfriends, mothers and sisters about how they feel, what is upsetting them and what makes them happy. Guys don’t talk this way other than to generically say that something is pissing them off at home and the response is usually something like, “That’s how it is, have another beer.”
This can be a real problem for men but we need to learn how to do it. I don’t mean just complaining but letting our wives know how we feel, good or bad. I have learned that this communication is critical to ensure a happy marriage.
In my first marriage I didn’t do it. I made a lot of assumptions and was disappointed when my wife didn’t act like I thought she should. I never let her know this but I felt she should intuitively know what I wanted. We got divorced after eight years (no kids).
We did some counseling towards the end of the marriage and we separated amicably. But then I made quite an important decision. I decided to go to counseling on my own. The first question my counselor asked me was, “Why are you here?” I told her I had just gotten divorced after eight years and thought I was doing everything right to get what I wanted. Obviously I hadn’t, so I wanted counseling to learn how I could change my behavior to help me get the lasting relationship that I desired. In retrospect this was a major breakthrough.
I spent the next year or two learning how to communicate and how to listen. There are two critical components of a good relationship. As I was dating I would talk and try to express myself and listen to what my date had to say. They didn’t always like what I said but they knew where I stood.
I then met my current wife. After dating her (and others) for about a year I told her one evening at dinner that I was having feelings. Now for a guy this is a major statement. She later told me she didn’t know if I had gas or what. She asked, “What kind of feelings?” So I did my best to describe them. I continued to do so over the next year and we got married.
We have been married for 12 years. It hasn’t always been easy, but it isn’t supposed to be. You get out of it what you put into it. We occasionally go to counseling together and it helps us through the tough spots. This is her first marriage and my second and we both have learned a lot about how to be a couple and a family.
They don’t offer relationship courses in high school or college. They think we should just learn it on our own. From a guy’s perspective, I had a lot to learn. I don’t want to wake up one day and tell my wife that I am “done.” She deserves more than that and so do I.
Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.