Guest Post: Damage Control


Hello, Readers…today we have another guest entry from Iyi Bir Adam, whom you may remember from his first guest post Corporation T-Shirt. First thing, I am shortening his blog name to Adam (he will have conniptions) but we cannot pronounce the first two words of his original name and everyone can say Adam, right? He has graciously offered to share his thoughts on what we women can do to stop the unhealthiness and the emotional damage before it gets to the melting point and this is the first of such installments. I enjoy his writings, his advice, his openness and his non-judgmental attitude and I think you will see/read this in his contributions. Here is to hoping his wisdom, tips and advice help all of us who need it. And without further ado, here is Adam’s take on damage control (feel free to leave comments):

 I have been asked to comment on what women do that drives men away. It seems that the advice provided in Cosmo doesn’t translate to the real world any more than being able to rock out on Guitar Hero means you are ready to replace the guitarist in U2. However, it has been about 14 years since I last broke up with someone. I have had relationships since then, but I was the dump-ee, not the dump-er. And it has been 11 years since I was even one of those. All that to say that when I refer to “driving men away” I really mean creating distance in a relationship, rather than causing the end o the relationship.

Before I begin, let me tell you more about my situation, so you can more accurately judge the veracity or validity of my comments. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. No one for at least as far back as my great-grandparents on either side has ever cheated or gotten divorced (at least that I am aware of). I bring this up to say that the importance of marriage has been strongly instilled in me since I was very young. Driving a guy away to the point that he leaves just isn’t a part of the equation in my relationship. As a friend once said, “When a man makes a decision, he makes it right.” Meaning, even if she wasn’t the perfect girl for you before you married her, the decision has been made, so she is the perfect one for you because she is now the only one for you.

I met my wife during our freshman year of college. We got married 3 weeks after we graduated, and have now been married a little over 7 years. Our relationship is not perfect, but we took our commitment “til death do us part” very seriously. We also have two boys, 2 years, and 2 months old, which provide additional impetus for us to make sure that we work things out.

That is a thumbnail sketch of who I am and where I come from. That is the framework, the baseline for my comments (which, though I have not read them, is probably more than you get from Cosmo articles).

This should by no means be considered an exhaustive list, nor should it be personalized too much. Each relationship is unique, and things that annoy me may bother the man you are with. But these are things that I have found to be generally true for me and for other guys I have talked to.

At the root of everything else I may tell you, you have to be able to communicate. Almost every specific situation I will describe for you can be traced to a lack of clear communication between the two of you.

We have been watching Up All Night, partially because it’s a good show, and partially because it rings especially true for us with a baby in the home. One of the things that I like most about the show is now the two main characters interact with each other. They are comfortable enough being around each other that the can say what they are thinking, without fear of condemnation, no matter how dumb or cheesy it might be. I would hope to be able to get to that place in my own marriage some day. Partially because they make it look like a lot of fun to have that level of comfort, but more importantly, because it leaves very little question in the mind of the other as to what they are thinking.

While that is all fine and good in the abstract, let me provide a few concrete examples of how that plays out in real life, specific things that women do, often inadvertently that put a wedge in a relationship.

 Probably the biggest divider/wedge in my own marriage is an inability to understand how the other one prefers communicating love. There is a book, website, and who knows what other kind of materials, written by Gary Chapman that talk about the 5 love languages. (Check out http://www.5lovelanguages.com to learn more about them and do your own assessment.) His idea is that there are 5 basic ways that we enjoy having love communicated to us. By default, we show love to others in the way that we like to have love shown to us. The wedge in all this comes when we don’t venture outside that default and learn what our partner’s love language is. If your language is “acts of service,” where you think you are showing him how much you care by cleaning the house for him or taking the car to get the oil changed so that he doesn’t have to, but he seems distant or complains that you aren’t on the same page, it is quite possible that you aren’t speaking his love language, so he is missing the fact that you are trying to show him love.

 Wedge number two: trying to make him into your perfect guy. (My thinking on this issue is heavily influenced by John Eldridge and his book Wild at Heart. It is written for men, but I would highly encourage women to read it too, in order to gain a better understanding of what is going on with the guys in their lives.) Too often women settle down with a guy—by getting married, moving in together, or at least deciding to date very seriously—and immediately set in on the guy trying to make “improvements” to him. I am not naïve enough to say that no guy needs to have some rough edges smoothed out. I could probably use some help in putting my shoes away in the closet, rather than leaving them in the middle of the hall when I get home, or thinking about changing the towels in the bathroom more than once every 2 months. But a complete restructuring is not necessary. And I would guess that just about any man you ask would tell you the same. 

Speaking generally, women tend to look for the bold, brash, daring sort of men (there’s a reason why women dream about a knight in shining armor and not the insurance salesman) as their ideal man to marry. But once they find that kind of guy, or someone they think is that kind of guy, they set about calming him. It seems to me that a lot of the problems we have in society today are at least indirect results of men who have lost their boldness.

 If there is something about your man that bothers you, talk about it. Tell him it is a concern, talk through it every once in a while if you need to, but don’t harp on it constantly. And work on one or two things at a time. When you dump too much on a guy at once, he will just feel like you are nagging or that you aren’t happy with him. If you like him and want to keep him, think incremental changes.

 Also, remember that there had to be something about a guy that attracted you to him in the first place, and something more that keeps you there. (I will say that I have seen people endure a whole lot of crap for money, but I trust that none of you are the gold-digging type, and money is not the sole motivating factor for you.) You may have admired his rippling biceps or sharp wit that night at the party when you first met, but those alone are not enough to make you want to stay with him for more than a handful of dates. Once you decide to make it a serious relationship, I would assume there is something significant that you like about the guy. If you feel like you have to spend all of your time and effort making him into the guy you want him to be, then maybe you would be better served using that time to find someone who is already closer to what you want your ideal guy to be. And if you say that no such man exists, then maybe you need to alter your expectations a bit.

 I hesitate to mention this last example because it sounds somewhat clichéd, but better for you to hear it twice than not at all. Ladies, please do not assume that guys know what you are thinking. Even when you hint at things, we don’t always pick up on it. It took me almost three years to learn that that when my wife gives me a peck, rather than a soft-lipped kiss, when I get home from work, she’s not interested in anything sexual that night. She thought it was a clear sign, a pretty obvious hint, but I missed it. Once we discussed that, she can give me that kind of a hint without saying anything. But I can’t read her mind to know that she’s not interested, and I don’t think about her sending subtle messages.

 If there is something you want to say, do, or have an opinion about, express that clearly to the guy. Don’t be surprised if, when you observe that it is hot outside, he just says, “yes,” but doesn’t get you ice cream.  If you want ice cream, say that you’d like ice cream. 

These are a few of the things that can damage a relationship. I’m sure there are others, but like I said before—almost all the problems that arise in a relationship can be traced back to poor communication. 

Lastly, if you have a specific instance where you want a guy’s opinion, I’d be happy to offer mine.

 
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