As a husband who has often taken a passive approach, I find I personally dislike confrontation. While I like resolution, the confrontational part of the path is something that I do not like and maybe truthfully fear sometimes. I decided to go back and look at the book, Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and take a look at the husband’s role in love and respect.
Today, I want to look at confrontation and I wonder if husbands often mistake their wife’s intentions of confrontation. So, let me set the stage. A husband and wife, we will say for this example a slightly passive husband and a slightly controlling wife, are going along and some issue comes up in their marriage. It could be over money, an issue with the kids, problems with the in-laws, or even a job. The issue doesn’t necessarily have to be too big or even too small but enough that it creates some difference between the couple. The man wants to think about the issue and decide if the problem needs to be addressed, needs to be researched more, or just forgotten. The woman feels that the issue has caused a break in connection between them and just wants to restore that connection. So, the wife comes to her husband and confronts him to get some closure on the issue and reconnect. The husband misses the intention of his wife and takes her approach as confronting to control him.
A passive husband often takes this confrontation from his wife as disrespect. Confrontation often creates feelings of uneasiness, frustration, and maybe a feeling of weakness. It may be that the husband may understand his take on the issue but expressing his feelings on the issue is difficult and hard for him. Over time, he may feel that his wife has learned that he feels weakness in this area and may be using this weakness to try to control him.
The wife, while having some controlling tendencies, is really reacting to a feeling that the relationship has become weaker because of the issue. Her sole intention is to restore the bond between them and the time for that to occur cannot come fast enough. She reacts out of fear and/or frustration and confronts her husband on the issue. She is not looking to control her husband by confronting him but is yearning to connect with her husband.
Dr. Eggerich explains that, “Couples often run into trouble as they try to work out their problems, even small ones. Women confront to connect. The typical response from a man, however, is that he thinks his wife is confronting to control.”
Often times, I think husbands and wives spend a lot of time giving their spouse way too much credit for their intentions. How often do we take slight traits and create big stereotypes that obscure our vision of our spouse? Could it be that our perceptions that our wife might be too controlling, always negative, complains a lot, or is always disrespectful just might be a failure to understand her true intentions.
Dr. Eggerich describes it like this, “he had to realize he could easily misinterpret her code. Her cry was, ‘Love me!’ When he withdrew, she would simply try even harder to access his heart. He saw that as she tried to pull him closer, he had mistakenly assumed she was trying to put him even more firmly under her thumb.”
Over the next few posts, I want to look at Dr. Eggerichs’ C-O-U-P-L-E principle for husbands to learn how to show love to your wife. The goal here is to find answers to show love to your wife even in the midst of conflict where you would normally stonewall her or get irritated. Maybe we can get better at reading our wife’s language cues and find ways to meet her needs. Chances are your wife is confronting you to try to connect to you and if you can learn to recognize this you can learn ways to quickly make your next confrontation a connection.