Having been in private practice as long as I have, it’s not unusual to see many recurring themes in the couples with whom I work. One such pattern is the frustration many women experience when their husband will not take responsibility for something he’s done wrong.
Even though I’m a psychologist, when it comes to my own marriage, I too often respond as any normal woman. And so, I must confess that I have felt the same way in my own marriage. Interestingly, something happened recently that would qualify as an "Aha" moment for my spouse of nearly 34 years. Since I believe it can be a simple solution for so many others, I wanted to share it with you.
At the Root of Things
Before I give you the solution of the problem, I first want to discuss where it originates from. For some time now, I have believed that men are far more sensitive than women. Furthermore, I would suggest that the reason the male species cannot "fess up" or hear any criticism is that they feel really, really bad when they have done something wrong.
At this point you might be wondering, "With this awareness, why would I have been frustrated in my own marriage?" But remember, I’m a person too, and I am not necessarily shielded from human foibles just because of professional knowledge.
Personal insights are useful. However, they’re far more credible when backed up by research. A recent study indicates that at a physiological level, men don’t tolerate conflict as well as women. Though they may appear fine on the outside, internally, they’re not okay.
A Personal Anecdote
This very same issue of my husband not being able to acknowledge his wrong-doing when I call him on something has been a continual ongoing upset for me. Here’s the typical scenario: Something happens, I say something about it, and either he denies it or makes and excuse or probably—worst of all—minimizes it. Yes, minimizing it really makes me nuts!
But recently something happened that was different. I really don’t remember the particular incident. What I do recall is that it was something that was bothersome and when I brought it up, my husbands retort was, "My bad." Yes, ladies, believe what I wrote—"My bad."
Now guys listen up because it gets even better. Once he said those two little words, I merely said, "Okay."
In disbelief, my spouse replies, "Okay? That’s it? We’re done?"
"Yes," I say. "Everyone makes mistakes; it just feels better when you acknowledge it."
And truly, it was over—that’s why I don’t even remember what the incident was about.
So for the good part of 34 years, we’ve been doing the same dance, with me feeling frustrated and I’m sure him feeling lousy. And all it would have taken was some small form of acknowledgment. I imagine the women that are reading this article are smiling and saying, "Yes! Yes!"
On the other hand, the men are shaking their heads and not believing that this same situation would be true in their relationships. As the saying goes: "Try it …you’ll like it."
Oh, yes, one additional piece: my husband has continued to use this phrase (he’s a quick study)—we’re both enjoying his new found, "Aha!"
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com