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If he doesn't understand why you're reading this book (or "get" all theways in which you try to strengthen your relationship)
Who cares? Okay, maybe you do care. Let's be honest; most of us wish our partner would acknowledge and appreciate our considerable efforts to improve the quality of our relationship. Wouldn't it be nice, for example, if your partner noticed that you're reading this book and did any or all of the following:
It's a lovely fantasy. But it probably won't materialize. Granted, it would be terrific if your partner was intrigued by and engaged in your ongoing efforts to improve your communication, deepen your intimacy, and handle thorny issues that arise. Unfortunately that's asking a lot. It's not because men are illiterate or insensitive. And it's not because they don't care, although at times it may feel that way. Contrary to what we may think, our partner's response to our overt attempts at enhancing intimacy isn't a reflection of his commitment or his love.
So why do we continue to feel disappointed when our partner doesn't place the same value as we do on improving our relationship? In part because we tend to place symbolic value on our partner's behavior when, in reality, his response has little or nothing to do with us.
Imagine, for example, that you're interested in signing up for a weekend relationship seminar offered by your church or synagogue. You're willing to set aside the time and invest the money; you've even thought of inviting your closest friends, Bill and Sandy, to join you. You bring up the idea over dinner, excited at the prospect of spending a weekend "working" on your relationship, although you're prepared for him to need a little coaxing. You explain the details and wait expectantly for his response. He fidgets with his food, mumbles something about golf, walks into the living room, and turns on the TV. You follow him, insisting that he give you one good reason why you shouldn't attend the seminar. "Can we talk about it later?" he asks. No. It's Wednesday and you need an answer. You get an answer. Looking more than mildly irritated, he says, "Our relationship is fine. Why would I want to spend my weekend sitting in a room with a bunch of strangers whining about problems we don't even have when I could be out on the golf course with my friends?" (Thank God you never mentioned Bill and Sandy or he'd really freak out!) You stomp out of the room, furious that your partner cares more about hitting a little ball into a hole than saving your marriage, which must be in even worse shape than you thought.
Or let's say you try to read a portion of this book out loud to your partner. A certain passage strikes you as being extremely relevant to issues in your relationship. You start reading and your mate interrupts midsentence to ask when the carpet cleaners are coming. You slam the book shut and tell him to "Forget it. Obviously you couldn't care less about what's in this book."
Bingo! You're right. He may not care about hearing the content of this book or talking about other relationship-related issues. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't care about you. (Remember: The rule is to reverse a double negative; in other words, he does care about you even if he doesn't share your interest in self-help books, couples counseling, relationship seminars, or other means of improving intimacy.)
There is, however, a difference between being disinterested and being dismissive or downright rude. The point is that you're reading this book -- or making other efforts to improve your relationship -- because doing so feels right and worthwhile to you. That's all you need to be concerned with, unless your mate ridicules or makes disparaging remarks about what you're doing, in which case, stand up for yourself and don't let his attitude undermine your enthusiasm.
Do what you do for yourself. Using the metaphor of this book, your mate doesn't have to read it, like it, or like the fact that you're reading it. Actually, the most likely scenarios are: Either he'll skim through it, laugh, and say something relatively benign and somewhat endearing such as, "Fifteen, huh? So what's my score?" (Why do they have to make sports metaphors out of everything?) Or he'll snort sarcastically and say something like, "I see you're wasting more good money on another one of those stupid chick books," which actually means, "Oh, oh. I wonder if I'm in worse trouble than I thought." In other words, he may be threatened, which leads us to the following question.
WHY ARE THEY LIKE THIS?
Just to reassure you that you're not alone, relatively few men read self-help books, and even fewer initiate "feelings conversations," couples counseling, or relationship seminars. (Yes, thousands of men attend John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus workshops. Although it doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict this statistic, I'd bet my mortgage that at least twice as many women as men are the ones who sign up for the seminar -- and that's probably being conservative.)
Why is this? First and foremost, men in general are loath to accept advice, unless it's from their stockbroker, car mechanic, or boss, and only then because they don't have a choice. Whereas most women are open to input, men avoid advice like the plague, which, in fact, is a fairly good analogy, in that to men taking advice implies acknowledging that they need help (that they're incompetent, confused, or ailing), which is a matter of swallowing pride, something men choke on, even when they'd benefit from the input.
Along the same lines, reading a self-help book or attending a relationship seminar is tantamount to admitting that they have a "problem," which most men would just as soon ignore or avoid. (If we don't talk about it, maybe it will just go away.)
Now, of course, we know that exploring relationship issues is a sign of health, a positive step toward strengthening ourselves and our partnership. But men don't know that. Instead they assume that self-help books, counseling, and other therapeutic endeavors are for "people with problems" rather than individuals who are healthy enough to pursue a deeper, more enduring connection.
That's just how men are. (Again, there are exceptions to every rule.) Stop and think: How many times have you brought up a difficult issue to your partner only to be accused of "causing" the problem by having mentioned it in the first place? I'm working on a name for this one. It's a version of "shoot the messenger": First we struggle to figure out the best way to bring up the issue (without provoking an argument or putting our partner on the defensive); then we summon the guts to initiate a conversation about "difficult stuff"; and then we end up being reproached for delivering the information. No wonder we're stumped. If we don't bring the issue up, nothing changes. If we do, we run the risk of a conflict. That doesn't leave us with any good option. (Not to fear: see Simple Solutions about this in chapter 12). For now, suffice it to say that seeking relationship help falls into a category we might call: "I'd rather eat nails than sit around thinking about or talking to strangers about my personal problems, much less paying good money to do so."
My second husband, Joey, fell into this category. Early in our relationship the subject of marital therapy came up. Joey jokingly said, "If our relationship ever gets so bad that you want us to go to therapy, I'll just pin a note on you saying, 'Fix her and send her back when she can live with me and love me the way I am.'" At the time I found his comment witty and adorable. Three years later, when the blush was gone from our romance, I discovered he'd meant this quite literally. Sure enough, I had to drag him to our one and only therapy session; eventually we divorced, in part because of his refusal to deal with our issues in this particular way, and partly because of my stubborn insistence that this was the only way to do so.
Finally, it's important to know that your partner's lack of overt interest in sharing this book or other efforts at building intimacy doesn't necessarily indicate that he's oblivious to your feelings or to the issues in your relationship. He'd simply rather not read about or talk about these issues, and seeing, for example, you reading this book (and probably discussing it with your friends) may make him feel vulnerable and exposed.
The more threatened your partner feels, the more likely he is to act out by being disrespectful toward you. If, for example, he reacts by ridiculing you (saying you're a "self-help junkie" -- so what; you could have worse addictions), by confronting you (saying, "I suppose you're going to read that book and then go off about all the things that are wrong with me"), or, worst of all, shaming you (saying, "If you were as smart as you think you are you wouldn't keep going to so-called experts for advice") it may be because he's terrified of what you might discover about yourself and your relationship. Remember: Knowledge is power. Your partner's insecurities will surface if he feels threatened that you may be thinking seriously about what needs changing in your relationship, or it may evoke his worst fear although he'd never admit it, that you'll end up realizing he's not Mr. Right and you deserve better.
There are ways to reassure your partner, which we'll get to in a moment, but for now it's essential to know that you needn't explain yourself, defend yourself, or even reveal that you're reading this book or pursuing other ways to improve your relationship.
But first: Read the following very carefully. To prevent any potential misunderstanding, I'm not suggesting that you hide this book from your partner or keep it a secret. In their best-sel... --This text refers to the Unbound edition.