Monday, October 15, 2012

The Marriage of Your Dreams

Author: Rick Johnson
Publisher: Revell
October 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2031-5
Genre: Marriage

The marriage of  your dreams may be closer than you think (from the back cover)

Most women claim they don’t understand men. They don’t understand his relationship with his mother, his emotions, how his work is tied into who he is as a man, and his communication style.

Mr. Johnson has interviewed many men and women to discuss what women wanted to know about men, and to get their take on the answers. Some of the chapters included are:

Ø      What’s with his mother anyway?
Ø      His father
Ø      His relationships
Ø      His communication
Ø      His work
Ø      His sexuality
Ø      His need for respect and admiration
Ø      And many more

This isn’t a type of book like Have a New Man by Friday or a book to tell you how to improve your sex life, or even to tell you how to improve your marriage, despite the title. This is a book about understanding men more, how they think, what is going through their heads. What he  needs from you.

My favorite part of each chapter was at the end where real women, like me or you, asked questions and Mr. Johnson answered them. Some of the questions, (chosen at random) are:  How is it so easy for him to be fighting mad one minute and ready for sex the next?  Why doesn’t he want to talk about his work with me when he comes home? Should wives push their husbands to keep improving or should we be supportive of stagnant behavior?  And Why do you expect me to meet your needs when I don’t feel like my needs are getting met?

If you want the answers to these and other questions—read THE MARRIAGE OF YOUR DREAMS. Recommended. $12.99. 218 pages.

 Interview Questions for Rick Johnson
Author of The Marriage of Your Dreams

*Let me just start by saying that all these questions require more complicated answers than I can express in this short interview format.  In order to get complete answers it will be important to read the book.  Here is a link to the book video trailer:

1.      How do men and women communicate differently? What do women need to understand about her husband’s communication style?

Much like the way each sex thinks and looks at the world, men tend to be very linear in conversations and women more holistic.  Hence, women tend to think men don’t listen.  It’s not that men don’t listen; we just struggle trying to process more than one thing at a time. Since women like to impart a lot of information (and multiple types of information), it often causes our brains to overload and shut down. The ability to focus intently on one issue or topic at a time allows us to accomplish great things but causes us to struggle when attempting to juggle several trains of thought at once. If we are in the middle of processing one idea and are fed more information, it is difficult to shift gears to the new topic in midstream, so that information tends to slip through the cracks of our minds, never being fully absorbed or even recognized.

2.      What is it about having a TV on in the room that makes it impossible for men to listen?

Again, men are wired to be able to focus intently on one thing at a time, but our multi-tasking skills suffer because of it—so we struggle doing multiple things at once; watching TV, thinking about what is being said to us, and then responding all at the same time (heck I can’t even sign a book and talk at the same time).  TV also usually consists of rapidly moving images which attracts our attention (the same skills that allowed us to see game moving when hunting for thousands of years).

3.      You found the most asked question by women was about her mother-in-law. How does a man’s relationship with his mother affect his marriage?

The most frequently asked question I got from women was, “Do men marry their mothers?”  My answer is, “Sort of.”  For men who had good relationships with their mother they may consciously (or even unconsciously) select a woman with similar character traits as their mother.  And men who had poor relations with their mother may consciously (or unconsciously) choose a woman directly opposite of the type of woman as their mother.

 While the respect a man gives his mother may be a good indicator of how much respect a man will have for his wife and other women, most problems occur when a man does not properly “cut the apron strings” when he gets married.  This allows animosity to develop and exist between the two most important women in his life. A man should make it clear that his wife is the most important priority in his life. Not that he shouldn’t still love and respect his mother, but he should cleave to his wife, placing her needs first. Again, the goal is not to dishonor or disrespect his mother, just to place his priorities in the proper perspective. Unfortunately—possibly because he wants to avoid conflict or even feels intimidated by his mother—too many men allow this issue to fester and harm their marriage relationship.  

4.      Why is respect and admiration important to men?

Men need admiration and respect from the woman in their life even more than they do love.   Women have tremendous power in this area.  A woman’s respect and admiration for her husband can empower him to accomplish great things he could never do on his own.  Conversely her contempt of him is crippling and emasculating.  If a man knows his wife is proud of him, he can withstand a lot of slings and arrows from the rest of the world. That’s how important you are. There’s much wisdom in the statement, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” Being proud of your husband and trusting his judgment are two ways that you can show him you respect him.

5.      Do men wish their wives looked like super models?

No—that would be a heavy burden for most men.  Look at it this way--you probably weren’t a super model when he married you, and he thought you looked fantastic enough that he chose to spend the rest of his life with you.  Two kids and twenty years later he certainly doesn’t expect you to look like a super model.  But, he does expect that you will attempt to look your best and not let yourself go (effort counts ladies).  Men are visual—and your beauty is what initially attracted him.  We all enter into relationships with unspoken agreements—sort of like contracts.  A woman who makes great effort to make herself look her best to attract a man and then lets herself go physically would be similar to a man who worked hard before marriage and then stopped providing after he was married. 

6.      In your book you say that understanding a man’s emotional life begins with recognizing the factors that cause him fear. Based on your research what do men fear most and how do those fears affect them emotionally?

Most men fear the same basic things—to be or to appear to be inadequate, incompetent, and unneeded.  They fear not being able to fulfill their main roles in life of providing and protecting.  They fear failure, and so if they think they will fail at something or appear incompetent, they will tend to avoid or quit that activity.  A man from South Korea told me his country had a high rate of fatherlessness. When asked why he said, “Because our economy is bad we have a high rate of unemployment.  Men would rather abandon their families than suffer the humiliation of not being able to provide for them.” 

Additionally, most men are not able to biologically process emotions well and thus are uncomfortable with them.  The one emotion they are comfortable with is anger.  Anger gives us strength and protects us (never mind that it is often a destructive emotion).  Anger is often a secondary emotion with men, used to mask other emotions.  Emotions like fear, anxiety, vulnerability, or distress often produce a feeling of humiliation in males. Humiliation is considered a weakness; remember, for most males showing weakness means being vulnerable and open to criticism. To be vulnerable is an invitation to be attacked. Rather than feeling humiliated by these “unmanly” emotions, many males instinctively and automatically use anger to cover them. Even pain, both physical and psychological, can be covered by anger. Notice how most males react when they hit their thumb with a hammer: they’d rather get mad than cry (getting angry is not considered a logical reaction to pain). Most men also get angry rather than depressed or hysterical when faced with an emotional crisis in a relationship. Again, this is a protective mechanism for their fragile egos—egos that are covering up secretly ingrained feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.

7.      What should women do when she feels her own needs aren’t being met by her husband?

My wife contends that men are not wired to be able to meet others’ needs until their own needs are met.  I don’t know if this is true or not with all men, but it appears to be with me.  It seems logical if you look at the fact that for thousands of years a man’s main job was to hunt for the clan and to protect them from predators.  If a man’s needs were not met (if he was hungry, wounded, sleepy, etc.) he was less adept at fulfilling his roles and thus the safety of the entire clan was at risk.  Hence, everyone made sure his needs were met, so that he could take care of their needs.  You see the same thing in the animal kingdom—male lions eat first so they are strong enough to defend and protect the pride.

If you feel like you are not getting your needs met I would encourage you first to very bluntly (and unemotionally) let your husband know what your needs are.  I constantly remind men that they need to ask women what their needs are.  Men tend not to be mind readers or even be very intuitive.  Women though often have the expectation that “If he loved me he’d know what I need.”  Unfortunately, men do not “read between the lines” very well either, so you need to be specific.  Also, it’s been my experience that many women do not really know what they need—they are just unhappy or dissatisfied.  To sit down and process what your actual (not perceived) needs are can be very helpful to the entire relationship and your own well being. 

8.      You say all men want to be super heroes in the eyes of his kids. What are some ways women can build their husbands up with their kids?

A wife is the biggest asset a man has in this area.  She can garner respect for him in the eyes of his children far greater than he can.  Her example of respect and admiration for her husband is the major model for both boys and girls on how a woman loves a man, what kind of respect a woman should have for a man, and how a female relates to a male.  Likewise her contempt for her husband contaminates not only their relationship, but the dads and children’s as well, like a toxic chemical in groundwater.

Brag about him in public—even behind his back.  Don’t let your children speak poorly of him, even (especially) when he makes a mistake.  Show appreciation for what he does do right.  Most men genuinely feel unappreciated—I think for good reason.  Put him first—before the children.  I know that goes against your nature, but he’ll be there long after your children have grown and moved away.  

9.      Why are men uncomfortable talking about emotions? How can women encourage them to be vulnerable and honest?

Because of the biological disadvantages males have in processing and understanding their emotions, it is often difficult for males to verbally communicate what they are feeling. But many males will express their emotions through their actions. For instance, a man may not always be able to express his regret by saying, “I’m sorry.”  Instead he might put gas in your car.  Men are doers, believing talk is cheap.  Understand that to a man, actions speak louder than words.  Unfortunately (for men), words have great power with women.  One thing to remember is that even though many husbands are men of few words, often those words are carefully chosen and hold more intent and substance than most women realize. So your husband’s words of apology or a compliment may not be as flowery as your girlfriend’s are, but they are probably just as heartfelt and may even require more effort on his part.

10.  What does it take for a man to feel safe with his wife and share his weak spots with her? Why is that important in a marriage?

A man needs to know two things in order to feel safe sharing his weaknesses with his wife.  He needs to know she will not share his weaknesses or failures with her friends.  And he needs to trust she will not use that knowledge against him later (such as during an argument).  This is important because it harms intimacy in a marriage.  A man has a very hard shell with which he protects his heart.  Inside is a very tender and insecure interior that he never shares with anyone—except sometimes his wife.  To betray that trust causes him to keep that hard shell in place and never become vulnerable with you again.  That then makes it difficult to grow your relationship together.

11.  You talk about the importance of men having deep friendships with other men. What can women do to encourage their husbands’ friendships?

Make friends with the wives of good men.  Women are better at starting and nurturing relationships than men.  They can often act as a conduit for men to become friends with each other.  Also, encourage him to attend men’s retreats and other gatherings.  He probably won’t go without your encouragement.  Also, your pride for him and affection after he returns will reinforce that behavior as something positive.  He needs other men in his life to hold him accountable and to help teach him things he doesn’t know.

12.  Are men at a biological disadvantage when it comes to understanding and expressing their emotions?

Biologically, males’ brains have not evolved to process and understand emotions as effectively and efficiently as females. The male body does not produce as many or as high of concentrations of the hormones that contribute to complex social bonding, such as oxytocin, serotonin, and progesterone.  The male brain is also not as proficient in processing emotions as the female brain (he has a smaller corpus callosum, with slower developing and smaller sized frontal lobes). Hence, men generally have to think about their emotions (sometimes for a long time) before they can understand what they are actually feeling. Even then they may have trouble identifying a specific emotion, as males generally are not very astute in recognizing and verbalizing their emotional status.

13.  How does a man’s relationship with his father shape his relationships?

A man’s father is his first and most important masculine role model.  How his father treats his mother, the respect level he has for females, and the example of loving and providing he models will be internalized in a boy.  Likewise, a father (or father-figure) who disrespects, abandons, or abuses women might be imitated (perhaps unconsciously) as well.  That being said, men who break those negative cycles (abuse, abandonment, addiction, etc.) that were modeled for them are to be admired.

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