Millennial husbands who are resistant to changes in the gender dynamics of their marriages are susceptible to using tactics described by John Gottman who has studied husband and wife interactions over the last 20 years,
According to Gottman, over 80% of the time, it is the wife who will bring up a marital issue. If you find yourself trying to avoid discussing these issues with your wife, you are likely using one of four tactics: stonewalling, defensiveness, criticism, or contempt. These are the typical tactics resistant husbands use when their wives approach them with a request, a complaint, a problem, and issue.
Stonewalling. According to Gottman, the stonewaller is the husband in 85% of marriages. You are stonewalling when you withdraw from an interaction with you wife by getting quiet or shutting down. You may turn away, stop making eye contact, cross your arms, or leave the room.
- Your wife asks you to join a family outing on a sports-heavy weekend. You respond with folded arms, muttering “whatever.”
- You accuse your wife of “nagging” when she tries to raise a concern.
Defensiveness: When you are defensive you are essentially saying to your wife that she is the problem not you.
- Your wife wants to talk about keeping on budget instead of spending money on the newest electronic devices. You respond, “How about how much money you spend on clothes!”
- You are reading and your wife calls from the other room, “What are you doing?” Your response is “What’s wrong with me just reading for a while?”
Criticism. A criticism and a complaint are not the same thing. A complaint addresses a specific action; it is describing something that is occurring. A criticism is a characterization of your wife; it is about her not about the situation. (see post TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY)
- A criticism is “I hate it when you don’t let me know that you are going to be late. You are really self-centered.” A complaint/request is “I get worried when I don’t know where you are, could you call me when you are going to be late?”
- A criticism is “We never go out to have a good time, you are such a homebody, you’re no fun!” A complaint is, “I really like to go out more than you seem to. Can we talk about this, maybe go out this weekend?”
Contempt. Contempt is a big one. Contempt implies your wife is not deserving of your respect of her wishes and wants. It can be conveyed through insults, name-calling, hostile humor, mockery, tone of voice and facial expression. Contempt will eat away at your relationship, rapidly and painfully.
- As a discussion over who is doing what around the house, you start rolling your eyes at your wife. You start thinking about all the things you do for her and that lack of support you get. You finally say, “Oh, don’t bother to help. I’m sure you do so much more than I do. I am so happy to just be your handyman around the house!”
These are four tactics that husbands historically have used in order to:
- resist the influence of their wives
- avoid looking at themselves
- manage a personal sense of threat
As a millennial husband, you can do it differently. You can become more aware of your own reactions to your wife, you can learn to be more self-reflective, and you can learn to collaborate and negotiate. These new “tactics” can be your part in creating a sustainable, stable, and satisfying marriage.
Gottman, John M., and Nan Silver. (1999). “Principle 4: Let Your Partner Influence You, “in the Seven Principles for Making Marriages Work (Chapter Six, 100-127). New York: Three Rivers Press (Random House, Inc.)