Commenting in a recent web article, Dr. Jonathan Swinton, a marriage and family therapist, lays out a common problem men encounter on a regular basis:
“If a man’s wife is struggling and he tries to do something to buoy her up, when she doesn’t feel better, he gets frustrated with her, he gets frustrated with himself, and he gets frustrated with the marriage.”
Swinton says one of the best ways for men to make their wives happy is to forego "their tendency to try to solve the problems” and just listen to them.
This listening vs. problem-solving approach highlights three frustratingly common relationship myths. Take a moment to watch (or re-watch) this popular video to see these myths in action:
Relationship Myth #1: JUST LISTEN TO HER
Swinton gets one thing right: Listening is not enough:
“Listening and validating goes a whole lot further. Most of the time, what the woman wants, as least initially, is just somebody to listen and understand where she’s at.”
Dragon Recognition — the skill of listening and validating — is the first half of the Sigma Skillset.
In my experience men can be good listeners, but they tend to focus on the reason behind the emotion instead of the emotion itself. When a woman feels bad, typically she already knows why and doesn’t need her husband to elaborate on the finer points of her issue.
Note the exact moment in the video when the woman’s demeanor changes: When the man validates what she says (“That sounds really hard” at the 1:12 mark) and she affirms, “It is.”
Relationship Reality #1: When first encountering a dragon (a woman’s problem, stress, or crisis), recognize and validate the effect of the dragon, not its origin.
Relationship Myth #2: JUST ACKNOWLEDGE HER FEELINGS
Sometimes listening and acknowledging the threat of a dragon is enough to help a woman feel better. Just knowing that you “understand where she’s at” may help her to move on. Unfortunately, as the final seconds of the video prove, that’s not always the case. When a problem is more severe a man needs to take action. In video’s exaggerated case, the woman’s head will continue hurting until the nail comes out. The real issue?
Men still want a women to tell them what she needs. “I really want to be helpful, but I need you to tell me if you want me to help (or just listen) and how you think I can best be helpful,” wrote one man. Others wanted us to remind women that men aren’t telepathic: “I can’t read your mind” was a common statement.
In the video, even though the man understands and acknowledges the problem, he still doesn’t act. He wants the woman to recognize the source of the problem and ask him for help. This desire signals two things to her: He really doesn’t understand her pain and he’s too weak to do anything about it.
Relationship Reality #2: After recognizing and acknowledging a dragon, offer to slay it.
Relationship Myth #3: SHE DOESN’T ASK FOR HELP BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T NEED IT
Women don’t ask for help for myriad reasons. In the end, none of these reasons really matter. It’s not that she needs help — she’s strong enough to take care of herself. But when an understanding man is willing and able to help, it signals strength, caring, and true security.
DRAGON SLAYING — the skill of actually taking care of a problem — is the second half of the Sigma Skillset.
Imagine this exchange:
Man: That sounds really hard.
Woman: It is.
Man: Can I take care of that for you?
Woman: (response doesn’t matter)
Man pulls out nail (POINK) and quickly bandages the wound.
Man: Boy, I know that hurt. I’m so sorry. Don’t worry — it’s over. Everything will be OK.
Relationship Reality #3: After offering to take care of a problem, act quickly and decisively.
Applying the Sigma Skillset when a problem rears its ugly head always results in a satisfying conclusion — even if it doesn’t garner 8 million views.
Dr. John Alexander is an expert on marriage relationships and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about the Sigma Roles in marriage, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.