Wednesday, January 20, 2010
By: Dr. Patricia R. Rose

Women and men business professionals have some issues in common; but, there are issues more likely to affect men than women and vice versa.  In this article I focus on you men.
You have reached the point in your career where things are going well.  People like you, respect you, and take your advice more often than not.

Then you go home to your spouse and do everything wrong.

She has all kinds of problems, some important and some that seem, frankly, trivial.  And however earnestly you try to help, it seems like the evening just gets worse and worse.  And all you really wanted to do was relax and enjoy being at home.

Does that sound familiar to you?  It may not, these issues are not universal.  But for many of you, it will sound familiar. So, you probably have a lot of frustration around unanswered questions.  And, good news – some of those questions have answers.  If your wife is currently a stay at home wife, you may feel that her “problems” are a lack of understanding of business.  Not so.  If your wife is a business professional at your level or higher, you will still encounter some of the same problems.

Question:  Why does she sometimes get so upset about things that aren’t important? 

Men and women share a lot of issues they find important but there is some non overlap as well.  Let’s just take one example.  Chances are your wife has at some point described some social event in which she gave a great deal of detail involving everything that was said and what it might mean and what each person might have thought about it.

To you this conversation is mildly boring at best.  Who cares if Judy got her feelings hurt about what your wife said to Maria and so on.  Everyone will just get over it and if they don’t…..?

Answer: Women in general care a lot more about relationships than men in general.  It has nothing to do with education or professionalism.  You care about business relationships and major events with close friends.  The importance she places on relationships you would see as casual is at a much higher level.  And the circle of people she cares about is larger.  And finally, women tend to take responsibility for relationships more than men.  If you have a run in with a friend, you probably blame him; your wife probably blames herself.  The bottom line: these issues are important…to her.

Question: Why does she ask for my advice and then not listen to it?  Why won’t she let me solve her problem?

She outlines how badly she feels and wishes she could fix something.  You show her how and she argues with you.

Answer:  Men in general and professional men in specific enjoy problem-solving.  And in nine out of ten cases, your wife does not want a problem solved.

Think about that for a minute.

This is not work, this is home.  This is not your business associate this is your life partner. In nine out of ten cases she just wants you to listen.  She wants to think aloud to someone who cares about her.  She is not asking for advice, she is asking for an empathetic ear.

Question: Why does she cry about every little thing?

She cries when she is upset with you, she cries when a friend treats her mean, she cries if you give her something nice for her anniversary, she cries when a friend gives her good news….

Answer:  In the first place she doesn’t cry as much as you think, because men over-react to tears.  And women are much more likely to express emotion – many kinds of emotion – as tears.  Tears mean different things to women than to men.

Question: So what do I do?

What a good question. 

Answer: In the first place your marriage is not always going to be calm and unemotional no matter what you do.  But you can make things better rather than worse.

Empathize: When she is upset it is important to her even if it would not be to you.  Look at things through her eyes and try to see it as important.

Don’t take it personally:  No matter how much she loves you, her feelings of anger, depression, frustration, etc. are not necessarily your fault.  And, even if they are your fault, she wants your attention a lot more than your apologies.

Listen: The most important thing – and the most difficult thing – you can do.  You will want to jump in and solve that problem.  Don’t.  If she wants specific advice she will ask for it and even then give advice sparingly.  Even if you could solve her problems, it will usually come across as condescending; and, since you don’t live her life, chances are you can’t solve her problems. 

Try to just listen.  Try to understand what she is saying, try to understand how she feels – not how you would feel in her shoes, but how she feels.
And what good does it do her for you to just listen?  Trust me – a great deal.

Author : Dr. Patricia R. Rose
Dr. Pat Rose has worked at her private practice in Dallas since 1987 helping a clientele of highly successful and professional people, usually 70% men.  You can learn more about Dr. Rose here on the Find-a-Therapist.com Directory.