27 October 2012

Spanking Out a Wild Fire

One of our readers recently asked if there is anything he could do to prevent the conversations with his wife from always evolving into arguments. If both partners are passionate about their opinions, and determined to prove they are right, finding a solution through debating to a point of agreement might be a bigger challenge than the couple anticipated. What then? What, if anything, should be done if marital discussions about the important issues always end in arguments with no solution being found?

Let us first consider whether marital arguments are something that should be avoided. Many couples insist that they thrive on arguing: heated debate generates passion in the relationship. But is this really the best way for the couple to live? Arguments develop when one or both individuals involved lose their focus and the ability to communicate without emotion clouding their judgment. Arguments commonly include criticism that makes the listener defensive, and likely to retaliate with more criticism or hostility. As arguments progress, those involved try harder to make themselves heard. They become frustrated and angry when they see they are failing to convince the other person. As emotions escalate, those involved in the argument become less capable of communicating effectively: negative emotions cripple the ability to listen and speak.

If the couple is serious about finding solutions to their problems, then arguing is the wrong direction to take. During an argument, the conversation aims at one person’s opinion dominating, instead of blending the couple’s wisdom and finding what is best for the marriage. The criticism component of a typical argument is destructive - people say hurtful things that leave the kind of damage that taints a relationship long after the heat of the battle has past. An argument is not the most effective way for a couple to resolve issues - it may allow one or both partners to vent and relieve some tension, but there will usually be a price to pay for this emotional indulgence. If you want more than just a little tension relief from your passionate discussions, banish the arguments from your home.

But how do we stop arguing when it feels so natural for us?

In non-traditional marriages, it falls on the more emotionally mature partner to take the lead. In a traditional marriage the husband, as head of his home and leader in his marriage, bears the responsibility to pull the plug before a conversation degrades to where it is damaging to the marriage. (The wife can also help prevent an argument - after all, it takes two to tangle - but she lacks the authority her husband has at times like this.) When the husband recognizes that emotion is causing the conversation to deviate from the goal of finding a solution that is best for the marriage, he needs to call a halt to the conversation. It is essential to not assign blame at this time. The husband will achieve nothing positive by saying things like “you are too emotional to discuss this so we will continue later,” or “you are confusing the issue so I refuse to discuss this further”. As leader, he needs to help them both refocus, and that is best achieved with a neutral argument-terminator like “we will put this discussion on ice for 30 minutes”. The words the husband uses to shut down the argument will play a big role in how quickly peace returns to the home. 

Thirty minutes is usually the minimum time needed for both partners to calm down, and gather their thoughts so they can return to the discussion with clear heads. Sometimes a longer break is better, but the matter should not be left unresolved for an indefinite period. Set a time limit for the cool-off period. Take enough time to think about the ideas you want to share that will benefit the marriage - steer clear of ideas and solutions that don’t enrich the marriage. Committing your ideas to paper before returning to the discussion is a good way to keep the discussion focused on the goal. 

But what if the wife disregards her husband’s decision to draw a close to the argument? What if she forges ahead and continues to try to make her point after he has called for a cool-off period? In this case, the husband should respond as he would to any other act of disrespect from his wife. By insisting on fueling the argument after her husband has called a time-out on the discussion, she is blatantly stating that she does not respect his leadership decision, and has chosen to disobey him. If he usually punishes his wife for this kind of behavior, the husband should do so in this case. A spanking may light a fire in his argumentative wife’s bottom, but it will go a long way to putting out the wild fire of an unnecessary and destructive argument. And when the fire in the wife’s spanked rear has died down, the couple can spend some time apart gathering their thoughts before sitting down to try to solve the problem together.

20 October 2012

Expanding the 30-sec Conversation

The husband who communicates easily using his spoken words is not extinct. Such husbands are not even rare. This type of husband is, however, not as common as many wives would like. If your husband is the strong, silent type, are you stuck with a spouse who won’t talk to you? Are you condemned to a marriage of silence if your husband isn’t interested in what you have to share? Is there anything a wife can do to encourage dialogue in her marriage? 

Grantley Morris, is his article “
Improving Communication in Marriage: Understanding Your Partner’s Different Attitude to Talking” suggests that a wife can indeed influence the extent to which her husband shares his experiences, his thoughts, and his dreams through words. Morris not only explores why husbands tend to be quiet, but he also discusses ideas for how a wife can create the kind of environment that encourages her husband to talk more. We will draw on a few of these ideas as the basis for simple, practical steps that anyone can try at home:

1. Show your husband that you value what he says:

While we all know some people who love to listen to sound of their own voice, most folk feel uncomfortable talking when they believe their audience is bored or uninterested in what they have to say. Husbands who are not natural “talkers” will be even more sensitive to these verbal “turn-offs”, than those people who love to talk. Show your interest in everything your quiet husband chooses to tell you, even if he is repeating those silly childhood stories you have heard many times before. Use simple body language to show you are engaged in what is being said (e.g. nod, smile, maintain eye contact, shake your head, laugh at appropriate points in the conversation). 

2. Allow lulls in the conversation:

Instead of filling every moment with words, consciously leave spaces in the conversation. You may have much to say, but a quiet partner will need time to gather his thoughts or percolate what you have just said. If it is your turn to talk, create opportunities that will draw your husband into the conversation: leave silent space in much the same way as you would divide your sentences into paragraphs when you write - let each “paragraph” of speech be separated by thinking time; invite your husband to give his input by actually asking what he thinks about a statement you have made.

3. Don’t interrupt:

Perhaps your quiet husband has said something that irritated you, which you vehemently disagree with, or which triggered a new idea for you. You want to share how you feel about what he said, and you want to do it right now before you lose that brilliant thought. After all, if you share it, it will convince him that you are listening, right? Interrupting is tempting, especially if you feel your contribution will add to what your husband has to say. Interruptions do have a negative side: they break into the flow of what the speaker wanted to share. For someone who is already struggling to put his thoughts and feelings into words, an interruption can squash his train of thought entirely and leave him literally dumb-struck. Wait to share your thoughts. Give your husband a chance to continue his monologue until he asks your opinion or lapses into silence which opens the door for you to speak.

4. Seize opportunities to affirm:

Affirmation, especially in the context of communication, can build confidence and encourage a willingness to communicate. Let your husband know (without being patronizing) that you appreciate his willingness to try to talk. He has made the effort to step out of his comfort zone and share with you, so take some time to demonstrate that your are aligned with his dreams and goals, or that you are feeling his pain, or that you are standing by his side no matter what he is facing. If sharing with her reinforces the husband’s sense of being misunderstood or criticized by his wife, he will clam up. If he walks away from an attempt to talk feeling stupid or weird or alone, he will be unlikely to desire further conversation with his wife. His attempt to talk to his wife needs to leave him feeling as if he has a soul mate who will stand by him through the good and the bad.

5. Ask a relevant question:

If the lulls in conversation grow too long, prompt your husband to keep going by asking a relevant question. You don’t want him to feel threatened so stick to one or two questions that lead on from what he has just said - more than a couple of questions can make him feel as if he is being interrogated. You want to loosen his tongue, and not make him afraid he will say the wrong thing.

6. Do not try to get the last word:

Especially if the conversation is centered on differences which are not resolved during dialogue, it may be tempting for the wife to want to leave her opinion as the last thought on her husband’s mind. Resist that urge to get in the last word. You want your quiet husband to walk away from the conversation feeling as if he is being heard, and that his words are on YOUR mind. Push for it to go the other way, and you probably won’t get another chance to debate the same topic again.
These six, simple steps can make a big difference to how long a "non-talker" keeps talking. If you and your husband typically exchange only a few words at a time, and you long for longer, more meaningful conversations, consider changing the conversation environment. The responsibility for implementing the change falls on the "talker" in the relationship. While this is usually the wife, it could as easily be the husband who leads in conversation. These steps help to encourage a quiet wife to open up, just as effectively as they encourage the quiet husband to contribute to the conversation.

12 October 2012

Why Won’t My Husband Talk to Me?

The strong, silent type makes for a fine hero in a romantic novel, but how well does this "type" of man manage in a real marriage? A man's silence may seem sexy and mysterious during courting, but when the silence stretches into marriage it can confuse and hurt his wife. If she finds talking to be a soothing and enriching experience, it may be difficult to understand why her husband avoids it all costs. Does he do it to spite her or is he a prisoner within himself, frustrated and unable to give her what she needs?
A recent post drew some heartfelt comments about husbands that simply won’t talk to their wives. This code of silence imposed by some husbands on their confused wives causes significant pain and leaves emotional scars, so why do husbands with the physical ability to communicate verbally subject their wives to a wordless marriage? Is it only because they are unloving and selfish and want their wives to feel isolated and confused, or could there be another reason they hurt their wives with their silence?

Grantley Morris, in his article “
Improving Communication in Marriage: Understanding Your Partner’s Different Attitude to Talking” provides an extraordinary window into the world of the silent husband. Obviously, not all husbands are the silent type, just as not all wives are chatterboxes. In some relationships, the husband is the dominant talker, while the wife is more comfortable saying less. Morris acknowledges this, but focuses his article on silent men who frustrate their wives when they refuse to talk and retreat into silence without explaining why they do it.

Morris makes a bold statement that aligns well with the ideals of old fashioned marriage and the traditional marriage roles: “For a man to reveal his heart he needs to feel masculine.”
What makes a man feel masculine?

Husbands put themselves through the filter of what society and their wives expect of them, and guess what? They find themselves falling far short of expectations. The husband sees all his shortcomings, his weaknesses, caught in that filter and his confidence as a man, a husband, and the home leader, plummets. He convinces himself that he is less of a man than he needs to be. His sense of masculinity is attacked by his own sense of self-esteem. The thought of exposing all those weaknesses to the very person (his wife) who expects so much of him is intimidating. It is far easier to hide behind the veil of silence. The silence allows the husband to hold onto his dignity. As Morris puts it: “Strength and silence travel together because silence is needed to maintain the illusion of strength."

But is the silence really only the result of an insecure man who is too focused on his deficiencies and afraid to expose them? “Often a wife’s attitude and expectations have contributed to her husband feeling defeated about how hard it is for him to talk. Many a man has gained the impression that his verbal limitations are yet another thing his wife dislikes about him – or even that she is angry at him for having these limitations,” says Morris. Wives may be a big part of why men retreat into silence, if these wives do not clearly communicate (not just through words, but at all levels of communication) that they love and accept their men unconditionally. Husbands need to know, and truly believe, that their wives do not expect them to measure up to the fantasy heroes found in romantic novels, in the same way that wives need their husbands to assure them that they are beautiful and loveable despite not looking like a runway model. 

A man who is aware of his weaknesses, and fears the criticism of his wife will hesitate to expose his vulnerabilities to her. After all, from his perspective sharing with her will only provide her with ammunition to criticize him more harshly than she already does. He does not need to be reminded that he is not enough of a man for her. To protect himself from further verbal abuse and humiliation, he puts his heart (weighed down with its sense of unworthiness) behind a protective barrier.

There are indeed countless treasures that a wise wife can extract from her silent husband. It will take patience and it will take some significant skill, but most women have what it takes to develop this patience and skill. “
Improving Communication in Marriage: Understanding Your Partner’s Different Attitude to Talking” contains some gems of understanding that can help wives make sense of the behavior of their quiet husbands. In the spirit of exploration and discovery, we invite you to join us as we dig a little deeper into this article in search of ways to encourage communication in wordless marriages.

10 October 2012

Rule-breaking Hiccups

Frustration related to a marriage partner is not uncommon in marriage. It happens in good marriages and it happens in bad ones. (The difference is that the frustration is not neglected, but swiftly dealt with in a good marriage.) Frustration has a myriad of sources, some of which may seem trivial to someone outside that marriage. An emotionally frustrated spouse may feel as if he or she is not being listened to, that they are putting in effort that isn’t being recognized, that they alone are doing all the work to grow the marriage, that they are not worth the attention of their partner, or that all their effort is producing too few or no results.
Traditional marriage, like any other type of marriage, is not exempt from frustration, and both husbands and wives have to deal with it at some point. One common source of frustration for a wife in a traditional marriage, especially during the first few years of growing into the traditional marriage role, is the inconsistent handling of rule-breaking. When the husband puts a rule in place, he should communicate what the consequence will be if the rule is broken. If the wife breaks the rule, and realizes what she has done, she expects the promised consequence to follow.
What happens if the expected consequence does not follow? What happens if the husband doesn’t even seem to notice that the rule he insisted on having has been broken? Or imagine that the husband does notice (and the wife observes this), but he ignores the offense for reasons he doesn’t communicate to his wife.
The non-responsiveness of the husband typically elicits a chain of reaction from his eager-to-be-submissive wife:
1. If the husband is in the same room, the wife may actually respond physically by tensing up and catching her breath when she realizes she has crossed the line. If the realization comes a little later when she is alone, the reaction may not be so physically noticeable, but it will trigger the start of a period of anxiety. As she waits for her husband to speak about or act on the broken rule, her state of anxiety may expand to match the magnitude of the consequence she expects.
2. After an appreciable time has passed and the wife finally concludes that her husband either hasn’t noticed or doesn’t appear to care, she may initially feel relief. Facing an unpleasant consequence is stressful, and having that consequence vanish after an anxious wait can evoke a rush of soothing calm. (For wives who are expected to confess their offenses to their husbands, they may only feel relief after the confession.)
3. The relief is often short-lived. Anger and disappointment may follow quickly on the heels of relief. Faced with the unfairness of being subjected to a stressful waiting period for no apparent reason, the wife may feel that anger (or at least some measure of irritation) is justified. Disappointment may flow from making the situation too personal - in the midst of the emotion she feels, the wife may convince herself that her husband doesn’t care as much about the marriage and her as she previously thought, simply because he didn’t notice what she did wrong or care enough to say or do something, if he did notice.
4. Uncertainty or confusion about the rule and its importance in the marriage follows. The wife is understandably confused by why her husband would make a rule that he himself does not respect enough to remember or defend. It’s not that she wants to experience the consequence that was promised - she probably dreads it - but the consequence brings some closure to the event which has (by this time) taken up a substantial amount of the wife’s thought life. Without the closure, the memory of the broken rule just gets pushed aside as unfinished business. If it takes substantial effort for the wife to obey the rule, it flies in the face of logic to continue to observe the rule if the husband behaves in a way which communicates that the rule is unimportant. Her previously clear expectations of the consequences for breaking the rule are now clouded by uncertainty. The husband's response to the rule-breaking is his opportunity to exercise his authority - by responding with no words or action, the husband is sending a subtle message that he is unable or unwilling to exercise his authority.
If the husband continues to repeat this behavior (of disregarding consequences that he put in place), his wife’s frustration will grow as her confidence dwindles.  The wife’s frustration will gradually breed disrespect for the house rules and eventually for the husband’s authority. The end result? A husband who doesn’t feel respected, a wife who feels her submission has been a wasted effort, and a home and marriage in which the harmony and co-operation is eroding.

05 October 2012

Surrendering Your Bunch of Keys


The submission of the wife is her willful surrender to the authority and leadership of her husband. Can that surrender be measured on a linear scale that stretches from defiant and unyielding to totally surrendered? Or is it an all-or-nothing type of transaction - either you are or you are not submissive? Perhaps there is another way to visualize submission.
Think of a woman as a complex being comprising many different zones or “rooms”. Together these rooms within her nature make her the unique individual that she is. These rooms are furnished with experiences and the lessons learned from these experiences. Each room carries its own emotional identity: some rooms are crowded and disorganized, one or two may resemble a battle zone where the dust hasn’t settled, still others reveal patches, duct tape, and scars upon closer inspection. Keep looking and you may find still more rooms characterized by confidence and boldness - in these rooms, the woman is rarely rattled by threats or challenges and is eager to be hospitable and let others in.
At the core level, in the control room where she stands watch over all the rooms in her mansion, the woman chooses to submit herself to her husband. She wants a husband-led marriage, and the price she must pay for this powerful union is to give her mansion to her man. She is eager to share it, but still a little afraid that he won’t treasure all the rooms as she does. She has been the mistress of the mansion for a long time, and has put a lifetime of work into looking after every room. Can he really take as good care of her rooms as she does? The wife thinks long and hard about it.  Her will evaluates all the options and finally chooses the path of surrender. She loves her husband more than she treasures her mansion, and she wants to give it to him.
Excited by the prospect of sharing herself so deeply with her husband, she hastens from room to room, inserting the key in the lock that opens the door to the outside. In the rooms where confidence saturates the environment, she swings that door open without hesitation, inviting her husband in. Without thinking twice, she gives him the keys to these rooms. He can do with these, her favorite rooms, what he wills.
She hesitates a little with the rooms that need some (or a lot of) attention. She is embarrassed by the mess, and would prefer to have more time to restore some order. Her husband assures her that he doesn’t mind a little chaos, and that he will be happy to help her organize that space. She hands him one key after the next, convinced that he doesn’t think any less of her for having a few crazy rooms.
Then her husband points out one of the remaining rooms. May he go in there, too? The wife hesitates and reluctantly pushes open the door just a crack so he can see inside. It is clean and tidy, he observes as he peers past his wife. The key is tightly grasped in her hand, and she doesn’t invite him inside. “Will I be master of this room, too,” her husband asks? The wife nibbles her lip anxiously, and finally mumbles “yes, I guess so”.
Her husband pushes the door open and steps inside. His gaze sweeps around the room, and he admires the furniture and the artworks on the walls. He notices damage everywhere he looks, and that it has been neatly patched up. He sees the repair tape holding some books together, and the glue marks on the side of the cracked vase. There is wire wrapped around some broken chair legs, and neat repair stitching pulling together the shredded upholstery on the sofa. He wonders out aloud about what happened in this room, and his wife is quick to brush his query aside. When he moves to sit on the old chair in the corner, his wife guides him away. “You’re too heavy - you’ll break it,” she whispers timidly. He moves to pick up a pretty china teacup from the table, and his wife snatches the little cup from him. “Careful, honey. You might let it fall. It’s one of a kind.” She promises to leave the door open at all times, but conveniently forgets to hand the key to her husband.
Does this describe a submissive wife? Or does her hesitation to trust her husband in one area of her life exclude her from bearing the title of “submissive wife”? 
A wife that has chosen to walk the road of submission has made a wise choice. That choice, however, only gets her to the starting line. From that point forward, she is one of the elite: the courageous few who have chosen to submit to their husbands - she is a “submissive wife”. Ahead of her lies a journey many women hesitate to take. It may scare her a little, but she knows she wants to take that journey. Her heart has converted to submission, but she may not realize that it will take time for the rest of her to follow that example.
A wife doesn’t make the choice to submit and instantly get beamed across to the destination of “Perfect Submissionville”. She must walk the long, sometimes rough and thorny, road into submission, one choice at a time. Will she drag her big bunch of keys with her the whole way and hand them to her husband when she arrives in “Perfect Submissionville”?
With every step she takes along that road of submission, the wife’s desire to unload the weighty keys will grow. A patient husband who loves first and exercises his authority second will make the journey appear shorter for his wife. He will quickly collect her set of mansion keys as she willingly shares them with him. His bunch of keys will grow as she leaves the little gifts upon each milestone along the road.  
Not the patient husband type? Go ahead. Demand that bunch of keys at the start of your wife’s journey into submission, or even part way into it. What will you get? Most likely you will get a few keys. You might even get a lot of them. But will you get them all?

01 October 2012

Punishment for Silence

Effective communication between spouses is characteristic of a growing marriage. But what happens when the lines of communication get tangled or cut? Should a wife's failure to communicate with her husband be a punishable offense? And what if the husband is guilty of shutting his wife out? Since the wife in a traditional marriage does not discipline her husband, is there anything she can do to help her husband avoid the urge to distance himself?
When deciding what is or is not a punishable offense, it is important to take a careful look at why the rules and consequences are in place? For many couples, the marriage rules protect the marriage and the harmony in the home. Choices and behaviors that pose a threat to the integrity of the marriage or the peace in the home are generally off-limits. Venturing into these off-limits zones will invite punishment.
Communication is the life blood of the marriage. What if one partner cuts off that "blood" flow? Does this not threaten the health of the marriage? A husband or wife that puts up walls (consciously or subconsciously) between themself and their partner is indeed putting the marriage at risk. A little silence may seem small-scale and insignificant on the surface, but shutting your partner out of your thoughts and feelings inevitably begins the process of eroding trust. A marriage without trust is a skyscraper without a solid foundation, destined for disaster.
Is it wise to put in place a rule that governs avoidance of communication?
Communication works best when done regularly. Regular communication is, however, challenged when one partner finds themself battling with an issue that is not easy to grasp or talk about. It is not uncommon for the person experiencing this inner turmoil to withdraw deep into themselves. The solitude creates a "quite space" where it is possible to process thoughts and emotions that are initially difficult to put into words. Retreating into this "quiet space" can be a healthy way to make sense of what is causing the inner unrest. Many people use this visit to their "quiet space" to explore their feelings and seek out the words to explain what they are experiencing. Staying in this "quite space" for too long can, however, have a negative effect. Getting stuck in that "inner cave" means you leave your loved ones on the outside, confused and uncertain of what is happening to you. The self-absorption overwhelms everything else, and it becomes easy to justify neglecting your partner or your responsibilities to your family and the home. Lurking alone inside yourself for too long is dangerous for the marriage, and a rule is a good way to steer clear of dangerous situations.
A clearly stated marriage rule can function as an escape hatch, providing a way to turn your back on unhealthy self-absorption. People come in all models, and cover the communication spectrum from talker to non-talker, so there is no generic rule that applies to everyone. Each couple needs to take their own personalities and communication skills into account when setting up their rule. In its simplest form, the rule should set a limit on how long the partner can remain in their individual "quiet space" before the couple needs to start working on the issue as a team. Part of the power of a marriage is the availability of joint resources to aid the problem-solving process. Working together not only expands the personal toolbox of "fix it" gadgets so you find and apply the solution faster, it also strengthens trust and brings the couple closer together. 
What happens when this rule about keeping the communication lines open is broken?
When setting up the rule, a couple should decide on the consequence for breaking the rule. If spanking is part of the relationship, it can be employed as a consequence. A husband may offer his wife the consequence of a punishment spanking if she resists returning from her self-focused retreat and avoids engaging in the process of sharing her thoughts and concerns. This may seem insensitive and unkind, especially if the wife is dealing with deep, emotional issues. But recognizing that extended periods of self-absorption can be unhealthy for the wife and for the marriage should provide the motivation that the husband needs to create and enforce this rule. Should the time limit apply to the husband, too? His withdrawal can be just as damaging to himself and the marriage as his wife's withdrawal would be. Yet his wife does not have the authority to punish him as he can punish her for putting the marriage at risk. Should the husband then be exempt from the rule and the expectations placed on the wife?
A wife's greatest gift she has to offer her husband is her submission. This is as true when he is a selfless leader as it is when he becomes self-absorbed and selfish. The following may seem grossly unfair to the wife, but chew on it for a while before you spit it out. Consider an approach that may nudge you out of your comfort zone, especially if you do not already have similar consequences in your marriage. Consider keeping the consequence the same irrespective of which partner breaks the rule.
If the husband fails to open the channels of communication after he has had time for inner reflection, he has the responsibility to give his wife a spanking neither of them will enjoy. This would not be a punishment spanking for the wife, since she has not broken the rule. It would be an act of submission on her part - a gift to her husband in much the same spirit as he gives to her when he punishes her for the sake of the marriage - and the unpleasant consequence would fall most heavily on the shoulders of the husband. His punishment would not be in receiving a spanking - it would be in giving it when his wife is innocent of the offense.
By giving the spanking, the husband's leadership and authority, and all the responsibility that goes with serving his family as the leader, is placed under the spotlight. In carrying out his duty to spank his wife knowing she does not deserve the spanking, he is reminded that he is still the leader, even if he doesn't have it all figured out yet. He is refocused on the value of his marriage, as he witnesses how his wife treasures their marriage enough to accept an undeserved spanking to protect it. His failure to observe his own rule results in his wife bearing his physical punishment. Having someone else pay the price for our errors is a humbling experience. This spanking would serve as a reminder that the consequences for the mistakes of a leader are seldom his own to bear - his followers, those who trust him to protect them, often pay the price on his behalf.