Men share their secrets at secretsofmarriedmen.com/
Women are better at relationships, right?
Not so fast.
Relationship experts and students of evolutionary biology argue that women are endowed with superior skills for managing dyad dynamics. But let's take a look at that proposal more carefully. Can men be masters of relationship skills?
Consider the following men, not well known in the world of relationship literature: Eric A. Cornell, Wolfgang Ketterle, Carl E. Wieman. Not familiar to you? Then perhaps you'll recognize the names Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, or author Sir V.S. Naipaul. These are all names of Nobel Prize winners of 2001--three in Physics, and one each in Peace and Literature. In fact, last year all the Nobel Prizes, including those in medicine, economics and chemistry, went to men. A lucky year for fellows? Hardly. In the past decade, the Nobel Foundation granted prizes to only four women.
Men can master skills in the sciences, literature and leadership. It doesn't end there. Men have demonstrated excellence in endeavors from architecture to culinary arts. Is it such a leap of logic, then, to believe they can master relationship skills as well? My experience as a marriage therapist, and research on SecretsofMarriedMen.com, tell me that men have a wonderful aptitude at making a union last. Having a man's brain--a man's problem solving talents--is an asset, not a liability, for committed relationships.
Why would men seek to gain credit for achievement in this in this arena? After all, it would be easier to cede marriage-maintenance skills over to women. I, for one, would love to come home at the end of a workday and find my wife, Susan, has put all the pieces into place to make our relationship go smoothly. But Susan may have different ideas! I work on making the marriage better because I adore my wife, and want to do everything possible to fulfill her dreams. But it's not easy.
Let's look at the statistics. Despite their marriage vows to endure better or worse, women more likely to react to marital unhappiness by leaving. Wives precipitate two-thirds to three-quarters of all divorces and separations. They are more likely to express discontent-- the female raises 80% of all household arguments. Women are also more likely to criticize their spouses.
It's understandable that women express discontent in the home, as women traditionally, and statistically, have rule of the roost. According to Steven Nock, author of Marriage in Men's Lives, women do the lion's share of housework and social planning. So they have the right to raise household concerns. But each complaint they lodge puts the ball in the husband's court. Instinctually men shun these complaints by stonewalling or becoming defensive. When a husband responds by avoiding his wife, the quality of the marriage declines. The unsuccessful husband assumes his wife is a relationship expert, and reacts in kind to her harsh lead, thereby further contributing to marital discontent.
Statistics suggest that men husbands can counter their wives' discontent by becoming marriage experts themselves. 85% of the variance in whether a marriage succeeds or fails is based on the husband's actions and attitude. John Gottman, PhD, discovered that successful marriages involve husbands who resist immediate negative reactions to their wives' concerns. These men increase the odds of having a happy marriage by allowing themselves to accept the influence of their spouse. They recognize an opportunity to use their "man" skills to solve the problem. These husbands view marriage woes as they would any malfunctioning household item; they take it apart and try to fix it.
Clarke, a 30-year veteran of marriage, demonstrates these principles in a contribution to SecretsofMarriedMen.com. "When my wife asks me to do something, almost anything, my initial reaction used to be annoyance because I have lots of work to do, lots of things to do around the house, and lots of other bullsh-t reasons why not. However, most of what she asks me to do is actually quite reasonable, usually my responsibility, and I probably will end up doing it anyway. So, now I've trained myself to say 'yes' or 'no problem' as my initial response. This has contributed to less arguing and a better relationship."
For too long the Mr. Fix-it role has been the object of derision among women. Therapists see men's "tell-me-the-problem-and-I'll-tell-you-a-solution" approach as being insensitive to deeper issues affecting the relationship. The bottom line message of popular culture is: the thing men are best at-problem solving-serves no role in relationships.
That's why I established a Web site and research base meant to honor men's approach to relationships and celebrate the ways we make marriage work. At http://www.SecretsofMarriedMen.com, men contribute confidential insights into their marriage experiences. (Women are also invited to contribute). I then compiled the information gathered on the site, and wrote The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wife's Heart Forever
The Secrets of Happily Married Men earns its title from two kinds of secrets. One is the secret that a man keeps from his wife. Not the dark sultry secret of an affair or off-shore bank account, but a restraint in sharing the details of his day to day thoughts and actions with his wife-inside and out of the marriage. He may hide romance strategies (like the man who keeps notations in a Palm Pilot to send his wife flowers weekly) or feelings (of vulnerability or shame). These are things that men may have learned, over time, to keep to themselves for the benefit of the marriage. Bobby is a good example of such a man. Married for just three years, he states: "In the past I have shared things about my past family problems with an expectation that she would understand where I am coming from. The response is unsympathetic or an argument is thrown back at me. So quite apart from my natural tendency to be more reflective than talkative, I find I clam up."
The Secrets of Happily Married Men also is about the secrets we men don't tell each other. Victor, for example, describes mastering his relationship with his wife without support from other married guys. "Women want you to listen and understand, not solve the problem. I'm a married man of 14 years and a survivor of many verbal battles with the opposite sex. I never shared my survival techniques with anyone." He has not studied from or taught other men about relationships. Yet he learned valuable insights which he shares with readers of the Web site: "When engaged in a disagreement, listen closely with your ears and make good eye contact for at least two to five minutes before you speak. This gives the impression of caring and concern, and gives time to think before you speak. Never make excuses or offer a solution before she is done speaking. Also, never leave the room before resolution is reached. I feel that if men could understand and perfect the above techniques, they would be much happier in their marriages."
Traditionally, men aren't educated in relationship skills. It is a long held truism that men don't buy relationship books. Even when an author pens words of advice for men, most editors politely decline the invitation to publish. Men's magazines, with few exceptions, avoid the vexing reality of relationships, reveling instead in the search for the perfect set of abs. Tightening our musculature, we are counseled, will insure that nubile women will lust after us. Similarly, "The Man Show" advises us on the best jobs to attract chicks. But what do we do once we marry them? Look at the periodicals and television directed to men-you won't see anything about that. Committed relationships end up being quite a bit more complicated than Maxim would have you believe. When it comes to marital duress, men interpret the media's silence as proof that such problems are unusual. SecretsofMarriedMen.com reveals marital strife is the rule, not the exception.