Friday, September 22, 2006

The Complexities of Men

I've been thinking about "respect" today.

In the book that I'm reading "Married But Not Engaged," the author explained a bit about what respect means to a man. Now, I've always known the verse in the New Testament that tells men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands. The problem is that I was never taught what respect means to a guy and really what it should look like coming from me!

I'm going to explain some of what I've learned (but please.. if I say something about men that you guys out there disagree with, please excuse me: I'll be relating what I've read... and though I might have been conceited enough before to presume that I could know any of the inner workings of a man, I will humbly take any correction that you guys can give me about the complexities of men.)

First off, the book mentioned a pole (which I can't seem to find in the book right now, but I can remember it! If anyone cares, I could find it later). Men were asked to choose between two situations. "Would you rather be alone and unloved or disrespected by everyone?" An overwhelming number of men said that they would rather be alone and unloved! When I thought of how I'd answer, it took me quite a while to decide (this is a really tough question, I thought) I think I've come to the conclusion that I could live without respect but to be alone and unloved by anyone... to me that seems harder. I asked Youssef that question (before telling him what other people had said) and he hardly had to take long to think about it. He'd rather be alone and unloved than disrespected!

Wow! (says my womanly perspective.)

Another eye-opener to me about respect is the "unwritten rule" that men have with each other to leave the other man with his dignity. For instance, the guy in the book gives fly-fishing lessons. He said that when he notices one of the guys making a mistake, he'll help him out by telling him how he can make a better cast, but if the guy keeps making the same mistake, he will leave him alone! Men would rather make a fool of themselves in public by doing something poorly than to have another man be condesending to him and disrespect him as a man by pointing out his failing!

I'm sure most men are thinking this is really dumb for me to point out, but women don't innately have this "code of honor" built in!

Women (at least from my experiences, and I do have a little more expertise here) have the code of conduct that I've just now decided to call... fresh off the cuff... wait for it... the empathy code.
If a woman was in the place of the guy giving the fly-fishing lessons and saw another guy who kept messing up, she would probably think to herself what he must be feeling at this point and want to make him feel better. 'He's probably embarrassed,' she says to herself and maybe he just didn't hear her rightly when she told him the first time. She might say something to give him encouragement, tell him a story about when she first learned to fly-fish. She might even suggest that he watch how the other students fly-fish, maybe watch how Cindy Lou right beside him baits and casts. (I'm sure if you are a guy reading this and have put yourself in the place of the unlucky fisherman, you are cringing as you hear what the woman is doing to this poor guy.) And if this happened to a woman learning to fish, not only would she accept the public correction easily -- she'd most likely feel grateful, glad that the teacher is understanding her troubles!

Here's a fictitional scenario (though very much like several Youssef and I have experienced lately).

The husband is home from work and his wife is making dinner. The kids are running around the living room fighting again about the same toy, one might be trying to make the other eat a bug or something, perhaps there is a baby crying and she's wanting to be held. The wife is trying to make a delicious meal. Everything is bubbling and boiling, and she's trying to keep the fish from burning, set the table, yell at one child to stop jumping on the other and hold a baby while stirring the sauce (trying to do so without the baby being able to reach the pot and burn itself).

The husband is exhausted from his day and sits down for a minute to rest. The wife, naturally, is also exhausted from her day, but unfortunately her day hasn't ended yet. She thinks to herself...

Doesn't he see that I need help! Why doesn't he offer to help me...
Several things could be going through the wife's head at this point (perhaps all of them)... she might be thinking that he's stupid for not noticing what is happening all around him. The main thing that probably will bother her is that she will probably think that he doesn't love her enough to make the effort to help her with something that he obviously must see.
(and guys.. help me on this, do you see this usually? I might be wrong, but perhaps guys sometimes miss seeing what women think is obvious because--if a man were in her shoes--he would ask for help if he needed it or wouldn't if he didn't. Maybe women are suppose to notice more... anyway, back to the story.)

He doesn't love me. (she thinks) He could help me, he's just being lazy. He's stupid for not noticing. (did I leave anything out ladies?) Her respect for him at that moment is plummeting.

Now after much thought like this, then the wife starts to get angry at her husband's supposed stupidity. She might say something snappish. "Can't you see I need help!?" "Why don't you do something about your sons!" Or perhaps she won't say anything right then, but the snappishness will come out when she tells him to take out the garbage. Or perhaps she doesn't get angry at his seeming stupidity, perhaps she becomes depressed thinking that he really doesn't love her, that he married her just so that she could cook and clean for him and "do everything".

So.. that night he wonders why his wife isn't in a congenial mood and when he wants to kiss her she pushes him away and says that she is tired.

Now coming from her point of view, he has violated the code of empathy that most woman show to one another. He failed to notice what she was going through, failed to offer his help, and if she asked for help--even if he helped her with a smile and attitude of love (which won't nessesarily happen especially if she is asking in a nagging, snappy way) --she feels that, by her having to ask him, his help means almost nothing because he couldn't figure out the workings of her mind for himself.

You see where this is going...

He didn't offer without your asking because to a guy that would be disrespectful!!! AND possibly in the past when he did offer to help you, maybe you said "That's all right" wanting him to ask AGAIN (!!!) to show that he really, really loves you.

Actually, what is happening (a lot of the time) is the husband respecting the wife by waiting for her to ask him, and the wife is disrespecting him because she acts like he is stupid (even if she doesn't come out and say that)!

Another example of a wife disrespecting her husband could be just in how he does something with the baby or how he does the dishes. Her tone of voice is condescending as she says that "No, you do it like this" .. and perhaps (shame on me, for I know I've done it) she keeps correcting him, possibly the entire time he changes the baby's diaper (Youssef does a fine job at changing diapers by-the-way.. that was just an example. ;)

The great thing is that if woman knew this how foundational code of honor is to men (that maybe you guys thought was too obvious to share) EVERYTHING is better! Just in the past few days, I've realized so much of what I was doing was so unfair to Youssef. He was showing his love all the time that I thought he wasn't "understanding" me. Actually, I was not understanding him! Now I respect him SO much more because I understand where he is coming from... I don't think he's irritating or dumb for not noticing that I need help. Consequently, I'm showing him more respect, and in turn, he's showing me more love and appreciation!

Oh! Another thing that's really helped me to understand my husband: Think of the requests that your husband has of you, list them even, now look at them as if they are a need from him that only you can fill... he wouldn't think of asking for those things if it weren't really important! One very small thing (small to me) that Youssef had asked me to do was to buy his deodorant for him. I thought was silly that he couldn't do it for himself, but for some reason, it put a big stress on his life. Usually those small things have to do with buying something (or writing a thank-you letter, or some such thing) for him.
Now.. come on, who really would mind going shopping.. especially to be a huge help to their husband!

(Now at the risk of embarrassing conservative Christians, a brief talk of lovemaking) Here's the thing, (great beginning, I know) when your husband asks if you two can make love that night, it's a big deal. To us women, it might seem more like a fun thing like "Honey, do you want to dance tonight?"
To them, it's a much bigger deal (don't ask me more; I'm not a guy), but the thing is that's okay! (A woman who has had the thought that her husband doesn't "understand" her, and that's why he didn't offer to help her can feel a bit used when he wants to make love. She might think that he doesn't love her, and that he's using her just for some selfish pleasure.) For the Christian man that has saved sex until marriage (even a non-Christian man who chooses to be monogamous) and been bombarded by our culture, comedy, magazines, girls walking down the street--he's saved himself from all of that for his wife, as God intended, and is showing his love for her in that way, a need that only his wife can fulfill. When we women use our handy empathy, we can see how he is showing a deep love for us. If we see that he is cherishing us in all of that, we women then want to respect him even more for his sacrifices to be pure for us in everyday life. Even those sacrifices to be pure before we met, all culminating into his need, the need that he dares to express to us even in the face of possible rejection and ridicule! What brave men to stand before our misunderstanding eyes!

... It makes me want to respect them even more! ;) Wouldn't it be wonderful if we wives could start that cycle of respect and love in our homes? In fact, it's the only way to make our marriages spiral upwards. Compare the two codes of honor and empathy. If the man understands the women's code of empathy and acts on it, he can never get it right. His empathy would be trying to guess what the woman wants, thinking, "Well, if I were in her shoes, I would want this." His guess at what she wants would come from his code of honor and respect. It's hard to guess what someone wants. It's even hard sometimes for women to guess what other women want, or what they themselves want! You can imagine the situation where he does something that is wrong, and he says, "I thought that's what you wanted." And she gets mad for that, and disrespects him more!
But! if the woman understands and acts on the code of honor, the respect builds from understanding his decisions that spring from the code of honor inside. She understands that he will come when she asks for help. And that asking for help does not ruin his expression of love. When I wanted Youssef to help with the dishes, I felt it would ruin it (the act of him showing his love) if I asked. if you think about it, how can he come help if he is respecting me by not helping and I don't ask for it! If you try to complete the logic, it springs up an infinity or Error answer on the calculator! That's why the woman has to begin respecting her husband!

When I saw Youssef after he came back from the trip, he seemed like a new man in a way... Actually, he seemed like his old self like when I first fell in love with him (only even better.) He seemed to walk taller. His eyes were bright. He was truly happy. He said that he felt like I listened to him now and could feel a rest in my company. That's because I wasn't expecting him to be or do a certain thing, and my emotions didn't go on the impossibly-too-complex-to-follow rollercoaster. I'm really happy too, because I do know that he loves me, and now that I'm showing him the respect he deserves and longs for, and then he is striving to show his love for me even more!

May the circle remain unbroken... ;)


Rick Capezza said...

I haven't read this book yet, but I did order it on interlibrary loan. I'll either read it or ask Rachel to read it and tell me about it.

One interesting comment you made was about the deodorant. What seems like no big deal to you can be a big stress for Youssef. For me, it stresses me out to hear, "What do you want for dinner tonight?" I know, it's considerate to ask, but sometimes I just can't think of what I want. My first thought is, "Something that's good, fits my mood, and I don't have to decide!"

Daniel and Natalie said...

I believe that you have reached one of those Aha! moments Lynne'. Isn't it great when that Happens. I love it anyway! I think that could be a very good start for something more. Keep going with that idea study the scripture on the subject and see what the bible has to say about it too:) I really like the ideal of the Honor code and the empathy code that seems to be generally (not always) but most of the time the way men and women think!

Daniel and Natalie said...

just a couple more comments. I was thinking about the not asking if the wife needed help for dinner and that the not asking was honoring the code of honor. I don't know if that's always the case. In my own life it's more likely that I am being selfish and not wanting to help or that I truly don't see the need of my wife for some help. However when I do see the need and ask and she says no hoping that I'll ask again that is when that code of honor comes into play. To ask a second time if she needs help would go against that code. It would be like when one guy asks another if he needs some help and is given an answer in the negative then asks again which would be to say "I think you really do need help and that you can't do the task set in front of you."
Another thought that I had was in the work place. In my new role as a section lead I need to check myself in that code of honor. If I make a suggestion to someone who is making a mistake, I expect them to change what they are doing so that costly mistakes are not made. If that person chooses not to change thier way and keeps doing what they are doing I have to shut down that natural code of honor and tell them again to not mess up what they are doing and cost the company time and money. This comes with the responsibility that I have to my employer to ensure quality and speed. It's a fine balance though because I also don't want to be disrespected by those whom I am overseeing because that might hinder getting the job done. That's why I desire to have people working with me who have a "teachable spirit and attitude"
Natalie's interjection: Speak the truth in Love.
That's all for now.