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Read Letter

Loving Understanding

My dear Jack, at some point you’ll have to ask yourself what your wife really wants. Note that it’s not a generic thing common to all women. It’s something peculiar to her, something particularly her. When you know what that thing is – and chances are she’ll have told you in one of your conversations, then you have to look at the implications, understand the implications. If your wife for example tells you she “just wants to be happy,” commonsense dictates that’s not giddiness she’s talking about. It’s something deep, probably goes to her childhood. One implication is that she can’t handle strife at home. Some people are good at malice. They keep malice for months, and even years. Not her. For her, quarrels have to be resolved speedily. The more quarrels drag on the unhappier she becomes. It can break her down. She just can’t handle strife. Such a person can’t be vindictive of course. Vindictive people are retaliatory. They will do things to injure, hurt or spite their partner. Not her. Find out what your wife really wants, know the implications, respond to it. If you do every other thing and don’t fulfil that desire all your effort will count for nothing.

There’s a wisdom that comes with age. It’s not readily available to young men. Which is why young men joke with stuff that can fracture their marriage. The idea of this letter is to give you advance knowledge. That way you won’t make the stupid mistakes of youth. One of those mistakes is a man not taking his wife seriously enough. That can prove dangerous to a marriage.

You need understanding. Perhaps the most underrated thing in marriage is understanding. And understanding is not just about predictability of actions. It’s a loving disposition, the desire for oneness. Understanding is hardly communicated in words. There’s a knowing. The couple know each other, as in know each other. They love each other deeply. Understanding is a heart thing, not a head thing. It’s about identifying with each other, wanting to be identified with one another. Understanding is about a couple seeing themselves as one, living each other’s life. There are two bodies but one entity. On the surface they’re different entities, even radically different entities. But because they love each other so much their difference is celebrated with love and affection. That love means you get to the point in which you say to yourself, it doesn’t matter what she does I’ll always love her. Why? Because you know she won’t seek to hurt you on purpose. Love doesn’t do that. There may be negligence, and even carelessness, but there’ll be no deliberate hurt. It’s why love is important in marriage. Without love marriage will be hard. Without love it’s just one dutiful dryness. Love is actioned however. It’s not just emotional feeling. Emotional love has its role in marriage but it can’t sustain marriage. There’s no effort in it. It’s just triggered feeling. The love that sustains marriage requires effort. You do things to show you love. You take steps, act, anticipate, fulfil, serve. That’s what love is about.

The other thing is that every marriage has a contract of roles. There’s an understanding of roles. In some marriages the man is the bread winner while the woman manages the home. In some others the woman earns more. The man however plays a spiritual role. In that capacity he teaches and demonstrates values to the kids. There are marriages in which the man bathes the kids and takes them to school; whereas in some others it’s the other way round. A lot depends on partner dynamics. Do what works for you. Concede to talent and disposition. Stop the machismo stuff. If your wife is better than you at something, concede it to her. We all have our talent, we all have our disposition to roles. It’s the seamless mesh of those roles that create a beautiful marriage. There are really no rules to these things. What matters is cooperation and agreement between the parties – the sense of oneness. But whatever your assigned role help out where you can. That’s because you love your spouse. The other side of the equation is that you don’t do some things because you don’t want to hurt your wife. That consideration has to be powerful. It’s important.

One of the big roles for men in marriage is being the final dumpsite for burdens. It’s a position of ultimate responsibility. You become responsible for your family. You take moral leadership. You can’t be a man and not be responsible. There’s something incongruous about an irresponsible man. You can’t divulge responsibility from manhood, there’ll be contradictions. There are of course expectations from society as per manhood. You’re supposed to be a man! That’s a huge word in society. What you want to avoid however is what is called toxic masculinity. That’s merciless, emotionless and unsympathetic manhood. It’s an uncaring manhood – doesn’t care about the feelings of women, does damage to female emotions. You don’t want that kind of manhood, though some men exhibit traits of toxicity without even being aware. Once awareness comes one must autocorrect. You have to care about the feelings of women. You can’t just use women and dump them. That’s toxicity and it’s dangerous stuff. Trying to be caring calls for the kind of emotions men are not normally comfortable with. It’s deep, scary and unsettling. But if you want a successful marriage you have to curate affection. You have to be caring.

If you know your spouse doesn’t like something don’t persist in doing it. If you want a happy marriage that is. Love forbears. If you persist you’ll scare her about you – your possibilities. You have to be sensitive in your marriage. You have to watch out for subtle changes in the mood of your wife, watch out for subtle changes in pallor. You also have to realise women don’t conversate like men. The structure of their conversation is different. There are just some things that are peculiarly women just as there are things that are peculiarly men. You don’t seek to change such things. You acknowledge and work with them.

If you want a happy marriage you’ve got to learn to listen. Even if you’ve got the gist of the conversation from the first few minutes you still have to listen to your wife. When a woman wants to make a point or vent about a grievance it’s not just about facts. The venting of her feelings is important. It’s as important as those facts. Men don’t always understand this. It’s why they want summary of facts. But the woman wants to vent her feelings. Besides, summary is too short for the venting of feelings. It’s why it seems she’s repeating herself, or even rambling, or taking several detours, like she just can’t go straight to the point. It’s like she branches off in several directions at every node of her narrative. She’s trying to vent feelings. When she has vented her feelings the narration will come to an abrupt end. That always puzzles men. That’s because men don’t understand it’s more about the venting of feelings rather than narration of facts. Think of the processional hymn in an orthodox church. When the organist sees the verses are being consumed faster than the procession can make it out of the door he does a flourish. It’s to create more time. Same with the dynamics of facts and feelings. Think of the facts as the verses of the song. To fully get the feelings out the woman does a flourish with the facts. She’s like the organist in my father’s Methodist Church. You must allow her vent those feelings. And anyway if you don’t allow she’s still going to find an excuse to express those feelings. She’ll go analogical in another conversation to smuggle in what she wanted to say. Once you hear, “It’s like I was trying to tell you in that conversation we had,” she’s smuggling in an unfinished ventilation. Of course you’re going to wonder what the connection is. She’s just trying to make the point you denied her opportunity of. She needs to vent those feelings. This is why men can never understand the structure of a woman’s conversation. They’re concentrating on logic whereas the woman is ventilating feelings.

Do all you can to ensure love and happiness in your home. You want love and understanding in your home. When there’s no harmony there’ll be unhappiness. But when there’s understanding there’s a microwave background radiation of joy.

Loving understanding. That’s a powerful combination of words and letters. Every home needs it.

Your mentor, LA.

You need understanding. Perhaps the most underrated thing in marriage is understanding. Click To Tweet Understanding is a heart thing, not a head thing. It’s about identifying with each other, wanting to be identified with one another. Click To Tweet Without love, marriage will be hard. Without love, it’s just one dutiful dryness. Click To Tweet The love that sustains marriage requires effort. Click To Tweet
Tags : Responsibility, Understanding, Communication

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