Whenever my wife asks me to go somewhere with her, I do. But she is often dissatisfied with me afterwards. I can’t seem to please her, even though I’ve been known to miss more than one important ballgame to go shopping. I put aside what I wanted to do and went along, but it still wasn’t enough.
Caroline: Trouble is, that probably isn’t what she wanted. If it was only about the act of going shopping, she could have gone by herself. You need to ask yourself, “Why did she want me to come along?”
The different wiring in men and women can lead to unintended problems. A typical man is task-oriented. He thinks that, if he simply carries out the task his wife has asked him to do, she should be pleased. So he turns off the game, they go to the mall, she buys an outfit and they return home. Somehow, she isn’t pleased. What happened? He went, didn’t he?
For the woman, his agreeing to come along is only the beginning. She sees his accompanying her as an opportunity for their relationship to grow. She wants companionship and attentiveness. In other words, it isn’t so much that she wants you there — it’s that she wants you to want to be there.
Tom: Good grief, do we mean that she expects you to like shopping!? No, not particularly. First, she wants you to want to be with her. Second, she wants you to find real joy in doing something for her. This is the crux of the matter. If you exhibit true joyfulness during your outing, it isn’t because your interests have suddenly coincided with hers; it is that you are truly stepping outside of yourself to please her.
Isn’t this, in fact, the heart of what marriage is designed for by God — to make a gift of oneself to the other? By setting aside your own desires for her sake, joyfully, you send the message that nothing is as pleasing to you as seeing her happy.
By contrast, if you go with her but spend the whole time sending verbal and physical signals that you would rather be anywhere else (Could you please hurry up and get what you need so we can go?) — or if you sneak off to the electronics department to watch the game — you undermine the whole purpose of doing something for her.
When we lived in Texas, Caroline used to love going out to a restaurant that had nothing but a soup and salad bar. Being a typical meat-eating male, I would have picked anywhere else but this place. But I consented to go, without complaining (usually), because I knew it would make her happy. And you know what? That made me happy. Which made her happy. You get the idea.
Tom and Caroline McDonald
are family-life coordinators
for the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama.