1. Respect his judgment
The men were really touchy about this. A man deeply needs the woman in his life to respect his knowledge, opinions, and decisions—what I would call his judgment. No one wanted a silent wallflower (not would I advocate that!), but many men wished their mate wouldn’t question their knowledge or argue with their decisions all the time. It’s a touchy (and difficult) thing in these liberated days, but what it rea3lly comes down it is their need for us to defer to them sometimes.
Several men confessed that they felt like their opinions and decisions were actively valued in every area of their lives except at home. Some men felt that their comrades at work trusted their judgment more than their own wives did. Also, while a man’s partners or colleagues will rarely tell him what to do (they ask him or collaborate on the decision instead), more than one wife has made the mistake of ordering her husband around like one of the kids.
2. Respect his abilities
Another strong theme that emerged was that men want—even need—to figure things out for themselves. And if they can, they feel like they have conquered something and are affirmed as men. For some reason, spending hours figuring out how to put together the new DVD player is fun. Problem is, we want to help them—and guess how they interpret that? You got it: distrust. (It’s a wonder any relationships work and that the human race didn’t die out millennia ago!)
And, of course, our attention is not all benign. Sometimes we truly don’t have confidence that our man can figure something out on his own.
The little things equal one big clue
We don’t realize that the act of forcing ourselves to trust our men in little things means so much to them, but it does. It’s not a big deal to us, so we don’t get that it’s a big deal to them. We don’t get that our responses to these little choices to trust or not trust—or at least act like we do!—are interpreted as signs of our overall trust and respect for them as men.
A man might think of it like this: If she doesn’t trust me in something as small as finding my way along a road, why would she trust me in something important, like being a good breadwinner or a good father? If she doesn’t respect me in this small thing, she probably doesn’t really respect me at all.
The next time your husband stubbornly drives in circles, ask yourself what is more important: being on time to the party or his feeling trusted. No contest.
3. Respect in communication
Women hold an incredible power in the way we communicate with our men (both husbands and sons) to build them up or to tear them down, to encourage or to exasperate.
Some things just push a man’s buttons. This goes beyond what we say—such as questioning a man’s judgment or his abilities—and into how we say it (and where we say it, which is the subject of the next section).
In my interviews, a large number of men said something like this: “When my wife says something disrespectful, I often think, I can’t believe she doesn’t know how that makes me feel!” I had to reassure these men over and over that their wives probably didn’t mean to disrespect them and were likely just clueless.
Let me give you several common examples of how a man might hear something negative where the woman never intended it.
Not long ago, I was asking Jeff and one of his married colleagues about the dynamic of men wanting to do things for themselves. This man said, “Something, if something breaks in the house, I want to try to take a crack at it before I call an expert. If my wife says, ‘Well, you’re really not a fix-it-type person,’ I feel so insulted. She’s not rude about it or anything, but it’s like she doesn’t respect me enough to believe that I can figure it out if I put my mind to it, even if it takes me a while.”
In a survey—as in life—a sizable minority of men read something negative into a simple female reminder. I asked men what would go through their minds if their wife or significant other reminded them that the kitchen wall was damaged and it still had to be fixed. More than one-third of these men took that reminder as nagging or as an accusation of laziness or mistrust.
Crank up that filtering system
No matter what we think we are saying, in the end, what matters is what the guy is hearing. Obviously, some people can be overly sensitive, and we can’t walk on eggshells all the time. Nor do we want to pass up all opportunities to help them understand our communication writing.
After all, don’t we want our husbands to adjust to our sensitivities? Do you want your husband to publicly tease you about gaining ten pounds? It’s all about loving each other the way the other persons needs to be loved. Even as we help our husbands understand that we have a learning curve on this, we should make every effort to filter our words through a “disrespect meter” before they pass our lips.
4. Respect in public
Now we come to one of the most important points of the book. There appears to be an epidemic of public disrespect for men, and the biggest culprit is not the television, movies, or other media, but the women who are supposed to love their men most.
The most fragile thing on the planet
Dozens of men told me how painful it is when their wives criticize them in public, put them down, or even question their judgment in front of others. One man on the survey said that they one thing he wished he could tell his wife was that “at a minimum, she should be supportive of me in public.” That wish was repeated dozens of times on the survey—it was one of the strongest themes that emerged.
Consider this statement, which I have heard (in essence) from many men: “My wife says things about me in public that she considers teasing. I consider them torture.”
Be respectful even when he’s absent
Having seen how important public respect is to men (it is almost impossible to overstate), I have become incredibly sensitive to how often we might talk negatively about them behind their backs. The effects are much the same even when a man isn’t present: The women’s disrespect of her husband becomes even more deeply embedded as she harps on it, and those in listening range may begin to feel the same!
Showing public respect goes a long way
Just as your man will be hurt and angry if you disrespect him in public, he will think you are the most wonderful woman in the world if you publicly build him up.
Trust me—from the men I’ve talked to, that will be the equivalent of his coming home to you with a dozen roses and a surprised date night without the kids. He will feel adored.
5. Respect in our assumptions
Unfortunately, in one area men have every right to read something into what we say—and that is when we have jumped to negative conclusions about them. When we really examine our communication, we’ll be astounded at how often is assumes something bad about the man we love. See if any of these assumptions ring a bell.
We assume, “He needs to be reminded”
To us, repeatedly asking “Have you done it yet?” is probably not a big deal. But inherent in the question is our assumption that the guy needs the reminder—that he is either incapeable of remembering on his own or that he remembers just fine but needs our prodding to do the job. What they are accurately hearing is “I don’t trust you.”
Just realize that his reason for not doing it may be different from yours. Remember, half the men on the survey indicated that sometimes they just have different priorities. OR they could just be unable to handle one more thing. One man with a stressful job noted that he sometimes feels like a computer that will crash if he tries to load one more thing onto it. For him, procrastinating on something his wife wants him to do at home is his warning sign that he will emotionally crash is he tries it.
We assume, “He’s choosing not to help”
One experienced female marriage counselor gave me this example: “If my husband doesn’t help with the kids or the cleaning, I shouldn’t assume that he sees it and is choosing not to help. I should start with the assumption that he doesn’t see it.”
We assume, “It’s because of him”
Finally, sometimes something is not his fault—it’s ours. Sometimes we assign unloving motives to our men that could actually be traced back to something we have inadvertently said or done. For example, a wife who is constantly critical of her husband may spur him to withdraw emotionally to protect himself, thereby becoming unloving where he wasn’t before.
“Men are not stupid,” says Dr. Eggerichs. “They are not Neanderthals. Sometimes these behaviors that appear to be unloving are not unloving at all. They are reacting that way because they interpret something as disrespect. Even if something they shouldn’t.”