I learned a trick from a book I never read, just skimmed: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray.
I would probably have fits at some of the things Mr. Gray teaches. But I remember only one point, and it made sense to me. He said when your husband is in his cave, do this little thing: Find something that makes you happy. And get busy doing it.
On the surface, his advice sounds selfish, perhaps even indulgent. But he has a point, and I’ll tell you why.
Consider several thoughts with me:
1. A man has to disengage temporarily if he is to stay engaged permanently.
He’s going to have a cave or two. He just is. No matter how effectively you argue, he will not budge on this point. If you finally badger him into giving up one, he will find another that’s equally pointless, probably worse. All men need a place of retreat.
2. When you fight his need to withdraw, you are removing the very thing that enables him to plug back in.
Be thankful that he’s a good man choosing a relatively innocent cave, no matter how dead-end it looks to you.
3. A wife has a choice of two brain-paths while her husband is disengaged. At the risk of being cutesy, I will name them Stewing and Cooking.
Stewing is fuming. He’s doing this again, and what is he thinking, and what the world am I supposed to do while he’s off caring about himself? Stewing makes you feel like a date that got taken to the party and left to stand with her back against the wall, trying not to look forsaken while everyone else dances.
Cooking is popping a little something warm in a pot to enjoy while he’s gone. Cooking may mean you learn a new hobby, you call up a friend, you watch a movie with the kids, you tweak a project, you read a good book… you let him go, see? and you get happy cooking up a little venture of your own.
I suppose there may be a third brain-path: a really mature wife might not notice he’s gone? But that’s not likely.
4. Though he cares very little what you think when he’s heading for his cave, he cares very much what you think when he’s coming home (but he won’t tell you so).
He may be slightly ashamed of himself; at any rate, he knows he owes you. Here is the crucial moment, your opportunity at last to say something that will go deep.
He needs to have a doorway back into warmth and relationship. He shouldn’t have to skulk in. He’s a man, albeit a fallen one, and he desperately needs your respect.
Stewing makes it nearly impossible to keep the door open. By the time he drags himself back, the house is roiling with sour fumes and bitter air. Stewing begs for conflict, for the right to punish him for his spelunking, and you can think of infinite ways to do it…
(Shari would like to confess that she is very familiar with this brain-path.)
(The one that starts with S.)
Cooking makes it possible for you to welcome him with a bright face, because you have been enjoying yourself too. Cooking fills the house with warmth and sweet aromas, a place he’d like to return to. But you understand we’re not just trying to lure him back? We’re making a happy life that does not require him to be our happiness 24/7… which is never a realistic goal for a marriage anyway…
What do you think?
- There are a few men in the world who want to spend their entire lives in caves, which is devastating for everyone around them. That’s not what I’m talking about. Certainly there is a place to appeal if your husband’s habits are harming himself and his family.
- This post was intended for women. Guys, don’t read too much into it.
- In all of these matters, I really don’t know what I’m talking about.
Now I feel much better.