And Won’t Come Out

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.

Be careful.

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?


Three disclaimers:

  1. 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.
  2. This post was intended for women. Guys, don’t read too much into it.
  3. In all of these matters, I really don’t know what I’m talking about.

Now I feel much better.

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11 years ago

I once heard a speaker call it a man’s Nothing Box. It’s always nice and quiet in There.

11 years ago
Reply to  Josh

But I guess that doesn’t really address the problem.

11 years ago

Yes, yes that’s exactly how it is. I used to S a lot, finally discovered C is better. Because if you stew, he owes you anyway. Then you have the hard job of changing from ‘mad’ to ‘happy’, and that’s not fun. Or easy.

11 years ago
Reply to  Rose

So, so true.

Lorene Horst
11 years ago

I will confess that I have done a lot of stewing myself….but I am slowly learning (with many repeats of failing) that what you wrote about cooking is very true….we gain more in the long run when we choose this path of creating an atmosphere of warmth for our men to return to. Keep writing lady!!!

11 years ago

Good stuff here, my friend!!!!! But when can we get together and discuss all these things over coffee?? 🙂

11 years ago
Reply to  Shaunda

Sometime, when both your husbands are off in their caves– wouldn’t that qualify as “cooking”?

11 years ago
Reply to  renita

Yes, Renita!! I’m sure that would qualify as quality cooking. 🙂 The biggest issue is that the cubs will need to join papa in the cave for the evening, which means that his cave will NOT be a quiet thinking kind of place. 🙂

LaDonna Nice
11 years ago

So true! I do have to say that I know some men that stay into their caves and go deeper and deeper partially because they don’t want to face the stewing woman that they know is always on the outside. I’ve found the more comfortable and wonderful I make life outside his cave the less he wants to go into it. Now, the more children I have the more tougher this is. I mean sometimes I want to cave.;-) and to be honest sometimes I do fight resentment. How can he go to his cave when my world is falling around me. lol Sometimes I am successful with cooking and sometimes stewing is the word. Thank you for this reminder to cook instead of stew! Also want to say that thankfully, I have a husband who gives me that opportunity to go to my own cave every now and again. Which begs the question, Do woman have caves? Should they? Maybe we have tree houses. Because try as we might we can never truly separate ourselves from what’s going on around us:-) We might be able to pull up the ladder now and again but that’s it. 😉 Some of us ladies were just talking the other night how this mothering thing is almost like a cruel joke sometimes. You want to get away by yourself, and then you are gone for an hour or so and you miss the flock at home like crazy. Anyway, excuse this looong comment. Love the way you put all of this into words we as woman can understand! Great post!

11 years ago
Reply to  LaDonna Nice

Here’s what I thought when I read this post: I think I have more caves than my dad does. 🙂

11 years ago
Reply to  becca

Yes. My thoughts too. Well. At least I think I crave my cave more than my husband typically does. Reality is that our current life does not grant either of us many opportunities to hibernate in our caves.

Shari Zook
11 years ago
Reply to  becca

Shhhhh. [wink] Surely not?

You notice I carefully avoided speaking of a woman’s need to disengage. He-he.

11 years ago

I like this. The concept could be used in other areas besides caves – focusing on something positive instead of what could get us down. It also made me think of this recent post; not only is it funny, but her thoughts on being “disappointed” women are so good. (Hope the link works!)

11 years ago

He owes you………….?!?! Why

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