Don’t just chalk up wife’s con­cerns to Venus

Austin American-Statesman - - TV TONIGHT - cAroLYN hAX Tell Me About It is writ­ten by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. Her col­umn ap­pears on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day. E-mail her at tellme@ wash­post.com.

Dear Carolyn: Why do women ex­pect men to be mind read­ers? My wife has been grous­ing around lately. She fi­nally erupted, “Just once I’d like to come home and find you made the salad for din­ner!”

“You want a salad? Call/ text/e-mail and it’s yours!”

To which she replied those killer words, “I shouldn’t have to!”

It’s the same with gifts. She won’t tell me what she wants ex­cept, “Jew­elry is al­ways nice,” but she never wears the jew­elry I buy her.

I know this is a Mars/Venus ques­tion, but we are well-ed­u­cated, pro­fes­sional peo­ple. All I ask is that she tell me what she wants, and she ex­pects me to read her mind. If she re­ally wants com­pro­mise, then she can’t ad­here to her im­pos­si­ble ex­pec­ta­tions. So, again, why do women ex­pect men to be mind read­ers?

— North­west

Dear North­west: Why do peo­ple at­tribute to an en­tire sex the be­hav­ior of one per­son?

Call­ing this “Mars/Venus” un­der­cuts your pro­fessed goal of reach­ing com­pro­mise, be- cause it de­fines your wife up­front as “other.”

It would be more pro­duc­tive to see her as a per­son, like you, who has wants, needs, doubts, and who makes choices (both thought­ful and re­flex­ive) based on those mo­ti­va­tions.

And just like many, male and fe­male, your wife has an idea of the way a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship is sup­posed to look. Ap­par­ently, she be­lieves a lov­ing mate will study her wants and needs, then step up word­lessly to sat­isfy those needs.

While we all like to think we’re cre­at­ing some­thing unique, new­com­ers to re­la­tion­ships — and vet­er­ans with­out men­tors — tend to fol­low scripts based on ob­served be­hav­ior. Thus flow­ers at the doorstep, pro­pos­als on bended knee, dec­la­ra­tions of “You don’t know me!”

It’s also not un­com­mon for such a clunky ro­man­tic tem­plate to go un­chal­lenged well into a mar­riage, if there’s lit­tle flex­i­bil­ity and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween your par­ents; no good pre­mar­i­tal ed­u­ca­tion or skilled cou­ples coun­sel­ing; no eye-open­ing trauma; no ma­tu­rity leap from ei­ther of you.

If you’d like your wife to chuck her script and talk from her heart, then you have to chuck yours. No more play­ing the sen­si­ble, put-upon Mars to her ir­ra­tional Venus.

From now on, these are the only play­ers: your needs, her needs, your feel­ings, her feel­ings, your frail­ties, her frail­ties, hon­esty (even when it scares you) and your mu­tual hu­man­ity. “You should have made a salad” of­fers no rem­edy, so ask her what the salad thing is re­ally about — feel­ings, not food. “I feel dis­cour­aged/frus­trated/lonely, and here’s why” in­vites you into each other’s thoughts. That’s what in­ti­macy is about.

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