To say that relationships are difficult is an understatement. As a psychotherapist and couples counselor over the past decade, I have been interviewing and providing therapy to many couples. On one particular afternoon I found myself borrowing my dad’s car to get to a client meeting in Mississauga. I was stuck in morning traffic with little radio options at the moment, so I decided to listen to whatever cd my father had in the car. What came out of the sound system I was not prepared for. The energetic and engaging voice that filled the car belonged to Aryeh Pamensky, a Rabbi dedicated to providing couples with strategies for creating extraordinary marriages. Now, I wasn’t married at that time, nor was I a religious person. But something propelled me to listen on. He was talking about relationships. So as a relationship counselor, I was interested to hear what he had to say. Within minutes, I was hooked. He made absolutely sense, and was incredibly entertaining in his delivery.
I listened to his complete series of How to Make a Good Marriage Great. I listened to each one first, then listened a second time while making notes, and then a third time to see if there was anything I missed. I then decided to apply some of his tools to my own counseling practice to see what would happen. They worked. Couples started communicating more effectively, were connecting more frequently, and generally reported greater levels of happiness. After nearly a decade of incorporating his tools and techniques into my practice, I wanted to share them with you.
The first thing I learned from Aryeh’s work, which was confirmed by thousands of interviews/counseling sessions with my own clients, was that Men and women are, DIFFERENT! Full stop. What the hours of interviews and counseling taught me was that they didn’t understand each other; how their partner communicated, how he/she connected, or engaged in conflict. What they needed was structure and training on how to understand the other to move their relationship from disconnection to connection.
I then began to ask them questions about the ways in which they thought they were different. The women described themselves as, ‘Relationships beings’, meaning that the essence of who they felt they were was centered around relationships. Men, on the other hand, did ‘not’ describe themselves naturally as a ‘Relationship being’. The other important factor that came from the interviews was that women felt as though the relationship to her husband was the most important and intimate one she would have in her life. Here’s the problem. We now have a dynamic where a woman has to have the most important relationship of her existence with someone who is not oriented towards relationships. Do you see the challenge? Of course there are outliers, and not every couple fits into this scenario. Don’t take my word for it. Turn to your partner and ask these questions.
So now we have a ‘Relationship being’ with a ‘Not’. How could this possibly work? As the woman is naturally oriented towards relationships, she becomes the guide/navigator in the relationship. That is her job. We’ll go into greater detail about what that entails later. But for now, let’s just get the basics. Now, what does a man need to survive in a relationship with a ‘Relationship being’? A job. His job is to make his wife happy. When does he do this? ALL THE TIME! When we explored the reverse scenario whereby the woman makes the man happy, here’s what we found. The man is happy. End of scene. The happiness trail stops there. As a result, the woman becomes perpetually dissatisfied. However, when the man takes action to make his wife happy, she multiplies that happiness and gives it back to the husband ten fold. It becomes a constant giving of happiness.
With the strategy identified, we then needed to explore specific tools for making women happy. The tools we identified include Attention, Affection, and Appreciation. Next week, we’ll dive head first into these specific tools. But for now, I’ll leave you with a short story called The Husband Store.
A brand new store has just opened in New York City that sells Husbands. When women go to choose a husband, they have to follow the instructions at the entrance:
“You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are 6 floors and the value of the products increase as you ascend the flights. You may choose any item from a particular floor or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you CANNOT go back down except to exit the building!”
So, a woman goes the Husband Store to find a husband.
The 1st floor sign reads: Floor 1 – These men have jobs.
The 2nd floor sign reads: Floor 2 – These men Have Jobs and Love Kids.
The 3rd floor sign reads: Floor 3 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids and are extremely good looking.
“Wow,” she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.
She goes to the 4th floor and The sign reads: Floor 4 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help with Housework.
“Oh, mercy me!” she exclaims, “I can hardly stand it!” Still, she goes to the 5th floor and The sign reads: Floor 5 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, help with Housework and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.
She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the 6th floor and the sign reads:
Floor 6 – You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.
Written by Jaime Saibil, Psychotherapist at Helix Healthcare Group