Ok guys, this one is for you.
Let me tell you a little story and you see if it sounds like something you have experienced.
It’s your wife’s birthday (sub in ‘girlfriend’, ‘partner’ if needed ) and you, thinking you are ahead of the game, smugly ask a week or so in advance, what she’d like as a present. Score one for you right? You’re on the ball, you are thinking of her, you are asking what she likes. What could go wrong?
So, let me tell you, your logic is not wrong. You are on the ball, you are thinking ahead and you’re being considerate in asking what SHE would like. So far so good. What you haven’t taken into account, is whether she is able to give you the logical answer.
In an ideal world, where we had all had our needs met, and felt safe and confident in ourselves, this whole scenario would play out as you would want. She would be pleased, tell him what she’d love for her birthday, assuming it was reasonable, he would do it. Bam, done! Happy couple.
BUT, the sad news is, very few of us, especially women, have made it through life in a way that led to having self-confidence and a feeling of safety with people close to us. Most women have been conditioned to suppress their own desires and needs and to put others first. Most women do not have any idea what they would like for their birthday, let alone how to ask for it.
The latent anger and resentment built up over years of denying our own truth, suddenly rears it’s ugly head when asked a simple question such as “Hey honey, what do you want for your birthday?”
We have never been asked before.
We have been asked but only denied our desire if we did have the gumption to say it.
We have been told we shouldn’t even have needs and desires.
We have been laughed at or put down because of our desires.
We have pushed men away or scared them off by stating what we want.
Do you see what I’m getting at? Your simple question, requiring a logical answer, is completely beyond the realm of what most women could conceive of in any reasonable way.
So, to get back to my story, she answers “I don’t want anything” and shrugs her shoulders. Somewhere deep inside though, her little girl is hoping and wishing for him to read her mind, her innermost desires, and somehow, magically just KNOW.
If he cares about me, he will know.
If he pays attention to what I say, he will know.
If he loves me, he will know.
Her mind creates endless stories about this. None of which are helpful to the poor guy, who just asked a simple question.
And so, the day comes, and he gets nothing, because that’s what she said, right? I mean he asked didn’t he? He was willing, she said point blank she didn’t want anything. So how could he be wrong?
And then the storm hits.
Her inner story jumps out, and she is irrationally angry at him for not doing anything for her birthday, no present, no special dinner, nothing.... He must not love her like she thought. How could he?
Now, you see were this is going? Recognize the story?
Is it anyone’s fault, no not really. I mean, they are both acting with good intention. They are both thinking they are in a good relationship overall. So, what can we do?
I put this story out there, to bring attention to the fact that even today, men and women experience very different cultural messages when they are growing up. To expect the other sex to act in accordance to the way WE would do something, is not helpful. They have a completely different reality often, and we can’t understand it without stepping outside our own perspective and getting curious.
“Honey, I really want to make you feel special, are you sure you don’t want me to do something for your birthday?” He might add “It would make my day to be able to show you how much I love you.”
It may take much work on creating an atmosphere of safety and communication within your relationship, before even a simple question like this is answered satisfactorily.
It is not all the man’s responsibility, but he must help her to grow and accept her right to have needs and wants. This is one of the greatest gifts you could give her.
So start there, offer the gift of listening to her words AND her actions, offer her the time and safe space to open up to you. I guarantee you it will be worth it. A confident, empowered woman is a gift to her partner, to her family and to the world. A great man or partner behind her makes the impossible possible.
Get curious, ask more questions and wait for the answers,