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I was crying all the time and sleeping in the guest room. It was a real shit show.
My marriage was dead, but I didn’t know it yet. If I had known it, I would have never experienced the Eureka effect, which might be the most important thing to ever happen to me.
I was reading How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It (which I’ve made no secret is the most important book I’ve read on relationships), and page after page was explaining myself to me. Explaining my wife to me. Explaining my marriage to me.
It was my “Aha” moment. My “Eureka” moment. The moment I truly understood how radically different my wife and I were experiencing our marriage. The moment I could finally see things from her perspective.
I finally understood why all of our fights started and ended the same way. I finally understood why they were so predictable. I finally understood the most important thing there is for a man to know about his wife in a marriage.
She felt alone and abandoned. And that made her feel afraid and like she couldn’t trust me.
I finally understood the most important thing there is for a woman to know about her husband in a marriage.
My wife was not attacking me or telling me I wasn’t good enough. Just like my wife wasn’t actually alone nor abandoned.
It just felt that way.
She was trying to communicate to me how things I did made her feel disrespected and unloved, but she was doing it in a way that only made sense to her and not me.
That tends to make men feel shame. Like their wives are telling them they are not good enough. It fundamentally changes you on the inside when the person you love the most repeatedly tells you you’re not good enough, even if that’s not what she means to do.
I would get defensive because I always felt like I wasn’t guilty of the things she claimed. She would get angry because I WAS doing the things she said I was doing, even if I wasn’t realizing it. I wasn’t validating her anger and sadness and fear and it made her even more angry.
Then when she got angry, I would get equally angry in return.
We were a ticking bomb.
Because she was afraid and didn’t feel safe. The marriage had ceased to be a comfort zone for her.
Because I felt shame that I couldn’t make her happy and frustrated that nothing I did ever seemed to be good enough for her. I always felt like there was a new thing for her to complain about.
Fear. Shame. Fear. Shame. Fear. Shame.
How husbands and wives manage those emotions will prove the No. 1 predictor of whether their marriages will survive.
Wives who are afraid trying to talk to or fight with husbands who feel ashamed are going to fail at marriage a high-percentage of the time.
Something else important happened. Another “Aha!” moment. I realized that EVERYONE has the exact same fights.
There are always outliers and unique circumstances, but by and large, I realized that the reason these books can be written, read by millions of people, and have everyone nod their heads up and down is because these are almost universally true observations about people.
It’s so important to realize you’re not alone.
YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE.
You’re not. No matter what it is you feel. There are many other people who feel it, too. And when you discover that truth, it changes your life because feeling connected is one of our most basic human wants and needs.
The Nine Dot Problem
The Nine Dot Problem is a classic spatial problem psychologists use to study insight and problem solving. There are nine dots on a page in a perfect 3 x 3 square. The object is to connect all nine dots using exactly four straight lines without retracing or removing the pen from the paper.
The psychologists who conducted the first lab experiment with this problem (Kershaw and Ohlsson) said that in a lab setting where participants are given a time limit of two or three minutes, the expected solution rate is 0%.
You, quite literally, must think “outside the box” to solve it.
How to Save Marriages
I think I experienced something that many (maybe even most) men do not. I experienced the Eureka effect in a very profound way on the subject of marriage and male-female relationships.
And the more I think about it, the more convinced I become: The way to save marriages is to help people have their own Eureka moments.
The question now becomes: How do we get people to have their own Eureka moment?
What is the most effective way to reach people?
I read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It because I was invested in trying to save my marriage. My biggest fear was losing my wife and having my young son growing up a child of divorce like I had.
Fear of loss motivated me.
I don’t know what drives other people, but because I know I’m never the only one, I can infer that there are a lot of other husbands and boyfriends out there who feel as I felt.
So, I start with them.
It will take insightful, creative thinking to change the way people behave in, and think about, their marriages. Habits and evolutionary hardwiring are tough things to overcome.
But there is a way.
I think we just have to draw outside the lines.