Fear and Shame
I honestly never realized that men and women were so different. I mean, I knew that my husband and I looked at things quite differently, but I guess I assumed that it was because of the basic differences in our personalities. He’s an optimist, I’m a pessimist (at least at the beginning of our marriage, but that’s a whole ‘nother post!). He’s a slob, I’m a neatnik. He’s happy-go-lucky, I manage clinical depression.
Now I find out, if research is to be believed, that there are biological differences that manifest themselves in infancy! I’m an intelligent, educated and curious person and, of course, I knew men and women were cut from different cloths. But somehow I never really absorbed that information in a way that pertains to my relationship with my husband.
According to the research in How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, baby girls, when they are born, are comforted by eye-to-eye contact. They will remain engaged with a caregiver as long as he or she maintains contact. The girl is comforted by this prolonged contact and feels fear if she is deprived of this closeness.
Baby boys, while needing the same contact, are overstimulated by prolonged eye contact and will look away. Because the caregiver will then assume the baby is no longer interested, he or she will break contact, which causes a feeling of shame (which we learn to label as rejection) for a boy.
Women, by nature and years of evolution, avoid FEAR by developing and maintaining relationships. The more they talk about their troubles, the closer they feel. Vulnerability is exposed to get the closeness they want.
Men, on the other hand, do not see relationships as a comfort and tend to invoke the fight-or-flight response to trouble to avoid feeling SHAME. They have learned to hide their vulnerability.
So what does this all boil down to? Fear and shame are not bad things. Fear keeps us safe – most of us don’t do things that are inherently dangerous. Shame keeps us moral – most of us do what’s right.
The basis of our connection with each other – man and woman – is how we relate to each other’s emotions. In a good marriage, the husband will, at some level, make the wife feel safe and the wife will make the husband feel valued and admired. If either person fails in the response to the other’s needs, a never-ending cycle of failure ensues.
So here’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Have I done a good job of making my husband feel important and valuable to me? I think not. I always thought that one’s sense of value came totally from within. By not knowing and protecting the primary motivating need of my husband, I have allowed that perpectual negative cycle to become entrenched in our lives. Maybe my husband will be more loving if I understand his reaction to shame and learn ways to not trigger it. It’s definitely something to consider.
Have you always acted in a way that reinforces your husband’s inmate needs?