Why do men so often find themselves in the doghouse with women?
They try to please. They try to say the “right” thing. They do favors, buy gifts, work hard, and aim to live up to their responsibilities as men.
The story is familiar. Adam has been married for 10 years. He goes out of his way to be agreeable. So when his wife wants her family to visit the week before his bar exam, he tells her it is okay. He wants to make her happy and keep the peace. Though secretly hurt and irritated that she didn’t consider him, he can live with it.
When his in-laws arrive, he is late coming home from work, cordial and dutiful, though aloof. He finds himself inexplicably getting into political debates with his in-laws. His wife gets angry at him, accusing him of being unfriendly, distant, and argumentative. Fuming, he feels unappreciated – having given in yet again, only to be met by criticism. He can’t win. His wife complains that he is setting her up, arguing that he agreed to have them over. Now he’s pretending he did nothing wrong and blaming her.
How do men find themselves trapped in this situation again and again?
Men frequently overestimate their ability to sacrifice themselves and be agreeable. Accommodating feels thankless when they nonetheless encounter complaints from their partner. Patterns of self-sacrifice lead to a buildup of resentment and hurt, of which the guy is often unaware, except by way of his partner’s unhappiness and persistent accusations. Men minimize their feelings, but unbeknownst to them, the hurt and resentment find their voice in another form.
These feelings may be disguised, even from men themselves, and expressed through behaviors such as forgetting, lateness, tuning out, silence, and grouchiness. When resentment manifests ambiguously and without awareness or accountability, frustration follows – without resolution.
This is not what Adam had planned. He was trying to be nice and actually avoid a problem. How could that backfire?