Josh was engaged to be married. He confessed that he loved Karen, but was scared of feeling trapped. Though this is commonly known as a fairly typical male reaction to getting married, in this case it was more than just “cold feet.”
Josh often talked in the men’s group about Karen’s reaction when he made plans with the guys. She would seem OK with it until the day of the event arrived. Prior to Josh leaving, Karen would predictably struggle with him about it. “Why aren’t I enough for you? I don’t understand. It seems like you don’t really enjoy spending time with me the way you do with them.”
Eventually, they would end up in an argument with Karen in tears, which led Josh to feel guilty about leaving. There were times when Josh ultimately didn’t go ahead with his plans and, when he did, rather than feeling free to have fun, he was instead preoccupied with Karen being upset with him.
Steve seemed deflated as he talked about his wife, Sonya. He had just gotten a promotion to be a professor, something he had worked hard to achieve. Sonya had a fairly high-status job herself. When Steve told Sonya about it, she did not seem very interested – definitely not impressed.
He thought back to the party they went to recently with some of Steve’s colleagues and friends. Many of them talked about what a great guy he was, telling stories from work. Steve was within earshot when Sonya commented sarcastically, “Hmm, funny how at home he doesn’t seem so great!” It reminded him of Michelle Obama’s comment during the primaries about how “stinky” her husband — the future president of the United States — was in the morning.
On the way home, Sonya remarked that she found it annoying that everyone seemed to have to brag about Steve to her “for some reason.”
David seemed to live in a constant state of underlying anxiety and hypervigilance at home. He was generally a perfectionist and tried hard to do the “right” thing. He seemed very focused on keeping his wife, Jeannie, happy – though as one of the guys in the group mentioned, David’s focus on pleasing his wife often seemed compulsively driven by his fear that she would be mad at him.
Jeannie often seemed mad or displeased and wouldn’t tell David why. David felt he could never get it right and was frustrated that he did not seem to know the rules, despite frequently asking Jeannie to just tell him what she wanted. She often remarked angrily that he “should know.” But he didn’t know, and dreaded thinking he was in the clear only to find out he had failed again.
David and Jeannie both worked and generally shared the household chores and child care. In response to Jeannie’s complaint that David didn’t think of her, he tried to do little things for her, for example, taking the baby out on Saturday morning to let her sleep in. Still, somehow David never scored any points for things like this and often found himself on the losing end, feeling defeated, though by his own calculations he should have earned extra credits.
What do these stories reveal about men and their relationships with women?