Monday, August 30, 2010

Being the Protector in Relationships and Marriage: When Should You? Part 2, Reader Observations and Lessons

Readers respond to yesterday’s edition about knowing when to be a protector and when to let someone learn their lesson the hard way. I found their insight fascinating and adept, and you should find it useful.

In yesterday’s edition, I shared with you part of a discussion I had with a student/client/friend, who has correctly identified himself as too mismatched with his wife to be able to salvage a failing marriage. If you missed it, please read it now before continuing so you can be up to speed as we discuss these reader responses, because this is really important!

The gist of the lesson was that we as men are biologically wired for behavior that in some ways differs significantly from that of women, and that a tendency to be over-protective of everyone around us (as opposed to the natural female focus on protecting their children) and that there are times when we would be serving those we care about better by letting them make their own mistakes so they can learn from them, and make their own decisions in general so that we don’t communicate a lack of confidence to someone who needs our support as they try to mature and evolve, or to demonstrate to us that they have ALREADY matured and evolved.

What follows are the more interesting letters I received regarding that issue, and I must admit I’m rather proud of those who wrote them, because they are good questions that show analytical minds at work looking for answers, tools and opportunities for improvement. Meet Terry:


You mentioned “a pretty typical story of an extremely intelligent and analytical male hooked up with a not-so-intelligent and overly creative female.” Could you elaborate on what is typical? My wife read that and said you were saying that it was typical for men to be smart and women to be stupid, and I didn’t take it that way at all.


My reply:

Hi Terry! You’re quite right. I meant nothing remotely resembling what your wife thought she read. It’s common for men to be more analytical and women to be more creative because of the neuron density in the left and right hemispheres of the brain that you find common to gender. There are exceptions, and there are also cases where you see things like a highly analytical man or woman who is also quite creative. The “norm” is for men to be more analytical and women more creative, but that does not mean that predominately analytical men have no creative ability or that predominately creative women cannot solve a problem.

I also did not imply that it was common for the man to be more intelligent than the woman; it is common for one partner to be a little more intelligent than the other, but if that gap is very wide, it creates a pretty serious incompatibility. What I was saying was typical was that when there is any kind of big compatibility problem, intelligence or the analytical vs. creative mismatch, problems are significant and difficult to handle without a lot of competent help, if they can be handled at all. Sometimes that compatibility problem is a marriage-killer.

In short, I was speaking of general tendencies in partner dynamics, not certainty in gender dynamics. I’ve met some incredibly smart and incredibly moronic members of both genders, as I’m sure everyone else has.

Thanks for writing, and keep in touch,

Margot’s insight here is impeccable. I’ve written on “red flags” before and neediness being one of them, but she pulled it out of this lesson as well. Check her out:

Hello David,

I couldn’t help but wonder how long this man had been trying to save this woman if he was trying to fight the urge to save her now. I should think that both a person’s need to be saved and an overwhelming urge to save someone are indeed both big red flags in a relationship. It’s one thing to want to love someone and engage in mutual nurturing, but it’s quite another to be driven to spend your life bailing someone out of one tough spot after another. If my husband were to get in a jam I’d certainly want to be there for him, but a pattern of choices that kept him in a jam would make me at least question how much importance he placed on his life and mine. I’ve found, as you may have, that people who make consistently bad choices aren’t stupid, but rather don’t care enough about themselves or the people around them to exercise the discipline to think and make good choices, which in my mind is a gigantic sign saying “DANGER!”


My reply:

Hi Margot, and you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. Finding yourself drawn to people in trouble is not a sign that you love them, but that you are for some reason attracted to their frailty – codependence is a very destructive basis for a relationship to say the least. Lasting relationships are built on love and attraction, which in turn creates friendship, trust, loyalty, fun, excitement, and sex, not on the guilt or need that causes you to want someone to bail you out or be obligated to you after you’ve bailed them out.

Good to hear from you again, and do keep in touch,

And this from Daphne, one of the women in the test group that helped with the research for "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage” and a regular contributor:

Hey David,

As usual, I have stories about things my girlfriends have done to capture a man that would make your hair stand up on the back of your neck. One they all talk about is the lengths they’ll go to in trying to make a man feel dependent on them to keep him home, and how they’ll create a crisis from time to time to make him feel good about having saved them. Three of my friends got married to men who fell for fake emergencies. They were looking for someone to give them a house and children, and somebody who would run to the rescue was an easy mark. Tell your guys to watch themselves!


No, neither Daphne nor I are saying that every woman does that, or even the majority. Indeed, there are a bunch of really great women at our forum,, who are happy to help you spot problems like predatory women and get rid of them. However, women, especially young ones who haven’t learned they can take care of themselves and developed the means to do so, and who want to get away from an abusive home or who are enamored with the idea of making a baby and too impatient to go about it the right way, may go to extraordinary lengths to make it happen, to include ensnaring and marrying a man who will be tolerable to live with and a good provider in order to facilitate her desires of escape (possibly from oppressive parents or an abusive parent) and/or motherhood.

Such relationships can last for years, but they are not happy ones, and are usually focused on the children instead of the whole family. When the children start leaving the nest (if not sooner – often MUCH sooner), one or both parents will start succumbing to the pressure of trying to suppress and work around their incompatibility, and then the frequent fighting, frustration, disrespect, distrust, affairs, etc., start happening. Could this – OR DID THIS -- happen to you?

People unfortunately see these emotions and fights as the cause of their marital problems, but they’re merely a symptom of a much bigger problem. The cause was a bad decision to get together in the first place. That’s why I stress so vehemently in "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage" that before a man starts working on fixing a broken relationship he thoroughly evaluate the relationship, check for compatibility and other markers of a strong foundation for the relationship, and make an informed choice before proceeding with anything else. Trying to put off the inevitable is a fool’s errand; if it has to end, end it quickly, and with dignity for all involved if possible, instead of escalating the pain until everybody is too engaged in fighting a war to clean up a mess that never should have been made, and children and other innocent bystanders end up suffering for it.

"THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage" is truly THE man’s guide to any kind of great relationship with any woman, and it’s become the new title of this book because it’s so fitting and reflects its true scope. Do yourself a favor and go to and download your copy today, and start getting things squared away in your life. Even if you’re in your 70’s or 80’s, there’s still time left in your life to be happy; don’t waste it trying to delay the inevitable when you could be enjoying the time of your life.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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