Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Unringing a Bell: Negotiation in Relationships and Marriage

A man writes with a real problem. In his absence, his wife applied a lot of effort and expense to make the master bedroom evolve from “nice” to “drowning him in estrogen,” and he hates it. How does a man approach a woman to change this – or anything else that he doesn’t like -- without starting World War III?

Did you ever hear somebody talk about a problem that made you just cringe because you could really empathize and feel their pain and frustration? I got one from another David, apparently a fellow Southerner. Gentlemen, note that while David’s problem is centered on the redecoration of the bedroom, the following advice applies to any situation where something is done that you don’t like after you failed or refused to be involved in a decision or process, so keep reading!

Meet David F.:

Hey David,

Man I could use your advice on a problem that is making me want to move out of the bedroom I share with my wife. My wife is one of those chronically nesting women that love to redecorate at least every year or so, especially the master bedroom. They tell you they do this to spice things up. I have no problem spicing things up or even making changes to make them look better, however I do have a problem when the place I am supposed to be able to relax in, make love to my wife in and get a good night’s sleep in ends up looking like an explosion in a flower garden.

I have known for a couple of weeks now that my wife was wanting to make changes to our bedroom and had no problem with her doing so. She has always had what I consider good taste and has always managed to make things look nice while keeping in mind that it was our room shared by a man and a woman.

Last night I returned home from a short business trip to find that our bedroom was no longer a room that a man would feel comfortable in, unless he was more woman than man. A brief description of what I walked into was this: the walls have been painted peach, now not just any peach almost a neon peach and if that was not bad enough there is a border around the top of the walls that all I can say about it is it is a mixture of the biggest, ugliest bunch of flower I have ever seen mixed with all shades of color. We now have lace window curtains with a matching lace comforter and dust ruffle. The pillows have lace pillow shams over them and I am not allowed to touch them much less lay my head on one. To top it all off we now have “accent pillows” as she called them covered with satin roses.

I feel like setting fire to the whole room and just letting it burn. I asked her what happened to making the room male-friendly so we both could enjoy it and she just smiled at me and said, “I thought you would like the change.” What I would like to know is where the pod is this woman came out of while I was away. This is a nightmare and the worst thing is that she is so proud of herself and this room that I am not sure how to handle telling her that it has to go without making it seem like I am being an asshole about the whole thing.

How about helping a brother out with this and tell me how to point her in the direction of returning this to OUR special room, one we both can be happy in instead of a recreation of the room she had when she was living with her parents and the room did only belong to a real girlie girl.

Appreciate it,

David F.

You guys can see what a pickle this might be. Some of the women who have responded to these newsletter lessons and are members of our forum, http://forum.makingherhappy.com, have told some tales of revenge that would raise the hair on the back of your head. And when I read this, the first thought that came to mind was a feminine voice saying, “That’s fine. You won’t be sleeping in here anymore anyway.”

My reply:

Appreciate you (that’s Southern for “thanks for” for all non-Southerners) writing David, and thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite classic Sci-Fi movies (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) with that remark about the pods! Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that your wife has been replaced by one of the pod-born zombies…

Women don’t miss details about you like that. The average woman, especially the really girly ones, are ultra-sensitive and ultra-thoughtful when it comes to the likes and dislikes of those around them, especially those under the same roof. If she submerged your master bedroom in an estrogen ocean, she knew that you wouldn’t like it when she did it; however, she did NOT do this out of spite, so calm down before you get riled up (that’s Southern for “pissed off” for all non-Southerners – LOL!).

Seriously, she did it to get a reaction. Yep, you guessed it. It was a test. How do you know? You knew about the impending redecoration event for a couple of weeks, then it happened while you were out of town. If she was really looking to rile you, she wouldn’t have said anything and would have gloated and been pissy when you returned to find it, trying to rub it in and rile you good (yes, that does mean “really piss you off good” – okay, I’ll stop. I just get a kick out of living in the South because we have our own version of “English”). So what’s really going on?

You were gone on a business trip; have you been paying enough attention to her? Or have frequent business trips made her feel a little ignored? Did you listen to her when she tried to speak with you about her decorating plans, or did you just shrug her off and say, “I don’t care, Honey. Just do whatever you like,”? Somewhere along the line, you’ve dropped the ball, and she’s calling it to your attention, hoping that you will be motivated to listen to her next time and really hoping that you don’t act like an ass over it, or even worse, just wuss out and not say anything at all.

First, don’t worry about all the stuff she bought. It’s possible that everything but the paint and the border can either be returned, gifted to someone, or has been borrowed. In any case, what she spent to teach you this lesson was a bargain compared to what a divorce would cost you if she just let it go unaddressed until she got good and riled (I know, I know, but I couldn’t resist!) and kicked you out of the house, so get over it. She’s looking for you to say that you don’t like it, but you need to be decent about it. How?

She’ll likely make comments from time to time about the room just to invite you to say something; remember that almost all communication with a woman takes the form of a negotiation. If you want to be smooth about it, but a little on the wussy side, you can wait for her to bring it up, but it’s much better if you lead the conversation by initiating it yourself by asking HER if SHE really likes it as much as she thought she did when she first did it. If she’s extremely merciful, she’ll say, “No, it’s not really exciting me the way I thought it would,” or something like that, and if she’s really wanting to rub your nose in it she’ll say, “Yes, I do! Don’t you?” or even worse, “Yes, I just love it! Isn’t it great?”

Either way, it’s an invitation for you to say that you don’t like it, but you can’t just blurt out, “Hell no, I think it sucks. It’s just too girly.” That’s what a moron does, not a gentleman, or a loving partner. As always, you must try to keep the tone positive. “I’ve tried to get used to it and give it time to grow on me (which is covering your ass for not saying something immediately, and she knows this, but you have to follow along and you do get bonus points for playing the game with her), but it’s just not happening. You’ve always been so tasteful and considerate in making this room good for both of us and I probably should have said something to acknowledge and thank you for that before now, and I’m sorry that I haven’t. I know you probably put a lot into this, but I would be a lot more comfortable in here if it were more similar to the way you have been doing it, and I’ll be happy to help you make whatever changes are necessary since I didn’t speak up when I had the chance before this was done.”

Do you see the difference? First, you’re trying to do things on her level while not being feminine about it, which is attractive. While apologizing for not paying enough attention to what was happening and being more involved in it, you’re not sucking up, and offering to help is not buying her off; it’s just common courtesy. You’re acknowledging your own mistake, but the apology is simply expressing the recognition of error, not begging forgiveness. Acknowledging her past efforts to be considerate of you is also just common decency, not sucking up to get out of the doghouse. Also notice that you’ve not said anything derogatory about what has been done, only that you would be a lot more comfortable if it were done without so much feminine flair. And the best part is…

You don’t have to explain any of this to her. She knows what every last word on the lines and between them means, and will be happy, although maybe not overtly so, to fix the problem. You may end up doing a lot of the work, and making trips to the home center to get supplies, and fielding a few odd glances and remarks about how it would have been better if you had said something before she went through all that trouble, but you earned whatever hard time you got by being inattentive, so suck it up and enjoy the time together. Find ways of interjecting some playfulness, including some naughty playfulness, into the situation from time to time. It makes the work go by faster and brings you closer together, especially when the lights go out at night.

Now, the most important lesson of all. If you had read “THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage,” you would not have had any chance of going through any of this, because you would have known better than to make the mistakes you made. You would have known that you needed to be more attentive because you would have seen the signs long before she hosed your bedroom down with concentrated estrogen.

You would have known to “give her the gift of missing you” (thanks to David D’Angelo for finding such a memorable way to say that) while you were gone, and how to make it a positive event for her instead of either a wuss-fest of calling all the time or a scary ordeal of solitude, as most men do when they go way for a few days. You would have known what to do before you left and while you were gone to help her to look forward to your return and think wonderful things about you in your absence. All this and much more (see the list at the web site!) is waiting for you in an instant download at http://www.makingherhappy.com, so get on it, now, before you come home to a teal house with fuchsia shutters and your neighbors (at least the women) know you still don’t get it and are being punished again.

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

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