Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pleasure or Pain: More on Horseplay and "Picking" in Relationships and Marriage

One of the women takes issue with being picked on the wrong way, and rightly so. If you’re going to do it, you’d better do it the right way, or you’ll be paying for it later. Understanding our differences makes it easy to get it right…

Yesterday’s newsletter on picking and playing touched off a barrage of “Amen’s” from the women whose husbands shied away from playing, but there was one that was on a different plane that we need to discuss. Her husband tries to play, but he goes about it all wrong. Meet Gina:

Hi David,

I loved this and all of your e-mails. I wish you could get my husband to understand this. He’s constantly making mean remarks about me, thinking that he’s being funny. He demeans me in front of his friends and family, my friends, family, and coworkers, and he’s embarrassed me to tears more times than I can count. He’s a good man, attractive, very alpha male, and keeps me moving, but when he does this I could just kill him, because it really hurts.

He tells everybody I’m always late everywhere I go; it’s true. We have four kids and I have a hard time getting all of them ready to go anywhere. I have a hard time keeping my weight under control because I tend to eat more when I’m stressed, and I’m always stressed, and he’ll point out to people when I’ve gained weight or my clothes are too tight. He makes fun of me when I make any mistake, and makes it his mission to point it out to everyone for a week or more after.

I can’t get him to understand that this isn’t funny and it hurts badly, and I’ve about had all I can take of it. When I told him that, he made fun of me for being dramatic! I love him with all I have, but I’m starting to feel like a verbal punching bag and to be honest, the main reason I’m always stressed isn’t so much our four kids as it’s living in fear of what he’s going to say next to mortify me! Can you help?

Thanks so much,

I handled Gina’s request for help by private correspondence because there were some specific issues and instructions that I don’t want to go into here for several reasons, among them her privacy, but we do need to talk more about this.

I have a good friend who also does this, and his name is Rick. He’s an alpha male from the ground up: retired cop, now consulting in law enforcement, sharp, articulate, and one of us guys who enters a room and everybody just turns and starts moving in that direction because they can sense leadership from across the room.

He loves his “wife” (they never had a wedding, but have been together since dinosaurs roamed the Earth and regard themselves and conduct their lives as if they are married), and she both loves him and is wildly attracted to him, even after years of putting up with his sense of humor, but it is indeed a problem. He sounds just like Gina’s man, making fun of things like her weight that she is really sensitive about, and nobody, myself included, can get him to understand that he’s hurting her. He says she’s as tough as he is and that’s why he loves her.

She’s tough as nails, but she’s also a woman, and even the toughest women have their hot buttons and weak points, just like men. She lives in constant torment of loving and being attracted to a man who inadvertently hurts her every other time he opens his mouth, and I really don’t know how much more of it she’s going to be able to take.

Being tough doesn’t mean that nothing hurts; it means you go on with your life in spite of hurting, just like being brave doesn’t mean you’re never scared, it just means you do what you have to do in spite of being scared. And if something hurts too much for too long, most people will remove the cause, or remove themselves from the cause.

What’s escaping Gina’s husband, my friend Rick, and a lot of other men I know is that this is an area in which men and women are fundamentally different. Men jab at each other’s vulnerabilities to play and to help each other toughen up, and to challenge each other to do something about our vulnerabilities. We poke each other in the stomach when we notice a few more cheeseburgers and beers collecting around the belt line and make a crack like “Expanding the shed to keep your tool from rusting there, Bob?” There’s no telling how many thousands of years we’ve done it, and it’s a ritual of strengthening, and bonding, a sort of intimacy that only our friends are allowed to engage in with us.

With women, it’s different. The only time you will hear a woman bring up another woman’s vulnerability to her face is if she is on the offensive. They only do it to hurt each other when they are being competitive or vindictive, and it hurts them badly when we do this. They may even try to excuse it as just us being us, but there’s that subconscious link to their communications infrastructure that still eats at them as if we had been a woman when we said something about their weight, or their feet, or a mole, or a gray root on a hair. It’s rejection, or an attack, not a joke, in their book.

In our world, any minor flaw is something to rib your buddy about; in their world, it’s ammunition for the big guns. For us, mentioning our flaws is like a slap on the back and gets a laugh, while in theirs, it’s a slap in the face. That’s why I’ve said in previous newsletters that you can only say something in that kind of play if it’s plainly an exaggeration, like telling her she has a big butt if she has a very skinny butt and knows it, or call her “Bigfoot” when she has tiny feet, something so absurd as to be obviously a joke. Once you’ve established that baseline, you can push the envelope a VERY little at a time and gently find out where her limits are, and then push the envelope a bit, but start in the safe zone so that everybody has fun.

We’re alike in many ways, and it often deceives us into thinking that we are alike in ways that we are entirely different, even opposite. It is these deceptive differences that make us unwittingly hurt each other when hurting each other is among those things that we indeed NEVER want to do.

Not knowing about them – simple ignorance – is very treatable; it takes only a little knowledge. Not caring about our differences and not trying to learn about them and avoid hurting each other with them – apathy – is also treatable, but it takes more drastic measures, like a pitcher of ice water on the crotch, an iron skillet to the head, or in extreme cases, a divorce, or even a bullet or worse; Google “Lorena Bobbitt” if you need an example.

Or drop by our forum, http://forum.makingherhappy.com, and ask some of the women there what they do when their men act up. The question hasn’t come up yet, so you ought to get some interesting answers.

The question you have to ask yourself is which ailment do you have, ignorance or apathy, and how is your ailment going to be treated?

I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m going to guess that if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be reading this, so we’re going to treat ignorance. That’s easy, fun, and dirt cheap. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can thank me later… LOL! If you’re here looking for validation of your mistakes instead of a fix for your problems, that’s not going to happen here. There are a bunch of people calling themselves a “support group” somewhere waiting for you with open arms and a big ol’ sob story just like yours if that’s what you’re after. (Yes, I know there are legitimate support groups who really help people, too, and so does everybody else, so hold the hate mail if you’re in one of them.)

For right now, just concern yourself with getting the knowledge to fix this condition, and any others you may have, into your head and into practice, while your problems are still easy to fix. You can do it when they get hard, too, but it takes longer and everybody hurts a lot more in the meantime. Taking care of it NOW is your best bet.

If you’re smart enough to see that, and want to fix your problems before they get any worse, and even go on to make everything better than it’s ever been, start by going to http://www.makingherhappy.com and downloading your copy of "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," and you’ll see what those before you have already found: it’s solid, tested, proven knowledge and advice, and if you can put your pants on in the morning instead of offering them to a passer-by, you can do what needs to be done and enjoy it, for the rest of your life.

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

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