I entered a Valentine’s Day contest. Not an official one, but one that could have had serious consequences. Maybe call it a bet. Whatever you call it, it was a gamble. It appeared I had it easy this year. My wife of less than two months at that time, had told me on more than one occasion that she didn’t expect or want me to get her anything for Valentine’s day. Did I believe her? Now, any of you who have been married or in a serious relationship for any length of time at all, know the answer to that minefield of a question. Of course I didn’t believe her. I may have been young and dumb once. I’m certainly not young anymore and as far as the dumb part, at least I’m dumb about different things these days.
On one level I know that my wife really didn’t want me to get her anything. Yes really. We have the “BIG HONEYMOON” coming up in April and it will cost the requisite “BIG BUCKS” so the plan is to make it a trip to remember. Which meant, don’t spend anything on gifts etc. between now and then. She is extremely frugal. So, contrary to the conventional wisdom I chose to take her at her word.
I know some of you are shaking your heads, others let out an audible groan. I understand. I didn’t come by this choice easily and I wouldn’t have been the first husband who was confident that he knew his wife and, let’s just say, it didn’t end well. You may start referencing other comments like, “that’s gonna’ hurt” or the variation “that’s gonna leave a mark”.
In situations like this, choosing to take any woman at her word is dangerous. It would be like walking blindfolded through a cow pasture expecting not to step in anything. Additional information: these cows have been eating laxative laced alfalfa. So it is almost certain you’re going to step in a big steaming pile of it. Most men step into a pile or two (or three or . . .) before they learn a very important lesson: what that special lady says is not always what she really means. Or stated more correctly, the words coming out of her mouth mean something different to us than they do to her. The choice is learn to interpret or get used to walking around in waders. It is not that women intend to be deceptive. (I know what some of you guys are thinking, but I’m not going to go there).
Women speak a different language. Men hear their words and walk away with an entirely different message.
The following examples were taken from the book “Love and Respect,” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.
Take the phrase, “I have nothing to wear.” The woman who made that statement to a group of women would be correctly understood as meaning, she needed to go shopping because nothing in her wardrobe was appropriate for whatever she was doing or wherever she was going. If a man said that to a group of guys, they would know he had nothing clean to wear. Same words, but if you don’t attempt to learn the language, or if you don’t even realize that there is a different language being spoken, you are in trouble.
Here’s another example Eggerichs gives. A man is planning to take his special lady out for dinner. His goal is to make her happy. He wants to please her so he says, “Honey I want to take you out to dinner. Pick the place, anyplace, doesn’t matter to me. Don’t worry about the cost.” And she replies “Oh you pick.”
If the guy has any sense at all he’ll starts to panic. If he doesn’t, he takes her at her word and says, “Are you sure.” She affirms she is. Then he comes up with some place with great steaks but no atmosphere that has been running a buy one get one free dinner special.
Ladies you know what this guy just stepped in. She’s hurt and doesn’t feel loved and wonders how she ever ended up with someone so dense and uncaring. He’s perceptive enough to know that something just went terribly wrong. But he can’t figure how, what or why. He was only trying to be nice and he did what she “said” so he gets angry. And what could have been a beautiful evening ends in a meltdown.
He had the best intentions. He was acting as a person of good will and good intention, as Dr. Eggerichs says. But he didn’t know the code. He didn’t understand what his wife was really saying.
Now remember I’m a guy who is trying to decode this stuff also. But she was saying something like, “If he really loves me, he will know where I want to go,” or maybe “he will know the kind of place that I’m thinking about.”
Now the guys reading this are saying, among other things, “we’re doomed.” “That’s unfair.” “She expects me to read her mind.” Yup, pretty much. But she is not doing this to set a trap for you. There is no evil intent. She is simply speaking from her need to be loved and have that love affirmed.
Guys we don’t get it. But we need to. As Eggerichs says, women wear pink sunglasses and pink hearing aids and men wear blue sunglasses and blue hearing aids. This effects how we view each other and how we communicate.
This principle works both ways. Just acknowledging there is a difference in languages is a huge step.
And about my bet. I won. I was right. I didn’t step in anything, at least about the Valentine thing. She really didn’t want anything. I tried to hear what she said based on what I know about her. I know that fancy words, expressive romantic gestures aren’t what she needs. She appreciates flowers, and chocolates, but consistency in doing stuff around the house, corralling my wild bent toward clutter, helping her do things from her endless, eternal, list of projects, speak more love to her than armloads of roses and sweets. But just to make sure I’m covered, because I’m no expert at pink/blue translations, she gets the other stuff too.
Ladies, just a reminder, translation needs to happen both ways. It is not just guys who fail to translate correctly. Remember you’re hearing our words through “pink” hearing aids. There’s plenty you don’t understand about us. Did I just hear an “Amen” or was that an “Arugh! MEN?” But that is a topic for later.
So, I made it through Valentines’ day unscathed. But that doesn’t mean I’m safe. I still need to listen for the meaning behind the words. I need to do my best to make sure that she feels loved. That is a daily thing. And I need to do everything I can to make our delayed honeymoon something that, no matter what, can’t be misunderstood. Maybe understood at a level where no words are required.
But just to be safe, I think I’ll pack some hip boots.
Greg Davis, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Published by Integrity Publishers, 2004. I highly recommend this book.