Stonewalling Your Spouse
This blog post was featured in the Huffington Post on August 31, 2016.
You probably heard the joke that before getting married a woman should go and pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
To train herself to talk to a wall.
Why is this joke funny? Why is any joke funny?
Because all jokes carry a kernel of truth or they would not be funny. Jokes exaggerate reality and in doing so touch a nerve; they embarrass us and make us at least chuckle.
What is the truth in this joke? Men stonewall their wives.
I wonder why.
I talked to many men that have been married for over fifty years and when I ask what is their secret to such a long marriage the answer has been: “I don’t listen to everything she says.”
But this doesn’t apply to men only. Women told me similar things: “I ignore him a lot of the time,” or “I don’t take him seriously.”
What is going on?
A marriage is a complementary combination of styles. We all have heard the expression: “Opposites attract.”
Since we are different from each other, there is a tendency with both men and women to try to change, teach, correct and improve the other spouse. To try to make “the other” live to our expectation of how they should behave, speak, eat, dress or whatever.
So we bug each other a lot.
If we take this endless hitting over our head seriously, it can lead to such levels of frustration that it might lead to divorce. To survive, many couples just let this endless barrage of criticism pass from one ear and out the other, without stopping to listen to one another.
So choosing to be selectively and functionally “deaf” helps to remain married. Sounds pretty defeatist that the way to remain married is to ignore each other. Not all of the time, but enough time, to survive the differences in style and the attempts to ameliorate those differences by correcting each other.
Is there another way to achieve the same goal? Yes there is.
Mutual Trust and Respect.
And that means to accept each other as we are. Giving constructive feedback that can help the other person change and grow, but do it without criticism, without trying to control the behavior of the other person.
Live and let live.
Let each person take responsibility for his or her behavior. Each person should do their best to improve themselves. Not the other.
This alternative is the tougher one. Changing ourselves is enormously difficult. It always looks so much easier to change someone else.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes