Thursday, December 01, 2005

L'eggo my Ego, Part 2: The Vicious Cycle

Alright, last time I wrote about the beautiful, exciting virtuous cycle that happens in a marriage when a husband loves his wife, and she gives him respect. Unfortunately, there's an antithesis to this: the vicious cycle.

Perhaps I'll start with a question. Husbands, if your wife was nagging you, belittling you, or failing to give you the sense that she respected you as a man, what would be your response?

A) Lash out at her
B) Sit and talk about it with her
C) Withdraw from her
D) Other

Husbands, I don't know what you answered, and at some time we've done all of the above, but I would bet that most wives reading this say that answer "C" sounds all too familiar. Men generally aren't known as the best communicators, but we're well known as creatures who can sit in a chair, oblivious to the world around us. Well, maybe not oblivious to the football game or the computer screen, but we sure aren't listening to any actual human voices in the room.

This is our safety net, and I must admit it is my natural tendency at times. When I'm feeling hurt, ignored, or unappreciated, I withdraw from Jamie. It's safe, it's easy, and it's a lot more pleasant than actually facing up to whatever is going on. She has had to remind me many times that when I feel this way, I should tell her.

Women, what do you feel when your husband has withdrawn from you? When he gives the TV, the laptop or the office all of his energy? When he walks into the room, do you want to greet him with a smile and kind words? How hard is it to respect a man who doesn't put the effort into this relationship, and doesn't seem concerned about how you are doing?

I'm not a woman, but I've been told it's awfully hard to respect a man like that. And if she doesn't respect him, he'll notice. And probably withdraw. Which makes it harder for her. And the vicious cycle continues.

Marriage is not a car -- there is not a "neutral" gear. Most of the time, we're either going to be in the virtuous cycle or the vicious cycle. And if you're in the vicious cycle, then one of the spouses has to take the first step and reach out to the other. A wife decides to respect and appreciate the man who's been distant and cold. A husband decides to reach out in love to the woman who's been nagging and insulting him. It's strange, it's extremely difficult, and it's not the type of behavior you'll see taught by most marriage books or Dr. Phil. But it's the only way a couple has a chance of turning the vicious cycle into a virtuous one. Someone has to make the first move. Even if he/she doesn't have reason to expect anything in return. That whole "agape" love thing can be a real drag sometimes, can't it?

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