By Dr. James Dobson
The problem has its origins in childhood, long before a young man and woman stand at the altar to say, "I do." For her part, the girl is taught subtly by her culture that marriage is a lifelong romantic experience; that loving husbands are entirely responsible for the happiness of their wives; that a good relationship between a man and woman should be sufficient to meet all needs and desires; and that any sadness or depression that a woman might encounter is her husband's fault. At least, he has the power to eradicate it if he cares enough. In other words, many American women come into marriage with unrealistically romantic expectations which are certain to be dashed. Not only does this orientation set up a bride for disappointment and agitation in the future; it also places enormous pressure on her husband to deliver the impossible.
Unfortunately, the man of the house was taught some misconceptions in his formative years, too. He learned, perhaps from his father, that his only responsibility is to provide materially for his family. He must enter a business or profession and succeed at all costs, climbing the ladder of success and achieving an ever-increasing standard of living as proof of manhood. It never occurs to him that he is supposed to "carry" his wife emotionally. For Pete's sake! If he pays his family's bills and is a loyal husband, what more could any woman ask for? He simply doesn't understand what she wants.
But every story has two sides, and John's version should also be told. His wife is wrong to believe that her contentment is exclusively his burden. No one should be expected to carry another person emotionally. Only Diane can make herself happy! She has no right to lay that total load on John. A good marriage is one in which the dominant needs are met with the relationship, but where each spouse develops individual identity, interests and friendships. This may be the most delicate tightrope act in marriage. Extreme independence is as destructive to a relationship as total dependence.
I remember counseling a bright young lady whom I'll call Janet. She came to me because she seemed to be losing the affection of her husband. Frank appeared bored when he was at home and he refused to take her out with him. On weekends, he went sailing with his friends despite the bitter protests of his wife. She had begged for his attention for months, but the slippage continued.
I hypothesized that Janet was invading Frank's territory and needed to recapture the challenge that made him want to marry her. Thus, I suggested that she retreat into her own world--stop "reaching" for him when he was at home--schedule some personal activities independently of his availability, etc. Simultaneously, I urged her to give him vague explanations about why her personality had changed. She was instructed not to display anger or discontent, allowing Frank to draw his own conclusions about what she was thinking. My purpose was to change his frame of reference. In stead of his thinking, "How can I escape from this woman who is driving me crazy,' I wanted him to wonder, "What's going on? Am I losing Janet? Have I pushed her too far? Has she found someone else?"
The results were dramatic. About a week after the change of manner was instituted, Janet and Frank were at home together one evening. After several hours of uninspired conversation and yawns, Janet told her husband that she was rather tired and wanted to go to bed. She said goodnight matter-of-factly and went to her bedroom. About thirty minutes later, Frank threw open the door and turned on the light. He proceeded to make passionate love to her, later saying that he couldn't stand the barrier that had come between them. It was precisely that barrier which Janet had complained about for months. Her approach had been so overbearing that she was driving him away from her. When she changed her direction, Frank also threw his truck in reverse. It often happens that way.
From Love Must Be Tough by Dr. James C. Dobson
Justice In The Home
Never Give Up
"Above All Else"
The Influence of Friends
From Mourning to Morning
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Dr. James Dobson is the Founder and President of Family Talk, a nonprofit organization that produces his radio program, “Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.” He is the author of more than 30 books dedicated to the preservation of the family, including The New Dare to Discipline; Love for a Lifetime; Life on the Edge; Love Must Be Tough; The New Strong-Willed Child; When God Doesn’t Make Sense; Bringing Up Boys; Marriage Under Fire; Bringing Up Girls; and, most recently, Head Over Heels.
Dr. Dobson served as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine for 14 years and on the attending staff of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for 17 years. He has been active in governmental affairs and has advised three U.S. presidents on family matters. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California (1967) in the field of child development. He holds 17 honorary doctoral degrees, and was inducted in 2008 into The National Radio Hall of Fame. Dr. Dobson recently received the “Great American Award” from The Awakening.
Dr. Dobson is married to Shirley and they have two grown children, Danae and Ryan, and two grandchildren. The Dobsons reside in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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