This week in counseling I’ve noticed one issue arising time and time again… criticism. Please don’t think I’m picking on you, ladies, but it’s an important lesson to keep in mind and Kabbalah teaches us that we often don’t grasp a principle the first time we hear it (or even the 10th time!) so it behooves us to revisit some key lessons. This blog was posted back in 2012 but let’s revisit it and perhaps challenge ourselves to a criticism-free weekend.
“Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”
~ Maria Portokalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
We all remember that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (if you don’t, watch it again. It’s worth it for a good laugh) when Toula’s mother explains that even though her husband Gus, thinks he’s the big-decision-maker, the “man of the house”, it’s really that she allows him to think he’s making all the decisions without him being aware of her ability to steer him in the direction she prefers, like a magician. Well that got me thinking about the way women sometimes talk to men about what they want, and more precisely what they want men to DO.
A lot of times we tend to criticize our husbands, boyfriends, brothers, (sometimes even our fathers) without being fully aware of the negative impact it can yield on them. Men have a fragile ego, and it’s not just something women say – although one definitely hears women ranting on about “Men and their pride” or “Men and their egos” far too casually. There is a really good explanation to their sensitivity, and I believe if we can understand it, accept it and embrace it, it will offer a fundamental way for us as women to deliver the message without dealing a massive blow to their self-esteem. The result of which usually sees them pulling further away from us, and shutting down altogether – quite the opposite of our original goal.
Studies conducted by psychologist, Jay Carter illustrate that a boy’s most important developmental period is the first five years of his life, and that his self-esteem comes from his mother, which would explain why boys have a greater propensity to want to make their mothers proud. Whereas girls might choose to grow up to become like her mother in certain ways, a boy tries to be becoming to his mother – to make her proud. Jay Carter further explains that in later years as men, this propensity is deflected onto the women they meet, date and marry.
This essentially means that a man’s self-esteem is incredibly vulnerable to a woman’s opinion of him. I know I always say that we place far too much importance on what other people think of us, but in this case, KNOWING this can prove incredibly helpful for us, and the men in our lives.
Ladies… we don’t realize what kind of influence we actually have over the men in our lives. I want to stress, I said INFLUENCE, not control. You don’t have to complain or criticize the men in your life in order to achieve a desired outcome. There is a healthier way to appeal to your guy if you understand what is at the heart of him: he has a lot invested in what you think and say about him and to him.While you may genuinely be trying with the best of intentions to improve your man – and I’m not talking about improving him for you (you should accept him for who he is) – be very careful HOW you choose to communicate your concerns. You are here to assist him in reaching his potential, for himself. Always check your agenda before speaking to him. It could be as benign as you don’t like the way he does the dishes, but be aware that after continued criticisms, resentment could develop towards you, because he feels you are shooting down his self-esteem.
Remember: It’s not what you say, but HOW you say it. Just like for women, but more so for men – they need to feel competent and that you recognize and notice it. It’s important to him, (his ego) and your relationship.
1. Do you belittle or berate your man?
2. Do you communicate your needs effectively?
3. Do you take your needs more seriously over his?
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