The Woman Longing for Attention

To summarize my concern, American women tend to be more unrealistic about marriage than their sisters around the world. Movies and television have made them feel that romantic excitement is not only a birthright, but the most important aspect of marriage. When this "feeling" component of the relationship is missing, the family is doomed. It'll just have to be scrapped. Not even the welfare of the children is important enough to preserve the marriage, and that is tragic.

Let me speak directly and boldly to the women who have seen themselves in this chapter. With all due respect, my most difficult task may be to help you recognize yourselves as part of the problem. The angry women I've counseled in the past have been so consumed by their husbands' disrespect and failures that they couldn't acknowledge their role in his inability to respond. But certainly, they had helped to make him what he was.

Look at it this way. Verbal bludgeoning never made anyone more loving or sensitive. You simply can't tear a guy to pieces and then expect him to meet your emotional needs. He's not made that way. Rather than attacking an unresponsive man and driving him away, there is a method of drawing him in your direction. It is accomplished by taking the pressure off him--by pulling backward a bit--by avoiding the worn-out accusations and complaints--by appearing to need him less--by showing appreciation for what he does right and for being fun to be with. Happiness is a marvelous magnet to the human personality.

Sometimes it is necessary to interject a challenge into the relationship in order to motivate a disengaged spouse. According to the Love Must Be Tough philosophy, a demeanor of self-confidence, mysterious quietness and independence is far more effective in getting attention than a frontal assault.

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.

Book: Love Must Be Tough

By Dr. James Dobson

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