Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Being supportive ... or not

Remember the sitcom, Home Improvement? In every episode the wife had something going on and she wanted Tim Allen's character to "be supportive". Most of the time he ran around trying to fulfill that demand while having absolutely no idea what she was even talking about. They're idea of support involves some sort of action. Men are fixers. They like to tackle a problem, solve, correct or eradicate the problem, and move on. I've learned this over the past twenty-one years of marriage. We women tend to vent. Or analyze. Okay, maybe we even actually complain about a situation. That doesn't mean we want to change it or fix it. It just means we need to blow off steam. I can remember venting about the lousy customer service I received at a store. I wanted someone to agree with me that no one cares about quality customer service anymore. Or that I certainly didn't deserve that kind of treatment. I don't think he ever understood why I was sharing the story with him in the first place. After all, it happened earlier in the day. I survived it. Why was there a need to bring it up?
One time I complained about an annoying quality in an acquaintance. I wanted someone to agree she was annoying. His solution was that I simply shouldn't have contact with the woman anymore. I didn't want to break off our friendship. I just wanted to blow off steam. That way I could tolerate her annoyance without blowing up at her.
I've finally learned to preface my observations by stating exactly what I need from him during these conversations. I'll inform him that I don't need advice, or a steamroller to make the problem go away. All I want is someone to say, "You're right. You didn't deserve that!" or "Oh poor baby!" At first, of course, my husband didn't quite get that either. He'd parrot the requested reactions back at me sometimes even before I could do any venting in the first place. But now he's learned to watch for his cues, and as long as I remember to announce expected reactions at the beginning, he can be supportive. LOL
It ends up that this is not just a trait of my husband. It's in the male genes, I guess. Last week I had my hair cut and I got new glasses. I was not overly thrilled with the results, and I was complaining to my teenage daughter that I hated the way I looked right now because I was ugly. I just wanted reassurance, and my daughter understood that. She chimed right in with "You don't look ugly; the glasses are nice." My teenage son didn't understand what I wanted, but he understood the concept of support--at least in theory. He spoke up and told her, "Hey! If Mom wants to look ugly, let her look ugly!"
I'm torn between trying to train him and just leaving it up to his future wife. After all, if I had to train my husband, shouldn't she have to train hers?


  1. Bet I can guess which son made that little comment: #2?

  2. Freda, how did you guess? LOL


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