Katty Kay is definitely not the only woman to fall into the trap of believing that if she doesn’t map everything out, things will fall apart while she’s away. In fact, more than likely, many women do the very same thing.

Kay is a British journalist, author, and broadcaster. She speaks often about the importance of confidence and competence in women.

Kay and her husband travel a lot. In the past, whenever she planned to leave town, she lined up extra babysitters and stocked the fridge. She made lots of lists of all the kids’ activities and such to ensure that her husband didn’t forget anything. At some point, she realized she went to all of this extra effort to prepare for leaving town, but when her husband went out of town, he just left. This irritated her a bit.

So, she talked with him about it. That conversation went something along the lines of, “Whenever I’m going out of town, I do all of this pre-prep for you to make sure everything gets taken care of. Yet when you go out of town, you do nothing.”

His response was, “Yes, you do, but I didn’t ask you to do that.”

The next time she went out of town, she did nothing. And, lo and behold, the house was still standing and the kids were taken care of when she returned home.

Here’s the deal. According to research, men want to know: Am I adequate? Am I able? Am I any good at what I do on the outside? 

Despite all the well-meaning intentions behind the pre-prep, the message men hear isn’t that their wife loves them so much they’re doing things for them before they leave town. Instead, they hear: “I’m not confident you can remember everything you need to do. So, I’ll put a safety net in place to make sure none of the balls get dropped while I’m away.”

Harvard-educated analyst Shaunti Feldhahn found that three-quarters of the men she surveyed, if forced to choose, would give up feeling loved by their wife if they could just feel respected by her.

Feldhahn wanted to understand this better, and she spoke with a friend about it. He said, “I love my wife, but nothing I do is ever good enough.” He explained that they’d recently had friends over for dinner. Afterward, he cleaned up the kitchen while his wife ran to a meeting. When she came home, his wife kissed his cheek, looked over his shoulder and sighed. She then went into the kitchen and started cleaning the countertops. Feldhahn asked her friend if there was anything his wife could have done differently. He said, “Yes, she could have said thanks.”

Feldhahn explains that when women are thinking about something, they usually process out loud so there’s no question what they’re thinking. On the other hand, when men think and process, they almost do an internal chess match before they ever talk about it. Her research showed that instead of questioning the husband’s decision, saying, “Help me understand,” will often reveal a long, well-thought-out explanation.

For example, one wife went to a birthday party, leaving Dad with the kids. When she returned, she asked her husband why he had given the kids juice for dinner instead of milk. He got mad. She got defensive, and things went downhill from there.

Feldhahn asked the husband to help his wife understand what happened. He shared that when he went to the fridge to get the milk, he realized if he gave the kids milk for dinner there wouldn’t be enough for breakfast. He was going to go get more milk, but the baby was already asleep. They’d been having a terrible time with her sleep cycle, so he didn’t want to wake her up just to go get milk. He decided to give the kids juice, which he diluted by half with water so they wouldn’t have as much sugar. After the explanation, the look on his wife’s face said it all. This was a perfect example of assuming there was no thinking behind the behavior.

Kay says the need for perfection is often the very thing that holds women back at work, at home, and in life in general. Just because you may not have it down perfectly doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to do the job. Just because your spouse doesn’t clean the kitchen just like you doesn’t mean you have to go behind them and “fix it.” Women have to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and try. According to Kay, learning how to fail and still move forward is important. And finally, as women grow in their confidence and competence, she encourages them to pass it on.

What Men Need From Their Wives

Women don’t want people pigeonholing them, penalizing them for taking risks and questioning their competence. Ironically, this is the exact thing women often do to their husbands.

Feldhahn believes it’s important to let your husband be the dad he wants to be, not the dad you want him to be. Kay also points out that neither women nor men like feeling or being seen as incompetent or lacking in confidence. Feldhahn encourages women to stop sending signals or telling your man he is inadequate and doesn’t measure up. Instead of questioning his decisions, assume he has thought about it, and seek to understand.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

There’s no doubt that sometimes men and women see and do things differently, but that’s ok! Here’s what husbands say they need from their wives.

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