“Can’t you just put your hand on his back and feel him breathing?” our student asked her husband.
“Well, yeah, but I just want to make sure he’s okay,” her super-protective husband replied.
Every night it was the same thing. He’d wake their seven-year-old son up to make sure he was okay.
He even did something similar with her. Not every night, but some nights, he’d wake her up, saying “I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
She came to the Q&A call and asked me and Paul… “I don’t know how to fix it, please help me navigate this.”
Men are wired for protection and survival. It may sound woo-woo, but the reality is, protection and survival are wired into their DNA, simply from being the male of the species.
This core urge applies to their partner’s safety, and the kids’ safety, as well as their own. They see the survival of their family as their personal responsibility.
Clearly, in the mind of this woman’s husband, every single thing in his life comes back to one primary question: “Are you guys going to survive? I have to make sure you survive.”
What a burden he’s placing on himself! Not only is he in charge of his own survival, but by agreeing to marry her, now he’s somehow got to make sure he keeps her alive as well, even when she’s out of his sight.
And by having a child with her, he’s taken on the responsibility of ensuring their child’s survival, which is even harder than ensuring hers! At least she’s a grown woman–she can yell, she can call 911, she can run. But now he’s got this fragile, helpless child he’s agreed to be responsible for.
His primary base need is to feel the certainty that his wife and son are okay, which he’s able to do by nudging them awake to make sure.
Here’s the thing, there is a predictable pattern here.
When Mom aligns with Dad, and drops her resistance to him, she becomes part of the way that Dad is protecting his family.
When Mom resists Dad’s approach, she is “standing in the way” of him meeting this need and doing his job (as he sees it). She becomes an OBSTACLE to his goal.
And the masculine is trained to remove obstacles to get to the goal.
You don’t want to become the OBSTACLE that your partner is trying to remove to get to his goal.
AND… we also do NOT do the “win-lose” thing around here, where we pick “My Way” or “Your Way” and one of us looses. So the answer is not to just “get over it and let him have it his way”.
The solution lies in creating the win-win.
He wants certainty. He wants to protect his family. He wants reassurance that everyone is ok so he can get back to his own peaceful core.
There are MANY ways that you can participate in helping him meet all of these needs. When you trust yourself to have the skill set to collaborate with your partner, help meet their needs in ways that serve everyone and create alignment… the win-lose dynamic disappears.
When our partners engage in behaviors we don’t understand, it’s natural to resist.
But that leads to the tug-of-war scenario Paul and I talk about, where the harder you white-knuckle grip and pull, the harder they white-knuckle grip and pull back.
Instead of pulling on the rope, put the rope down and accept, that by engaging in whatever behavior it is you find frustrating or bizarre, your partner has a need they’re trying to meet.
In this case, that need was certainty, protection, safety.
I’m sure you have needs, too, and maybe you express them in ways your partner doesn’t understand.
Relationship is a skill set. And it can be learned.