Keep checking here for thoughts and views from Robert for our Flybabies and Flyguys.
A Sergeant can give a Private orders, all day, every day. A boss can
give an employee an order, if it deals with work, and nobody gives it
a second thought. A small child cannot give a parent orders, or at
least that was true when I was growing up. The nature of an order is
the implied message, "If you do not obey, I can make you wish you
had." It is that implied threat which makes all orders inherently
hostile, and which accounts for the resentment that builds up in
people who are ordered around a lot. In songs ("Take This Job And
Shove It"), in specialty verbs ("to frag"), and in dozens of other
ways, experience shows that there is a cost involved in giving orders,
even if it is only having to pay the employee his wages. At some
level, everyone knows this, so it is not surprising that in good
marriages, the language of command is rarely heard.
But the urge to command is deeply embedded in human nature. In men it
finds expression, or it doesn't; that is not our subject. Briefly put,
our subject is this: How does a woman get her way, if the language of
command is too costly to use?
The honest (as men see it) alternative to a command is a request, but
that too comes at a price: if you are forever making requests, you
come across as needy, a user. And, of course, the other person may try
to balance the scales by making requests of his own, which defeats the
goal of getting your way. What to do? The answer, all too often, is
Womanspeak. Not a command, and not a request, Womanspeak says "B" but
expects - even demands - to be understood as meaning "A".
Sometimes it looks like a question, as in the title of a recent book
on mother-daughter communication: "You're Wearing That?". Depending on
inflection, that phrase may be a comment, a suggestion, or a command.
It is not, however, a question. Used on children, Womanspeak almost
always disguises itself as a question, but every child learns early on
not to answer it. "Don't you think you need a sweater?" is not asking
for a child's opinion; it is giving the child an order. Sometimes it
looks like mere information, such as, "I'm cold." The hidden subtext,
though, is a command: Turn up the heat.
However it is disguised, men see Womanspeak as dishonest--a ploy to
give an order without paying the price--or, what is worse, a form of
manipulation. Men really resent manipulation, but we learn early on
not to say so. Women don't believe they are being manipulative, and
get testy when told otherwise. After all, when they use Womanspeak,
they think they are being diplomatic. And anyway, it is how their
mothers talked to them, wasn't it? Yes, and it is how mothers talked
to their sons, too, and we didn't like it then, either.
Probably Womanspeak dates back to the days when, as Blackstone said in
his Commentaries on the Common Law, the husband and wife were legally
one person, and that person was the husband. Back then, it served a
useful purpose: it gave a voice to people who had none other. But
those days are past. The largest impact Womanspeak has today is that
it encourages men to think what they dare not say, and no relationship
benefits from that, in the long run. At least that's what I think.
Examples of Womanspeak by category.
One very common category is the question that cannot be answered
(because it isn't really a question). For example:
WOMANSPEAK: You're not wearing that to the restaurant, are you? [If
he's not, why does he have it on?]
HONEST VERSION: I think you should change clothes.
WOMANSPEAK: Don't you think you should ______________? [What kind of
moron would be doing whatever-it-is, if he really thought he should be
doing something different?]
HONEST VERSION: I think you should be doing _______(what you really
want them to do)They can't read your mind.
Do we have time for me to ________________? [This example is an
especially subtle form of Womanspeak, since it actually is asking a
question, just not the question that is spoken aloud. The real
question is, "Do you mind if we make a side-trip, or put off leaving,
or whatever, even though we're already up against our deadline?"]
Another common ploy is to shift needs. For example:
WOMANSPEAK: The garbage needs to be taken out. [Garbage does not have
needs. People have needs. You need for him to take out the garbage.]
HONEST VERSION: Please, take out the garbage.
WOMANSPEAK: The car needs to be washed.
HONEST VERSION; Would you please wash the car.
WOMANSPEAK: You need to slow down. [No, you need for him to slow down.]
HONEST VERSION: I'm scared, would you please slow down.
And, of course, the classic:
WOMANSPEAK: I'm cold. [You know what that means.]
HONEST VERSION: Please turn up the heat.
FlyLady here; If you want to read more about what our guys are
thinking then go to our HeyTom website. They answer your questions.
Tom said that I should write something to stir things up. I indignantly replied, in the words Richard Nixon claimed the Watergate tapes failed to hear, "But that would be wrong," and wrote the following instead:
Every preteen girl I have even known has at some point gotten hooked on a
set of books featuring a black stallion, or some equivalent thing. These
are always stories about a girl, and a dangerous, powerful, male horse that
only she can ride. The Bad Boy, in other words. Depending on your
generation, the movie star equivalent of the Bad Boy might be James Dean,
Elvis Pressley, Sean Penn, Vin Diesel; you get the picture. You might even
have his picture. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know, as someone called a Bad
Boy of a past age. Not someone you want your daughter hooking up with, and
yet (maybe partly for that reason), they seem to have no problem hooking up
with girls who ought to know better. The British (who do a suspicious lot
of research in this area) say that women seem more attracted to Bad Boys
during the fertile part of the estrus cycle, and to Solid Types otherwise.
Is that it? Studmuffin as breeding stock, Nice Guy as breadwinner? Maybe,
but I have a darker theory for the strange attraction of the black stallion.
It is quite common to see a woman leave one abusive relationship, only to
become part of a new abusive relationship. What is not as commonly seen,
but is there if you look for it, is how frequently these women come from
homes where their fathers were abusive to their mothers. I have come to
think that these women are trying to redeem their fathers, by showing that
if their mothers had only loved him a little harder, everything would have
turned out better. In other words, that this woman (as a child) would have
gotten the love she deserved (but did not get) from her father, if only her
mama had not made her poppa so angry (or whatever). Laid out coldly in
print, this does not look like a good life plan, but it does account for
some facts that crop up too often to be coincidences.
Now I know, this is weird and Freudian (neo-Freudian, actually), but can
you do better? Women as a group are not stupid, or masochistic. They can
obviously detect the signs of the Bad Boy, but they don't see them as
danger signs. No theory of this kind can be scientifically proved, but mine
covers the facts, and has pretty good predictive power. I ask because, if
we knew, I think we could break the chain, and that is worth doing.
Whether and why boys from abusive households tend to seek out women like
their mothers, I leave to you.
By popular demand, we are posting this question and answer. Enjoy!
Tom. I'm 23 years old and my husband is 22 years old. we got married in august and now are expecting out first child. we have just moved to anchorage ak. I'm not working but i come from a wealthy family that is supporting me by giving me money here and there. My husband is in the airforce and doesn't get paid much. We don't even have 5,000 in our account. I need some advice. My husband has been spending money on stuff like xbox 360 computer games and video games instead of saving money for the baby or even saving it for bills. And my husband has quite a few bills. We are a young couple with not very much money in our account. We can't depend on money that my parents give me cause they can stop giving me money at anytime. I'm not sure if it's because i'm pregnant and my emotions are out of wack that they way he spends money bothers me or if I'm right to be a little bit upset that he is spending money on xbox games and computer games. Christmas is comming and he complains that I'm not going to be buying anything for him. I have told him not to buy me anything but to save the money. I need advice!! It's drving me crazy, I'm not sure if i'm over reacting or if my hubby needs to realize that we are broke and he can't be buying stuff like that at the moment. It's easy for us to save money right now cuase we live on base and all the electric and water bills are paid for by the airforce, and if just spend money on food and necessities we can save money. please email me back with your opinions!!!
broke in alaksa.
I have an advantage over your husband, in that I was raised by parents who had gone through the Great Depression, and he was not. If he had been, he could not so easily convince himself that whatever his friends have, he has to have, and that whatever he has to have, the family can afford. I do not know an easy cure for that mentality, but sometimes zero-based budgeting can help. But this is not something that you can do by yourself; you have to involve him, as a willing participant. Call it a contract, call it a treaty; call it what you like, but you both have to agree or it will not work.
In theory, budgeting is easy. You know from experience what most of the basic expenses are going to be, and when they will come up. For monthly items, you need to set out of reach as much as it will take to cover them, up front. For non-monthly items (car insurance, for example), figure their cost as if they were due monthly, and set aside that much as well. You do this at the start of each month, and you include everything: food, diapers, laundry, everything. That will give you your fixed expenses for the coming month. Then figure your known income for the coming month. Do not include possibles, such as gifts from the family. Subtract the known income from the known expenses, and the difference (if there is any) is your discretionary income. If you can agree up front that you ought to be saving some set amount, or some percentage, add that to the fixed expenses. They are off limits for anything except the accounts that generated them. Anything. That means if Circuit City is running a one-time-only special on something you want, but don't have to have, you cannot spend the expense money for it. If you don't have enough on the discretionary side of the books, do without it.
Debt payments are a fixed expense, by the way. To be in debt is to have part of your future owned by somebody else. I give you this advice from my parents, who had reason to know. You can go in debt for three things: basic transportation, basic housing, and health. If you treat everything else as discretionary, you will not have any debts at all some day. Especially treat as discretionary such entertainment items as x-boxes and the like. Until the libraries all close and they quit making jigsaw puzzles, nobody "needs" a machine to entertain them. There is nothing wrong with luxury items, but knowing the difference between necessities and luxuries is becoming a lost art, and we need to revive it. You can do it. Good luck.
At the May FlyFest in Charlotte, someone asked a question about their
husband's clutter, and how she should deal with it. I don't remember
whether Marla or Kelly tried to answer the question, but I didn't
think the answer quite hit the mark, so at the end of the program they
let me on stage to give my take on the subject. I was not speaking
from notes, and while I remember generally what I talked about, this
is by no means a transcript of what I said. But the core message is
the same. Anyway, here's what I think.
When you're about to take a trip, you make preparations. You gas up
the car, you pack your bag, maybe you check the map. Anyway, you do
all this before you leave the driveway. Guys' possible future lives
are like that; we acquire things that are either currently useful, or
things that will surely be useful later, when we fulfill one or
another of those life missions our parents unknowingly gave us. Up to
now, the analogy to getting ready for a trip works fairly well, but
right here it breaks down. If the trip gets cancelled, you don't leave
the bag packed. When the kid (who, let's say, played football in high
school) finds himself a finish carpenter, or pediatrician, or
whatever, he will probably not throw away that high school letter
jacket. He's not going to wear it, but he is going to keep it, at
least for a while. And while he keeps it, to you it looks like clutter.
To him, it isn't clutter. It is the smudgy ink stamp on the wrist that
says he can get back into the nightclub of youth. To understand this,
you need to understand the difference between how you stay young, and
how he does. Men, for the most part, don't use makeup. We may use hair
dye, but we don't use it well. We may work out in the gym, but we
don't use body shapers or girdles. In other words, our attempts at
eternal youth are less successful than yours are. And yet, our culture
sets a considerable premium on youth, or at least the illusion of
youth. Let's just say it: you fool yourselves your way, we fool
ourselves our way, and our way involves psychological props. As long
as we don't discard that old camping equipment, we are still campers,
still Boy Scouts, sort of. If we keep the letter jacket, we preserve
the moment of triumph as if it were only yesterday. If we don't have
that old GTO hauled off, we tell ourselves that we might still,
someday, rebuild the motor and have a muscle car again. As long as we
keep the stuff, we can still cling to the illusions.
I am a mediocre bridge player but a decent chess player. I can regap
the tappets on an MG, but there are third graders who can draw better
than I can. When people talk about me, they sometimes say that I'm a
judge and that's fine, that's how the language works, but it isn't
really true. I make my living as a judge, but that's just what I do,
it isn't what I am. I don't know what I am; I like to think I'm a work
in progress. But whatever it is that I presently am, I don't think it
can be summed up in one word. I don't think your guy can be, either.
I'm not a judge, she's not a blond, he isn't an activist, and you're
not a ditz. But having said that, I think it is possible to say what
someone is not. Your guy's life still has many roads it can take, but
some of the original possibilities are now firmly in the past. He
could still write a play, or learn Spanish, but at some point, it has
become a fact that he isn't going to be a professional athlete, or a
rock star. And yet he may still have musty old letter jacket, or a
dust-covered set of drums, or a box of obsolete radio parts, or a
wooden tennis racket. They have in fact become clutter, from the
moment that he came to a fork in the road and took the path that led
some other way. You see it. He doesn't, at least not yet. Men do not
easily come to terms with what they are not, because the illusion that
all of the possibilities are still intact is a comforting one. As long
as all things are possible, we are still twenty. To look at our life
and say that this or that thing is simply not going to happen, is to
acknowledge that we aren't twenty any more.
I don't know that there is anything you can do about any of this;
maybe just knowing is enough. But remember, you hooked up with your
guy, and women aren't attracted by stupidity. He isn't a dimwit, but
he is willing to fool himself if you let him. The wrong way to not-let
him is to say, "Why are you keeping that old stuff? You're never going
to do anything with that!" That is wrong, not because it is incorrect,
but because it won't work. Just a thought: if you get rid of the prom
dress, the letter jacket will probably disappear. Your home may not
have either of those things, but you know what I mean.