A Quiz! How Defensive is Your Husband?
Marriage Magic Mindbody Wellness Tips
Dear Awesome Woman,
How defensive is your husband? You may be nodding your head up and down right now knowing the answer, with your thoughts screaming, “very!” And your body may be tensing in memory of the last conflict you had where you were shocked by his response to something that you thought was a simple request or comment. But I’d like you to take a short quiz called, “How Allergic to Shame is Your Husband?” After you’re done, return here and read on 🙂
So, the higher the score in column B, the more defensive your husband is, meaning the more allergic to shame that he is. Let me explain further: as women, we may be quite perplexed why pointing out great parking spots to our husbands or asking them to take out the garbage when it’s over spilling and it’s their job anyway, may cause an intense emotional reaction on their part. We may even label them as “abusive.” But I’m going to share some insight and tips that I’ve gathered from relationship trainings, including Laura Doyle’s coach relationship training, and somatic/mindbody knowledge that can turn things around.
Any time that you, as a wife, express yourself with an energy or language that conveys your husband did something wrong or has failed you in some way will trigger feelings of shame and humiliation in him. Any time your husband feels negatively judged, it has the potential to cause his nervous system to go into fight or flight— hence snapping at you (a fight response) or escape by shutting down (a freeze or flight response). I love the term that speaker Shterna Ginsberg uses which is “highly allergic” meaning that many men are “highly allergic” to anything that smacks of disrespect, criticism, or judgment of them.
Or as Laura Doyle says, “what is helpful in female language, is controlling in male language.” Men, in general, are raised in a societal environment rampant with teasing, humiliation, and shaming. There can be quite harsh expectations for boys and men to “toughen up, be brave, stop whining, and just deal with things like a man.”
Compassion is not usually expressed to them in educational settings, sports settings, or among male friends. Being teased and being told to “toughen up” leads boys to reject the vulnerability of not knowing how to do things, the vulnerability of getting things wrong, the vulnerability of making mistakes. That vulnerability can make them feel stupid, less than, and ashamed.
Unfortunately, this male culture primes a man’s nervous system to be in a highly sensitive and alert state—they will detect any whiff of negative judgment or disrespect. As wives, we may unknowingly activate this highly alert state of our husbands with our tone, our complaining, our criticism, our judgment and our expressions of disappointment or feeling let down by them—all indications that they have failed us somehow.
When a highly allergic husband smells his wife’s disappointment or lack in him, it will trigger a shame attack and he may lash out at you. Imagine a trapped and wounded stray dog that bares its teeth. That’s the fight response.
Or imagine a little boy who got a poor grade on a test and his father shakes his head in disappointment and scolds him for not doing well enough, not trying hard enough, or not being smart enough. The little boy wants to slink away in shame. He finds a corner to curl up and brood in and builds up armor so that he’ll never be hurt again. We can see this same reaction in a husband shutting down. He may leave the scene physically or emotionally or both, closing his heart to you. That’s the flight and/or freeze response.
As a woman, perhaps you have also experienced being criticized and shamed. These are not exclusive to the male experience. The difference is that women tend to be relationship-oriented beings, so they’ll go to their friends and share their feelings when hurt. They’ll cry and get empathy, compassion, and nurturing.
But in the male culture, it is admired to be stoic and brave. Most boys will keep their feelings in, not sharing with anyone that they are sad and hurt. They want to just keep up the tough exterior that they’re ok and that nothing (and no one) can touch them. Vulnerability is a big no-no for boys and men. Hopefully, we can change that as we raise our sons, and also change the education system, but many of our husbands have been raised being shamed for their vulnerability, rather than encouraged and supported in dealing with their pain.
I believe that the key to healthy marriages in which intimacy, connection, and joy can grow is to nurture emotional safety in the relationship. Emotional safety can be judged by the state of the nervous system.
Our nervous systems have different settings and in this context, here are two which are important to be aware of:
1) A relaxed, safe-feeling state—no danger around, rest and digest, all is well.
2) An alert, defensive, and alarmed state—fight, flight, or freeze—the person feels the need to protect themselves, not just physically, but emotionally because their state of being is in some way being threatened.
We are all walking nervous systems. What state do you think joy, love, connection, partnership, and intimacy will grow in?
If your husband is constantly feeling under attack and is highly allergic to feeling shamed and judged, then he will fight back, shut down, or walk away. Now, you may have just asked him to do the dishes. What could be the problem with that?! Nothing—except for the fact that he may be primed for defensiveness (from childhood/societal wounding) in his most intimate, vulnerable relationship.
If the score was high for your husband being very defensive, meaning that he is “highly allergic” to shame, then the tips I’ll be sharing will be very helpful in nurturing more emotional safety in your home, resulting in more peaceful interactions with your husband. This will provide you with a more relaxed nervous system as well.
You may be asking why you need to make these changes and not your husband, but know that you two are a team, and since I’m only speaking with you, dear awesome woman, then it is only you who I can ask to make the shifts. My husband and I have a Couple’s Workshop and that engages both partners. As active participants, the husbands in those programs receive guidance in making changes to create emotionally safe marriages for their wives.
(I also want to note that if your husband has extreme Borderline/Narcissistic traits, then that is a much more serious discussion and even the best tips may not help the marriage. You will need one-one help for discernment and problem-solving solutions. I’ve helped many clients in these circumstances so please reach out for your 20-minute free Clarity Call to discuss how I can help.)
So what can we do?
For a husband who is highly allergic to shame, that little humiliated boy sits inside that mature man’s body, and in an intimate relationship they will lash out or shut down if they even smell the energy of criticism and negative judgment.
As wives, we don’t want to trigger that shame. It certainly does not lead to an emotionally safe atmosphere for our husbands. But if you’re like me, you may not have known that you were triggering any of this in your husband. Growing up in modern society, I was encouraged to speak my mind and be completely honest. “Say what you think!” was the given philosophy when I was growing up. But guess what? That is a terrible philosophy for marriage (and just about any relationship).
It’s not that we should shut down our own voices, but we can choose to use our voices wisely. There are words we can use to try and get our needs met in a more respectful manner. There are words and energies we can use to encourage and support rather than put down. These shifts that we make as women can create an atmosphere of emotional safety for both ourselves and our husbands. Let’s choose to create a more loving space for the microcosm of our marriage.
I’m sharing 2 tips here (with extra thoughts added) from my free marriage e-guide and when you implement these insights, your marriage will change. Peace and wellness will increase for both you and your husband. Please be sure to read the full e-guide (6 Simple Tips to Up the Vibe of Your Marriage Today!) to benefit your marriage.
1) DROP THE “SHOULD” ENERGY & SAY IT DIFFERENTLY
Many studies where men are interviewed indicate that a husband’s deepest desire is for his wife to be happy. Now at this point in your marriage, you may be shaking your head, saying, “no way,” but as mind-boggling as this can be, it is what studies show.
I believe that when we up our vibe by making certain Mindbody Wellness shifts, we will see our husband’s desire to make us happy show up as a reality in our marriage.
One way to do this is to drop the “should” energy in your marriage, and then let your husband know what you’d like in a respectful way.
Tune into your body for a minute and feel what “should” energy does inside. Try filling in the blank sentences: “My husband should ….” Do you notice the physical sensation of tightness or tension? A furrowing of the brows or a clenching of the jaw? “Should” is an aggressive energy, whether we direct it inwards towards ourselves or outwards towards others.
Now drop the “should” energy and tap into your desires. What is it that you want? Do you want to go out to dinner? Do you want more help around the house? Do you want the bills paid on time? Try saying it this way:
“I’d love to go out to dinner. I’d love to try that new restaurant out.”
“I love when the bills are paid on time. I feel so much safer that way.”
“I’d love help with food shopping. I’m so tired after work (or after taking care of the kids).”
You may notice a softer energy replacing that tension energy of “shoulding.”You’re also telling him what your desires are without using the word “you” which could feel bossy, naggy, and controlling to a man. Expressing this way takes getting used to, but can make a world of difference. It definitely will feel more respectful to your husband.
2) APPRECIATE YOUR MAN
Women are discerning creatures. We can easily see what needs to be fixed, corrected, and changed. Including our men. But your husband wants to feel like a winner in your eyes, not like someone who always needs fixing. Not like a project or something on your to-do list.
Though feelings need to be acknowledged and felt (not ignored or suppressed) the energy of gratitude also needs to be experienced and sprinkled abundantly into a marriage. Using the ROAR! Process will help you process anger, frustration, and resentment so you don’t get stuck in those feelings. It’s also important that you acknowledge your sadness, fear, and disappointment because emotions are “energy in motion” and need to be noticed as physical sensations in the body for wisdom to be heard.
All that being said, gratitude has a very high energetic vibe. Acknowledging the good that your husband does and how it makes you feel and then communicating that to him can cause tremendous positive shifts in a marriage.
What do you see right in your husband? If you had the mantra, “Never take anything for granted” what would you notice?
Does he work? Do you have a roof over your head because he has a job, pays the bills on time? Does he clean up sometimes, cook a meal? Does he drive carpool, bathe the kids, play with them? Then tell him you appreciate these things.
“Thank you so much for working so hard. I appreciate your desire to support the family. It makes me feel loved and protected.”
“I see how important it is to you to bring laughter in the house. I love how you horseplay with the kid. Thank you.”
“I really admire your tenacity. Dealing with that roofer was difficult, but you didn’t give up. Thanks for taking care of that.”
I love what Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, shares in a Vanity Fair article:
“In the Jewish culture there’s a prayer that you’re supposed to say every time you wake up in the morning to thank God for, you know, keeping you alive,” Gadot explains, referring to the Jewish prayer, Modeh Ani. “You say ‘modeh ani’, which means ‘I give thanks’… So every morning I wake up and step out of bed and I say ‘Thank you for everything, thank you, thank, you, thank you…Nothing is to be taken for granted.”
Obviously, your husband is not G-d, but it is so important to take nothing for granted from anyone!
So, for this tip—never take anything for granted and tell your husband how the things that he does or the qualities he has makes you feel safe, loved, and protected. Author Martha Beck once asked a white water rafter how he avoided the rocks. He replied that when you pay attention to the space between the rocks that is where your boat takes you.
Choose to sprinkle gratitude into your marriage—what you put your attention on will cause more energy to flow in that direction and your husband will want to show up more and more as the winner he truly can be in your eyes.
If you’re a woman who would love to enjoy a peaceful marriage and home and be empowered as an individual, I can help you achieve that. Somatic healing sessions are the way. Schedule your 20-minute free Marriage Magic Clarity Call today!
As a Somatic Healer, Relationship Expert & Clarity Coach, I’ve had the privilege of working with amazing clients worldwide. Each one discovers the healing powers of their bodies, the wisdom of their emotions, and the deep connection to their intuition as well as developing skills to create a marriage they love. I also specialize in helping women recover from trauma, grief, anxiety, toxic Borderline/Narcissistic relationships, and physical/emotional pain ailments. Here are some Mindbody Wellness resources for you and looking forward to connecting!
Sharing a few testimonials from clients whose lives have been transformed and you can check out more @ Client Love:
Feedback from a happy client in the Couples Workshop my husband, Dovid, and I run together! “Dovid, I want you to know that after working together with you and Miriam, my marriage is just so much better. I feel more secure, more loved, and more connected to than ever before—even more than while we were dating.” – A.S., Michigan
“Miriam helped me access my own strength. She teaches practical techniques in a balanced way that helped me zoom into my own inner wisdom. Her work is focused, orderly, and most important, she didn’t try to do the work for me. But, helped me tune into to my own inner strength and voice. And from there build healthy relationships with myself and with others.” – Anonymous
“I worked with Miriam for six sessions. It has helped me enormously with many issues. I have been able to make changes in relationships and release pain from trauma. Miriam has taught me tools to use regularly to release tension. These tools are simple and quick which makes it easy to implement them. I am very glad that I reached out to Miriam. Her warmth, kindness and understanding are truly comforting!” – G.K., California
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Love & blessings,
Master Mindbody/Somatic Healer & Relationship Expert