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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Romance- one button away!



Gentlemen, your lady meets you for a coffee date and she is depressed.  You naturally ask what the matter is. She reveals that she has just accidentally sent money via M-PESA to the wrong person. You panic for her and ask her the amount. 10,000 KES, she responds. “Did you call Safaricom?” you ask, frantic. She says she did and they began retracing the transaction but then her phone ran out of charge in the process. You unbutton you shirt and reveal the red S on your chest. What’s the S stand for? Where you come from, it means Hope. You hastily grab your not-so-smart phone while mining the details of the mobile-money transaction through short questions to your lady. The man has motivation to multi-task. You call Safaricom and explain to Customer Care that there is a lady in distress. Safaricom walks with you through the steps and in no time they complete the process that she had begun before her phone lost power. They retrieve the lost money before the wrong recipient withdraws an early Christmas. Safaricom assures you that the money has been reversed. You know that this one has scored you 10,000 bonga points in the relationship. You turn to the rescued damsel. She is relieved and whispers a prayer under her breath but that frown is not yet upside down. You go on into the date but she is still talking about how she felt bad for sending the money to the wrong person. Alas! You wonder. Did she not hear you when you announced that the money had been reversed? Was the day not saved? Was the dragon not slain? Was the prince not charming? You ponder in your heart and you conclude that the aforementioned questions all score an affirmative YES. Then whatever’s the issue? The perfect date is being ruined by a brooding girlfriend- who has no reason to brood, you think to yourself. You make a conclusion- the Princess is spoilt and ungrateful. “Why do ladies act like this?” you question your male brain. Yet the logically wired grey matter produces the proverbial ERROR #404: ANSWER NOT FOUND.

Gender Switch

Ladies, you meet your man for coffee. By the look on his face you know that something is wrong. You ask him about it. The answer makes you scream (at least in your head). “Nothing,” he says flatly. You know it’s not “nothing” that’s on his mind. His face is as serious as Government taxes yet he denies the fact. You prod and prod and prod and prod until he gives in.  He confesses: “We made a big loss in the business today. I will have to make up for that lost cash.” You feel bad for his loss. “How much?” you ask. He mentions a fat number. “Oh goodness, that is a lot of money,” you continue. You decide to talk with him about it. It will make him feel better, you reckon. “How did that happen?” He explains the technical details. You want the emotional details so you interrupt his train of thought and inquire, “Did you trust George?” No answer. “I told you George was bad company. I think you should stop working with him. I don’t trust him as a business partner. Maybe you should try getting a job before you recover. This is the third business loss you’ve faced, right? How can you raise that money in such a short time?” And as you speak, you notice that his silence is very loud. His face is breaking at the seams. He says to forget the issue but you don’t see how ignoring talking about it will help. He grows livid and it becomes one of the worst dates you’ve ever had as a couple. You conclude that your man is a big baby. “Why do men act like this?” you question your multitasking female brain with more processors than Apple could put in one device. Yet the emotionally processing female brain, in an effort to find the problem with your man, begins a journey like in The Lord of The Rings- never ending, depressing, confusing and with lots and lots of sleepless nights worried about one man carrying the ring-- to propose of course ;-)

Do these situations sound familiar in your relationships? If they do, you’re not alone. Turi and I have been there so many times- especially when we were dating. I wished I knew then what I know now. It would make our dating life more romantic, less argumentative and godlier. I hope for anyone dating out there, these principles may be applied for your own sake. After reading a few books this year on fears that men and women have and after studying myself, my wife and several of our couple friends, I came to learn that many conflicts between men and women are based on these two truths:

Women generally fear disconnection from relationships.
Men generally fear being controlled and looking like failures.

Just let that sink in first. Does it make sense?

Women generally fear disconnection from relationships.
Men generally fear being controlled and looking like failures.

In the first situation, the ladies reading it must have thought, “How can that man not see that his woman needed a hug and to talk about how bogged down she felt after that harrowing experience?” The men on the other hand may be thinking, “How can that woman be so ungrateful after her man saved the situation?” It’s like men see the world through blue sunglasses and ladies through pink ones. The lady in the first scenario, like every other woman, has a key innate need that she craves to be met. That need is an emotional connection in relationships. She wants the money back, alright. She made a mistake and sent it to the wrong person and she knows it. However, she just doesn’t want the money back. She wants someone to understand how she feels. She wants an emotional connection, especially with a man- her man. So despite Superman saving the day, all the logical solutions do not comfort a heart that craves connection. And if you don’t grasp that, guys, your coffee dates will be Kryptonite. She wants to talk about how her heart dropped and how she felt helpless when the money account read a different name. She wants her man to say that it’s okay and that he feels so sorry for her. She wants him to stand with her emotionally and even offload her feelings on the phone that lost charge. No, it’s not self-pity; it’s self-care. But the man offers none of this yet the man meant no harm. He did what he knew best.

In the second situation, the men reading it must have thought, “What a disrespectful woman!” She is just talking without an idea what her words are doing to that poor guy.” The women are probably thinking, “But he needs to talk about it in detail; he will feel better.” And talking is a good thing; I don’t advocate for keeping mum with 21 problems in your head. However, with men, it’s “how to talk about it” that’s more important rather than just plain “talk about it.” Like the man in the second scenario, all men have innate needs. They are the need to succeed and the need to be free to make decisions. So when his girlfriend/wife mentions how George is a bad business partner, the man hears her say that he FAILED in choosing the right business partner. When she asks whether this is the third business to fail for him, he hears that she is controlling his wrongly directed life- he feels like a failure. When she “suggests” that he takes a job instead, he feels controlled and belittled. Dr. Gary Smalley likes to say, “His fear buttons have been pushed.” He fears being controlled and looking like a failure. So when these fear buttons are pressed, he gets hurt, frustrated and angry at the one pressing them- his woman. Yet his woman meant no harm. She merely wanted him to feel better after talking about it. She did what she knew best. 

Men and women respond to crises how they know best and at times they push these fear buttons.

Women generally have a fear button of disconnection from relationships.
Men generally have a fear button of being controlled and looking like failures.

Since women have an innate need for relationship connection, they generally offer it to men who are in distress. Unknowingly, in doing so they may press the fear buttons of the men by talking about issues that may be sensitive to a man’s pride. Women have fear buttons too. When in crisis, men will run to them with logical offerings and the women will feel them to be cold or emotionally distant from their distress. When I learned this, I began to apply it and I realized that I had pushed Turi’s fear buttons so many times while we were dating. She had done so to me too. We would get hurt and have a few terrible tiffs. However, once we learned this major difference between us, we realized that we need to change the rules of the game. And even with this knowledge, you are still bound to push your partners fear buttons because you are a human being who makes mistakes. The following are a few things with men and women that people in relationships should consider:

Women can go around men’s fear buttons through recognition
Addressing a concern that is spearheaded with recognition of a man’s efforts will be a wise move for any woman in a relationship. When his business is down and you honestly feel that George was a bad partner, consider starting it like this: “Dear, I know you worked so hard to set up that business and I want you to know I am proud of you. You are a successful man and I have always admired you. I am glad to have you in my life. However, I don’t want to see you hurt, dear. I strongly feel that George may have been a bad business partner. You are made for more but he could be pulling you down.” There is a lot of magic in that response. That magic makes him talk- and talk tenderly.

Men can go around women’s fear buttons by practising emotional intelligence
A man can analyse a problem and see the 42 holes that are sinking the ship. While it is wise to clog the holes and prevent a shipwreck, it is wiser to have a working relationship after the day has been saved. You don’t want your lady to abandon ship even when it is saved just because she can’t be in the boat with a callous man. Emotional intelligence works like the IQ- the more you study it, the better it gets. For every emotionally distressing situation your lady goes through, offer comfort. Solutions are good. However, at times the milk is spilt and can’t be recollected. In times like that when there is nothing logical to apply, apply your heart. Turi was applying for a certain job last year online. In the application, she failed to attach a certain document that was crucial for the interview. The online survey sealed her registration and there was no going back. She wanted to cry. There was nothing she could do. When she told me about it, I was upset at how she skipped such a huge step. I wanted to ask her if she had called the organization and explained the situation. However, emotional intelligence demanded this was not time to ask that; she needed a hug. We can train ourselves to be sensitive to people’s emotions. If you are born again, The Holy Spirit gives you lots of wisdom on this. And so a hug I gave her. I told her it was okay. The logical response is not always the right response for a woman. And I just held her in my arms until she smiled. And when she was relaxed, she came up with the idea of following up with the organization on her own.

How you say something matters more than what you say
This applies to both men and women. At times we say the right thing but in the wrong way. And when we hurt our partner we justify it lazily and sheepishly by saying, “But it’s the truth.” Stating the facts without grace and wisdom might as well be kept to yourself. Your partner may get angry, not because you said to them the truth, but because you were callous in you delivery. I feel the need to say this: If you intend to hurt your partner with your words, it will show. You may choose the kindest of words, but it will seep through your tone. You may act out your tone but it will seep through your facial expression. You can act out your facial expression but it will seep out through your words. Back to square one. However if you chose to communicate to your spouse without hurting them, the effort will be noticed.

And you may say: Ernest, it’s a tad too late for us. We’re a couple and we have pressed each other’s buttons over and over and I don’t know how to fix it. Read on.

The magic game changer is a genuine apology.

Apologise- genuinely. When you offend, Beloved, apologise. A complete apology starts with “I’m” and ends with “sorry.” Countering words or phrases to explain ourselves do not cement the apology, they only water it down. To say “I’m sorry but...” is to say I apologise with my lips but I am not since with my heart. Often the words that follow BUT are justifications for our well-meant words or actions. However, an apology isn’t a determiner of who is right or wrong. An apology demarcates who is hurt and who did the hurting. We apologise to restore relationships not to prove a point. A complete apology starts with “I’m” and ends with “sorry.”And when a genuine apology is rendered, forgiveness must follow. Forgiveness that has to be earned is not forgiveness at all. The bonafide signature of forgiveness is unmerited pardon. Forgiveness cannot be earned by begging sympathetic cries of the offender, appeasing gifts or placating pleas to consider letting the hurt go. Why? Because forgiveness may be free but it is priceless. Forgiveness that has to be gained is unforgiveness at best. It has its roots in the soil of pride and is enriched in the manure of hurt. The trick isn't necessarily to swallow one's pride but rather to vomit it out and have it out of your system. Forgive without conditions.

Study your partner and their past responses to your words and behaviour. Who knows? Romance may be one button away!