Today, I just did an interview with a woman who helps women in her community with weight loss and body image. We had a really great discussion, and one of the questions she asked kind of made me pause and think, so I thought I’d cover it in this week’s blog post.
Her question was, “What happens when women step up and make some bold changes in their marriages? How do their husbands react?” Because up until then, we had been talking about the things that I encourage women to do, one of which is trusting, radically trusting what feels good and what doesn’t. So I shared, for example, that I found out that I really don’t like my breasts being touched, and I had kind of pathologized that and said, “Oh, what’s wrong with me? I don’t like that.” Until I finally came to the conclusion that I just don’t like my breasts being touched.
We had been talking about these changes and that was one of them; that my husband does not initiate physical touch, and I initiate it in our marriage. It works really well for us, and he gets way more touch in the long term, and he’s very satisfied, and I’m very happy. But in that context, do some men just say, “I’m out of here. This is not what I signed up for. I thought this was going to be like a give and take relationship, and I wasn’t aware that you didn’t like these things or liked these things, and it’s too much for me.”
And so it really made me pause and think, “Have I had that happen? Have I had anyone go through my work or my programs and because of the work I asked them to do, which is to make bold changes in their marriages, their husbands leave them? And I can honestly say I don’t know. Personally I don’t know of anyone for whom it’s caused that much turmoil in their relationship. But I do want to kind of talk about some of the things that can happen when a woman steps up and is a spark of change in her marriage.
And so really there are two paths. There is one path where the woman makes these changes. She’s prioritizing her pleasure. She’s listening to her intuition. She’s connecting well with her body. She’s taking responsibility for her happiness, and starts doing some self development work, and she invites her partner to come along, right? Not trying to change them, but just saying, “these are my boundaries, this is who I am, this is how I’m going to respect myself”, and making some requests. So that’s very different than saying, “you’re the problem, you need to change”. This is very much what you’re going to do differently in your life now, and these are the requests you’re making in relation to your own self and your own body. You can do whatever you want to do with your own body.
When women do this, I see a couple things happen. Some men are fully onboard. They’re like, “yes, I see this is positive. I want to join along. How can we work together on this?” Then there are other husbands who are a little slower to warm up. I’d say my husband was in that category. It takes time for them. It usually takes experiences for them to be like, “oh, I understand now what this means, what this looks like”. For example, when I have women take the lead in the sexual experience, at first the husbands are a little confused about what means in a theoretical way. But then when they’re in the bedroom and their wife takes the lead, I hear from a lot of them, “Oh, I get it now. When you said you’d be more fulfilled and satisfied if your wife took the lead, I get it. I am actually more satisfied and fulfilled. It is actually much more enjoyable experience for me.”
How long this takes really depends. It depends if addiction is in the picture for them. It depends if they’re having a lot of other marital issues or if the husband is feeling a lot of resentment – that’s a big challenge. “I’m not going to come along with you on your decisions if I don’t feel like my needs are getting met.” I help men really see that their happiness is their responsibility. That timeline is really going to depend on many, many factors. But of course there’s always the other option, where the husband says, “this is too much for me. This is not what I signed up for. This is not what I expected a marriage was going to look like.”
Say for example, you started your marriage with the assumption that you would have a very traditional looking marriage where the wife stays home and takes care of the children and does all the housework, and the husband goes out and brings home the bacon, and gets to watch sports all weekend. It’s quite possible if the woman says, “this isn’t working for me anymore, and I really need to change. I actually want to go to work. Let’s put the kids in daycare. We need to split the housework.” Of course that’s a big change, and it’s always a possibility that the partner will say, “I’m leaving.” That’s always a possibility. But I feel deeply that women often don’t make the changes they want to because of this core fear of abandonment. That we don’t step up and we don’t say what is it I need in my life, how can I prioritize my pleasure, and so there’s this constant fear. And, like I said, there’s been so many women … I work with so many women who I’ve encouraged them to make big, bold changes in their marriages, and it hasn’t happened.
But then the question is, do you want to be in a marriage in which you aren’t listening to your intuition or you aren’t thinking about what would bring you joy and happiness in your life because you’re worried your husband might leave you? Is that really the type of partnership that you want to be in? I would say no… I don’t think it is. I don’t think anyone’s going to be happy in that scenario for the long term. And is it really serving the spouse to be in partnership with somebody who is doing things out of fear and obligation? I don’t think that’s serving them in the long run either.
I really want to encourage you to make decisions as an independent woman. Not to say that you aren’t compassionate with your husband or that you aren’t committed to your marriage or that you aren’t thinking about things that might bring him joy or serve him. Of course there needs to be a nice balance and moderation there. But is there some hobby that you’ve been yearning to do? Do you want more connection with your community? Do you want to be able to spend more time playing music or doing art or start running every day? Is there something that you have been holding back about? Is there some sort of personal development that you want to do? Do you want to draw some boundaries in your marriage, which are new to you and are kind of scary?
I encourage you to take that leap. I really do. Because a healthy marriage is made up of two healthy individuals. That’s all I’ll say.
I hope you guys have a wonderful day. I am with you in solidarity, and us women need to keep our spark alive. The world needs us, and we will bring about tremendous healing. I believe in the future, so let’s all collectively take our paths and of course invite our partners along with us to bring more joy and happiness in our lives.