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Catch the podcast of Bob & Lori's latest appearance on WomanTalk Live as they discuss the "7 Secrets of Emotional & Erotic Intimacy".

Bob & Lori Hollander are Talkradio 680 WCBM's WomanTalk Live Relationship Experts. Listen to the podcasts:
7 Secrets of Emotional & Erotic Intimacy - 2/14/09
Love & Money - 11/8/08
Romance or Roomates - 9/20/08
What If One Of Us Changes? For Better or Worse - 6/11/08
Questions & Answers

These are some of the most commonly asked questions we get from people about relationships. We hope these are helpful. Don't see an answer to a question you have? Click here to submit yours!

Q & A #1 - When I have a problem, why doesn’t my husband just listen?

Q & A #2 - Why does my husband want to be alone so much of the time?

Q & A #3 - When my wife has a problem, why doesn’t she just listen to my advice
and allow me to help her?

Q & A #4 - When my wife is critical of me, what should I do?

Q & A #5 - Why is my wife so moody?


Q & A #1 - When I have a problem, why doesn’t my husband just listen?

Bob says: Often times, men feel “blind-sided” when women come to them, wanting them to just merely listen. The natural inclination for men is to become “Mr. Fix-It,” but that is usually contrary to what he should be “doing.” It is very difficult for a man to just listen, for to him this feels like he is doing “nothing.” This goes against his natural genetic grain. If a man was presented with a problem at work and he “just listened” and didn’t solve the problem, he would be fired. It is important in helping men “short-circuit” their biological tendencies (a keen desire to help you by fixing the problem presented to him) by giving him a specific “job description” – to help prepare him for the task – the task of “listening.” Now I know that sounds so ridiculous, when I characterize this as a task. Your reaction as a woman could be nothing else, I suppose, for “listening” comes quite naturally. But you are forgetting, you are not dealing with a sister woman, but with a being from a distant and different planet. When one man comes to another man with a problem, the first man wants an answer. He has already gone through the process of thinking about it in his cave, and unable to come up with his own answer, he is seeking expert advice from an outside source. Now to change this response, to counter normal biological rhythms and to reverse years of training in the man culture, this really is a “task” for the man in the fullest meaning of that term.

Women therefore should do the following:

(1) Before starting to talk, tell your man that you want him to listen, and only listen. You do not want him to do or fix anything, but just to be there for you. Giving him this specific “job description” will help him focus specifically on what he needs to do. This is critical to counter, normal, deeply engrained reactive tendencies!

(2) While talking, limit the first session, and don’t go on for too long. He will be fighting hard for you against his natural tendency to “fix!” So to begin with, go on for maybe 5 minutes – not much more.

(3) After this first session, stop, and pause, no matter what your natural inclinations might be. It is important not to go on and to snatch a victory and a “successful” experience from your man if he has been trying hard and doing well.

(4) Then take a deep breathe in, exhale and thank him for listening. Tell him you feel so much better now after having him listen to you so attentively, and then walk away.

This will be quite an epiphany for the man. He’ll say to himself, “What just happened here? She came to me. She asked me just to listen. Not to do anything, say anything or fix anything. All I had to do was listen. She stopped, she thanked me, and she walked away. Why, I can do this job!!”

And well a man can. He will come to realize that with setting his intention more precisely attuned to how a woman wants to be “cared for”, he can be very successful in the most important realm of his life – with the relationship. And all he has to do is but listen. He will feel accomplished, empowered and will be motivated to continue utilizing this successful formula. He will become better at caring for you in the manner in which you desire and deserve!

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Q & A #2 - Why does my husband want to be alone so much of the time?

Lori says: Men have an innate need or drive for independence. Men, whenever possible like to do things by themselves since autonomy is revered by men. This is very different from women. A woman always looks for connection with others and feels terrible about herself when she is left alone. So in relationships men and women tend to be very different. Typically, women are “always home” and men tend to go in and out.

John Gray compares a man’s intimacy cycle to a rubberband. When a man loves a woman, sometimes he needs to pull away before he can get closer again. He may be irritable, quiet, defensive or withdrawn. The pulling away fulfills his need to stretch out and feel his independence and autonomy. At this point, he is able to spring back and feel his love for his wife again.

When a woman doesn’t understand the man’s need for space, she panics and feels abandoned. “Why doesn’t he want to be with me?” We imagine the worst, “he doesn’t love me, he doesn’t want to share with me, he’s not attracted to me...” Often times we may physically or emotionally chase after him, which pushes him further away, or we may get angry and rejecting when he comes back to us. If either of these responses occurs on a regular basis, the relationship will suffer.

So, what’s a woman to do?

(1) Allow your man to have his space without taking it personally or being hurt or resentful. Trust him; know that he will be back. It’s not about you; it is about his need to be alone sometimes.

(2) Be more independent and take time for yourself or connect up with others. If you decrease your expectations of your partner and accept him for who he is, he will sense this and spring back sooner.

(3) Let him know how much you appreciate the times he does share with you and is close and emotionally intimate. This encourages him to do more. Men tell me all they really want is for their wives to be happy.

(4) Tell him that you recognize his need for space and that it would help you if he would verbally tell you, “Honey, I need some space right now, but I promise, I will be back.” Explain to him that this gives you the reassurance you need to wait.

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Q & A #3 - When my wife has a problem, why doesn’t she just listen to my advice
and allow me to help her?

Bob says: Women have a natural need to talk about their problems, share their distress, and usually do not want answers right away. When men start talking about their problem, it is an indication that they have spent the requisite time thinking about their particular problem in solitude (in their cave) and have not come up with an appropriate solution. They now have come out of their cave and are ready to listen to other wise men who may have the solution to their particular problem. They have not resolved it independently on their own and they are now open to advice and suggestions from other wise men. Their talking about it at this time is an overture for such advice.

Women function very differently. It is the very act of talking about some problem that helps them “think through” that problem. The “talking” is literally their way of thinking through the problem. They do not spent cave time wrestling with the problem alone to come up with a solution. Rather, they choose to air and share the problem publicly, while still desiring to work it out independently for themselves. The one thing that “their talking” is not - it is not an invitation for another to solve their problems or to fix anything. In their eyes, nothing is broken! Of course, men are programmed to believe that this is exactly what is being asked of them. As usual, it is important to realize that they are dealing with the other sex. And what works for one sex will have disastrous consequences for another.

So what is a man to do?
(1) Actively listen - Practice not giving advice, and allow your woman to broadly explore the full terrain in a supportive and validating manner.

(2) Give her your full attention – Turn off the t.v., put down the remote.

(3) Make eye contact – Look at her with caring.

(4) When your woman pauses in her explorations, keep listening. Do not to jump in too quickly with a solution. Wise and venerable men tell us that in such circumstances, we need to ask to hear even more – in order to fully appreciate the dimensions of the difficulties facing our woman.

(Note: Now, when I suggest this as an important tact to take, men think I have really lost my mind. But, if a man were to give advice, before the woman is “truly ready,” she will reject such advice, start all over again in her deliberations and view our intervention to help as insensitive, intrusive, invalidating and non-caring. She will find it also to be rather condescending, as we “lecture” her about her simplistic problem viewed from our superior perch.)

(5) Give her an empathic response such as, “Honey, it sounds like you are having a
difficult time. I’m here for you.” This is really what she wants. It lets her know you understand her feelings or are trying to and she feels you care.

That’s all there is to it!!

Remember, women need and require an atmosphere that provides a broad airing of their thoughts and feelings, without interruption and where “Mr. Fix-It need not apply.” So men should not set themselves up for failure by expecting their woman to just take your advice and “to be done with it.” We, as men, must be aware of this process and show caring by being supportive of it.

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Q & A #4 - When my wife is critical of me, what should I do?

Bob says: This brings to mind John Gray’s advice to men - to “Duck, Dodge and Deliver,” As the spears and arrows of a woman’s criticisms are coming at you, you are ready to “duck and dodge them,” realizing that maybe you are deserving of part of the criticism, maybe not all of it, certainly you are non-deserving of it’s full intensity. Let those arrows fly by. And then, make sure that you “Deliver.” Now the term “Deliver” is a tricky one! It doesn’t mean becoming “Mr. Fix-It” and giving her a solution, but what it does mean is to simply staying there with her and LISTENING – this is an extremely powerful technique! When you are “delivering,” you not only listen to the particular criticism, but, more importantly, remember that underneath your wife’s anger are feelings of hurt, fear, pain and distress – this is the source of the force and energy behind her criticisms. (This brings to mind the old Buddhist directive, “Don’t just do something stupid, sit there!”).

Take the following steps to help her, the relationship and to shape the relationship that you truly want for yourself.

(1) Do not focus on the criticism or “attack” and how badly or angry it makes you feel. (men are good at shutting down their feelings – use this strength here!)

(2) Listen to her recounting of the facts “objectively.” (We are men, we don’t have to get so emotional! We can do this!)

(3) Search out her underlying feelings of hurt, anxiety, pain and distress – try to empathize and make these real for yourself. (This is the “caring” that women must feel from us, and which is vital for men to provide!)

(4) Realize that women are like “waves,” their moods go up and down. Yes, all women, not just your wife. This helps us understand what is happening before our eyes. It gives us an “emotional map” of the terrain we have ventured into. As “waves,” women rise up in a great crescendo, after which they crash, and then settle into a place of calm and balance, (until the next wave,) like the ocean!

If you practice this, her criticism of you will more quickly dissipate, and you will both be able to more rationally talk about the circumstances at hand. Letting go of a man’s natural inclination to become the “innocent and hapless victim” or becoming defensive and responding with “righteous indignation,” and instead, focusing on her underlying feelings, is the surest way to help both of you move beyond criticisms. It’s hard to do and it takes constant practice – it takes “patient forbearance!”

Note to the woman from the woman Coach:
If you expect your man to practice this, there are many things you must do to help him take this on. Please read Q & A #2.

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Q & A #5 - Why is my wife so moody?

Lori says: I am constantly amazed at how many times you guys come in and ask this question. Many men think that their wife is the only woman who is emotional and they often think this is a flaw. I have news for you guys. We are all that way – Ask Bob, he knows!! And it is not a flaw – it is how we are wired. Women have a beautiful pngt, the pngt of being very aware of and in touch with their inner most feelings. We are sensitive creatures and we feel our feelings intensely. One day (or minute) everything is right with the world, we are happy and feeling fabulous. The next day (or minute) we may feel sad and tearful, as if “everything” in our world has fallen apart and we can’t remember that just the day before things were pretty good. John Gray calls this “waves” – the emotions of a woman go up and down. We bring all these feelings into our most significant relationships and that includes the one with you!

So how should you handle this? Here are some tips:

(1) Accept your wife and all her feelings. Don’t blame her for being the feeling person that she is.

(2) Enjoy the times when she’s feeling good, but be prepared for the wave to crash.

(3) When she crashes and is irritable or sad, a man’s instinct is to give her space, because that’s what you do. This is exactly the wrong response. Go to her and ask her what’s wrong. If she says, “Nothing,” don’t believe her, ask again. The woman interpretation of “Nothing” is, “If you really love me, you’ll ask me again.”

(4) Use all your best listening skills. They are listed in the response to Question 3 above. Don’t get logical and rational with her (“You shouldn’t feel that way.”) Women (and men) can’t be logical when they are feeling emotional. And this will send her the message that you think her feelings are invalid and wrong.

(5) Give her a hug.

Try it! You will see that it works.

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