Her Highness Anne asked about harmonizing when spousal needs are so different as in recovery from grief(#1874).
Husbands and wives both grieve and recover differently. It separates self-interests and overpowers mutual-interest. The glue of marriage tends to dissolve if they mentally separate as a couple, if their loss becomes more important than either mate or marriage. When it happens in the mind, the heart likely follows.
Without whomever she lost, wife feels less capable of loving, less of a person, less important. She’s been cast adrift. She’s unsure what to do. She needs a replacement outlet for her love. She needs to restore hope, improve her sense of importance, and enable her to foresee a brighter future. She needs more time than men. She’s really not as incapacitated as she sometimes feels and may act—unless mental illness is involved, of course.
She needs attention to recognize her importance. She needs sympathy to assuage her longing. She needs empathy to ease her guilt. She needs affection to restore her sense of self-worth. She needs to be gently stimulated to actions that make her feel important to someone other than herself. She needs to stay busy at normal tasks in order to avoid depression. She needs her imagination tickled with pleasant memories to take her mind from herself. And above all, she needs to feel appreciated for what and who she is—as
person, woman, wife, and mother—without even the first sign of disapproval. With all of that, she can lead herself through a ‘normal’ recovery process. (In the end, everyone recovers by her- or himself.)
Husband is less complex. He needs time alone. Recovery comes primarily in solitude from a single-minded process. He morphs his feelings of loss into a logical and reasonable reshaping of his life. He responds favorably but without confirmation to gentle, feminine, and loveable (rather than loving) encouragement that gets him back to doing what he does best, i.e., providing and protecting his precious cargo of what remains of his family. His recovery ends by finding the humor in memories to conquer the faults and miseries inside him.
We’re back once again to this. We all do what makes us feel good about ourselves. Neither, however, feels good treating the other spouse opposite to their own nature. Men don’t feel good when they can’t resolve their woman’s hurts. Women don’t feel good when they leave their man to mourn alone. Mutual recovery requires both to override WADWMUFGAO motivation on behalf of spouse.
I call it tough love to do other than what you would want done to you in similar circumstances. Wife wants to love, respect, appreciate, and ease husband’s pain in never-ending ways; it’s what her nature calls for. Husband wants to ignore her feelings, explain, and walk and talk her through recovery; his nature calls for it. But tough love calls for the opposite; each spouse supplies what they don’t want to supply but they do it anyway.
Tough love saves marriages. Spouses eventually learn that certain times exist when they have to do things about which they don’t feel good about themselves but their spouse feels better just because of the respect and attention shown by the giver to the receiver. In the end, his male-nature assistance isn’t what she needs, and her female-nature help interferes with his self-healing process. But tough love enables mutual recovery from the depths of grief.