Punchy AdviceArchives

August 3, 1995

Selena asks Kauli:
Before the big bang (or God getting busy) what was here? Or should I say was here here? This question troubles me often as I try to fall asleep. I must have had a bad experience with Fantasia.
Kauli Kauli answers:
What big bang? Did I miss something?
Marty Marty adds:
I have trouble sleeping too, but it's usually trying to figure out how make my next payment on that damn roto rooter machine.

Tom writes to Kelsey:

Kelsey, you recently asked for thoughts about what happens when a woman tries to change a man to match what she wants him to be, or (more benignly) tries to to guide him to be more in touch with his emotional self.

As a man who has worked on his own emotional development, I have some ideas. Both you & "Offended" seemed to think this whole process involves men learning to experience and express their emotions. I agree, but I think much more is possible.

I like the conclusion you both came to -- that it's possible to accept and love a man even if he doesn't have the emotional qualities you want. I find that even when I'm in a flawed relationship, I am somehow a greater human being when I fully accept and love, even when it's an unworkable relationship. It is possible to care deeply for and stay open to someone even as you are splitting up.

A relationship like Offended's, where she loves her husband with all of his faults, is perfectly fine -- especially when she makes that decision to accept him as he is. I was touched by her description of how he never says those "three little words" -- then went on to say that she sees the meaning of those words demonstrated in all the things he does for her. I think she's right! And --

I think much more is possible, and it does not just involve a woman guiding a man to greater emotional development. It happens when a man and a woman commit themselves to developing a profound level of intimacy. (I don't limit this to hetero or non-platonic relationships, that just happens to be the context of this conversation.)

Just as my life as a man is richer when I let myself feel and express my feelings (especially within a relationship), women also grow emotionally when they fully accept, relate to, and express themselves with a man. To do this, both partners need to be able to face their fears about exposing their inner selves to their partner -- and to themselves.

I believe the ability to communicate in a way that promotes this intimacy is a crucial ability.

I don't know of anyone who knows how to do this without coaching. There are some specific techniques and skills to pick up. This kind of intimacy is a very different way of life from how we normally live, and can be very scary.

When two people can fully express themselves with each other, and consciously set aside the time to do it, some amazing things can happen. They not only nurture their caring feelings for and understanding of each other, each person also finds things out about themselves that they didn't know before.

Often this involves some painful discoveries about inner insecurities and emotional wounds, usually from childhood. Bringing these to light with the acceptance, understanding, unconditional love, and (sometimes) guidance of one's partner brings healing.

Also uncovered are pleasant discoveries. Each person can find previously unrecognized qualities in themselves that they weren't even aware of. Men might get in touch with their feminine sides! And women...oh-oh...might begin to have more understanding and sympathy for previously despised masculine traits.

To sum up, it isn't just that men need women to give them guidance.

We need each other to develop fully as human beings.

I developed these ideas from lots of places, but especially through a book I recently read: Getting The Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix.

If anyone wants to comment or ask me questions, please get in touch!.

Lastly -- Kelsey, I want to thank you for this chance to express myself. I have been married for two years to a woman who has no interest in any of this, and we are splitting up this weekend. I thought we'd be fine because we naturally seemed so well suited for each other -- but when the spontaneous romantic feelings stopped, we had no skills to either re-kindle those feelings or to resolve any of our differences.

After reading your comments, and writing this response, I don't feel quite as discouraged. Maybe I will find the courage to again look for someone who does want this kind of relationship, after all!

PS: I am not a counsellor. I have no connection to the book I recommended. These are just my thoughts on this matter.

Kelsey Kelsey answers:
Thanks for writing, Tom. That's beautifully said. And good luck.
Ruth Ruth says:
Oh, fine! Marty's asleep. Marty! Wake up, Marty!

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