It’s not about the directions…

Dear Shaunti,

It makes me insane when my husband doesn’t ask for directions. Last weekend we were meeting friends at a new restaurant and I got the cold sweats while I watched the minutes tick by as my husband tried to guess his way there. And what’s crazy is that we have a GPS in the car! I started it up but he got irritated and told me stop hassling him. And then I got irritated and told him he was being unreasonable… and he shut down the rest of the night. How can I make him understand that asking for directions is no big deal?
–Driven Crazy

Dear Driven Crazy,

The biggest problem here has nothing to do with asking for directions, and everything to do with you assuming his feelings are not legitimate. Just because they happen to be different from yours. Because clearly, to him, it is a big deal.

I’ve seen that many of us need this wake-up call! Many women have this exact same frustration and this same inability to see the legitimate need underneath what seems like a completely irrational action. My husband and I used to argue about this all the time. And then when I started interviewing and surveying men for For Women Only they described some pretty deep, important feelings about this.

Here’s what is really going on.

If your husband is like most men, feeling that you respect and trust him is actually his greatest need. And sensing that you don’t is his most painful feeling. Now pair that deep emotional need with another one: it makes men feel “like a man” to conquer something–to look at a challenge and figure it out for himself. Especially when he has something to prove not only to himself, but to the woman he wants to admire him above all else.

Now picture that woman rolling her eyes, and saying “just stop and ask for directions already!” Or, when he says “let me figure this out,” punching the address into the GPS anyway. What he seeing very directly is this message: “No, I don’t trust you, and clearly you’re such an idiot you can’t figure it out for yourself.”

This is no small-scale “why won’t he ask for directions” issue. In his mind, it is a signal of something much deeper: does she trust and believe in me? Or does she think I’m inadequate? After all, he thinks, if she doesn’t trust me in the little issues like letting me find my way to this restaurant, how could she ever trust me in the major issues like whether I’ll be a good father?

So what seems like such a ridiculously small issue to you –it’s only plugging the address into the GPS for Pete’s sake! — is interpreted as a giant clue about your overall trust and respect for him as a man.

I know from experience just how excruciating it can be to sit on your hands and try with every fiber of your being to not blurt out, “Just stop and ask for directions!!!” But I also know from experience just how amazing your marriage will get once your husband sees in front of him the evidence that you will go with him on the adventure, and show him in the littlest things, that you will believe in him in the big ones.

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About Shaunti Feldhahn

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. Learn more about speaking inquiries here.


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