By: Steve Horsmon
My work with married men reveals a lot of patterns. While each relationship is unique, they tend to fall into a few recognizable categories with familiar dynamics and behaviors. One particular category is one I call the “I Wish He Would Step Up” condition.
One way I can detect this state is when I hear a client say things like:
- What more can I do?
- How perfect do I have to be?
- I just don’t understand what she wants
- Why isn’t she just satisfied with who I am?
- She is never happy with my efforts
- I have zero complaints about her but she never seems happy with me
I can say with confidence that many women reading those comments know exactly what I’m talking about. They will feel it as “their truth” and see themselves on the receiving end of it. And most of them don’t have the ability or courage to give the answers their husband most needs to hear. In fact, even if they do, they may be the wrong person to deliver the message.
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Why Won’t He Step Up?
This is the battle cry I hear from many frustrated wives. It also sounds like, “Why won’t he man-up, or show up, or be present.” They use these terms loosely to describe a number of their husband’s “inadequacies”. These often include requirements like:
- Helping out more with the house and kids
- Being more emotionally available
- Being more tuned in to her needs
- Listening more effectively
- Being more supportive
- Being more sexually assertive
- Taking the lead more in planning social activities and social commitments
- Creating a better “connection”
- Addressing world hunger (just checking to see if you’re still with me)
Just ONE of these is complicated enough to decode and put into simple, actionable language. I help men better understand what these look and feel like to their wives.
They are bewildered by her expectations. They want details. They want concrete examples of what she needs and wants. They want an “infographic” to make it all clear.
Why Don’t You Just ASK Her?
This is the obvious question.
You have. A hundred times.
It still sounds like a moving target that only she is able to see. And the rules seem to keep changing.
That’s because they do!
It’s impossible to clearly define and understand precisely what she expects from you in every situation. It’s excruciating trying to do exactly what she wants and how she wants it done.
That’s why you should stop trying.
You’re driving her crazy anyway.
What Stepping Up REALLY Means to You
Husbands in this situation tend to have 3 important things in common.
1. You feel a constant jabbing energy of disrespect and disappointment from your wife
2. You feel a deep sense of inadequacy, anger, and hopelessness
3. You actually have no issues with her general “requirements”!
So what’s wrong here?
What’s wrong is that you have chosen to live in compliance with someone else’s values on their terms.
Even though you don’t dispute that they may be SHARED values, you have not defined for yourself exactly what they mean for you on YOUR terms.
This is what “stepping up” really means to you.
You can claim your own values and expectations for how you will think, speak, and act independently from the expectations of others – including your wife.
What the Wives Say
The women I talk to say this is what “stepping up” really means to them. They want their man to take hold of his values on his terms and confidently join her in the marriage they BOTH want.
They don’t want him to seek her permission or approval. They want him to have his own “target” and to stop worrying about hitting hers.
It’s for this man they feel respect.
It’s with this man they feel the most emotional safety AND attraction
Holding on to Your NUTS
In his book, Hold on to Your NUTS, author Wayne Levine beautifully explains the process and importance of men declaring their own values, or non-negotiable, unalterable, terms (NUTS). I call them Masculine Operating Principles or MOP’s. It doesn’t matter what you call them.
NUTS are critical to achieving clarity on who we are, what we believe, and how we WILL conduct ourselves in our relationships. NUTS are not the sole property of men. They are just as important for women and for the same reasons. They apply to every aspect of our lives.
But, you can’t just borrow someone else’s NUTS! They must be created and owned only by you. You must be able to commit to your NUTS without apology or pre-approval.
A few of examples of NUTS my clients have adopted are:
• I will always be an active partner in maintaining an organized household and meeting the needs of my kids
• I will always listen to my wife with acceptance and respect. Her anger or emotions do not reflect my personal value nor change my commitment to be a source of strength for her
• I am a sensual man with a woman I adore. I will share my emotional and physical desire with her without hesitation or apology
The Big “Ah Ha’s”
I fully understand that declaring your NUTS within your relationship is challenging and a bit scary.
One big “Ah Ha” many men realize is that they have already done this in other areas of their lives. They have confidence and clarity at work, with friends, and with their kids.
Why is your relationship with your wife so different? What is her secret power that keeps you always on your heels? Or afraid to make a stand? Or searching for her approval and her ever-changing targets?
The answers include a litany of reasons like:
- It’s easier just to say “Yes, dear”
- Fear of abandonment
- She’ll get so pissed!
- Fear of confrontation
- She likes to be in control so I let her (this is almost never true)
When you decide you’re tired of the excuses, something magical happens.
“Ah Ha”. You’re feel free to take charge of your life on your terms.
“Ah Ha”. You lose the fear of the consequences. You develop a firm grasp of your NUTS.
“Ah Ha”. You “Step Up” on your terms, for yourself, because it is who you choose to be!
I can almost guarantee that your wife will step up and begin to let go of her pattern of disrespect and disapproval. She will show the appreciation and affection you desire – the way she used to.
The Final “Ah Ha”
Even if she doesn’t start “Stepping Up”, that’s her problem – not yours. She has the power and choice to amplify and encourage your new energy and commitment.
Or, she can choose to sabotage it.
You have no control over that.
And you’ve got your own work to do anyway.