Back for a return visit this week is Jay Payleitner. You might recall he wrote in this column last week about the need for men to be willing to apologize to their wives when they mess up. He listed three reasons why men should be saying "I'm sorry" more than their wives. If you missed that column and would like to read it send me an email at the address listed below and I'll be happy to send it to you.
This week, in the interest of fairness and balance, I asked Jay to address an issue that women need to consider as they seek to have a healthy marriage and a better relationship with their man.
Most women can imagine the scene. Maybe you've been a part of the scene. Between three and 10 charming, intelligent women sitting in a living room, restaurant or community center trash talking their husbands or ex-husbands. It may be a work outing. It may be a new mom support group. It may be a booster club planning some fundraising event and all the volunteers happen to be women. It may even be a women's Bible study.
One woman innocently makes a joke. Another makes a slightly meaner joke. And pretty soon the entire conversation drags down everyone in the room, their husbands and their marriages. The community too, for that matter.
Years ago, my wife, Rita, was part of a bi-weekly gathering of homemakers who brought their sewing, needlepoint and knitting projects. Please excuse the expression, but they literally called it "Stitch and Bitch." Funny? Perhaps. Uplifting? Not at all.
As you're reading this, there are probably two or three women who come to mind who are always ready to start the negative chatter. I'm not sure why they are so miserable. But I'm assuming they have also left a trail of husbands (or ex-husbands) who are also miserable.
If you find yourself in an ongoing vortex of bitterness, how should you respond? If you feel compelled to join in, please don't. And excuse yourself from other such meetings with that group. But if you feel empowered by your relationship with your husband and confident that your voice will be heard, could you do all of us guys a favor? Find the right words to deflect the bashing, or at least give the group something to think about.
"There's such a negative vibe going on here -- especially against husbands -- is that really necessary?"
"Let's change the direction of this conversation, what do you think?'
"I'm not sure where this is all coming from, but men are not the enemy."
"I have to say, you're starting to make me really appreciate my husband."
You goal is not to paint yourself as a saint or suggest your husband is perfect. And it's quite possible all that husband bashing is really just a cry for help. The best answer might not be to confront the culprit in the large group setting, but rather talk to her one on one after your meeting. A simple, "Are you OK?" might be exactly what she needs to hear and may even open the door to some counseling or an invitation to your church or a study group with a better attitude.
Any intervention you attempt may not change the heart of the worst offenders. But you might prevent collateral damage among the other quieter women in the group. There may be some younger participants who have not built up any immunity to the rampant spread of man-hating poison. If you can prevent one or two from becoming infected, you may save a marriage or discourage one young bride from picking a fight with her unsuspecting husband later that evening.
I've never attended an all women's meeting, but my sources tell me that husband bashing is quite contagious. Immunize yourself with good thoughts and a new appreciation for your own man. Protect others with a pro-marriage comment or quip. And see if you can't stop the infection at its source.
Of course, this article might have put you on the defense. You might even find yourself justifying your actions, "Sure, I joke about my husband, but it's all in good fun. Besides, he's guilty of all the things I accuse him of." If that's the case, I encourage you to think back. Once upon a time, did he make a few tiny flubs which you then blew way out of proportion and joked about maliciously? And did he react by beginning to erect a wall or holding himself at a distance? Can you blame him? Your husband knows he's not perfect and he certainly doesn't need you to remind him.
Husband bashing is a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Trash talk your man and you'll begin to treat him like garbage. His only choice will be to start smelling and going bad. That's lose-lose. A better strategy for clever wives is to acknowledge your husband's shortcomings with a smile and say, "My dear, you are still the man of my dreams. Nothing silly you say or goofy you do will ever cause me to love you any less." Don't worry, you're not giving him an excuse to screw up again. You're giving him a reason to love you even more. That's a win-win.
OK, so maybe Jay just did some major party pooping and took all the fun out of some gatherings, but ladies he is absolutely correct. If you doubt that at all please picture yourself as the target of an all men's wife bashing gala. That, by-the-way, does occur at times and is absolutely just as wrong as it is for women.
So I hope you'll follow Jay's suggestions for how to put an end to such conversations and seek to be more supportive of your marriage and your mate. For more wise counsel from Jay, please visit his website at jaypayleitner.com. You can also hear more from Jay and his book "52 Things Husbands Need From Their Wives" tomorrow at 6 p.m. on 107.1FM. He will be my guest on TWOgether as ONE.