We know that men come in a gorgeous variety of shapes and sizes, not only physically, but also in the way they feel and think about different topics. Still, as I’ve pursued to understand my own husband better, I’ve found that some of the things that bother him are pretty universal to all men. This topic may not bother your husband, but I’ve heard from enough men at this point that it seemed worthwhile to share.
He feels embarrassed when you joke about him.
I love my wife and I couldn’t be more thankful for her, but I wish she knew I get embarrassed when she jokes about my past. I grew up in an out of control situation. One of my parents was using drugs while the other was mentally ill and not willing to take care of my brother and me. My brother and I ran wild and did whatever we wanted with no real role model from middle school on. I had multiple girlfriends, a lot of whom I slept with. It is something I am now embarrassed about. I am also divorced which is something I’m extremely embarrassed about. I want to tell her how much it embarasses me when she jokes about my past, but I am scared she will think it is because I wished I was still married to my ex which is definitely not the case. I was very honest with my wife about my past because I wanted there to be no secrets, but now I feel like it has put a crack in her view of my trustworthiness. I see that she doesn’t mean to be hurtful, but it’s still really hard for me to hear when jokes about that kind of stuff.
I think my wife and I are rare in the sense that our communication is crazy good. It’s always been that way. We talk out everything and talk all the time. I love her ideas… she loves my ideas. I know what she’s got going on and she knows the same about me. We constantly talk about our family, our future, our wants, needs, desires, plans, and dreams. I feel like she understands me extremely well, and I feel the same about her.
One of the areas where we know we are different is that I don’t sweat the stuff that’s out of my control. I’m really not all that bothered by anyone or anything. That’s just my attitude in life. She is more easily bothered and will express that right away. So, the one area that we do struggle is with the things she says that do bother me.
She grew up in a very sarcastic family, where sarcasm was almost a love language. As far as they were concerned, you showed people you love them by making fun of them, by digging at them, and by telling jokes about them. It’s normal in her family to look for ways to embarrass people. That is totally not my style.
Of the Five Love Languages, Words of Affirmation is one of my top needs. I don’t like getting cut down. I just want my wife, of all people, to have my back and to speak as proud and loving about me to others as possible. There’s no greater feeling than hearing your wife brag about how great of a husband you are or how great of a father you are, or how great of a provider you are. Stuff like that is such an energizer for me.
When it’s the opposite of that… it’s just really demoralizing. It’s a total downer. It sucks the motivation from me. It makes me question my self value and self worth. It makes me doubt my relationship and doubt if my wife is really my partner. It can create so much insecurity that I honestly believe it’s one of the worst things a person can do in a relationship… like a relationship cancer.
So we’ve had tons and tons and tons of conversations about this, and she sees where I’m coming from, and I also see where she’s coming from. It’s hard because sarcasm is the only normal she has ever known. I’m asking her to be different. She knows me as someone who is incredibly easy going, but my Achilles heel is how my wife talks about me in public. I’m just glad we can talk about it and that we can both work on being the best spouses we can be.
My wife and I love laughing. That feels silly and obvious to write that out, because who doesn’t? But some of the most successful relationships I’ve observed have been couples who can laugh together – even if they don’t have the exact same sense of humor. Love finds a way to laugh!
The trick comes when laughs come at the significant other’s expense. My wife and I do love poking fun at each other on a surface level. We don’t take ourselves so seriously that we can’t have that sort of rapport. But there are two elements that make it work: 1. The joking could never be mistaken as character assassination in disguise and 2. It RARELY, if ever, happens in front of people.
If we speak about each other publicly, it’s respectful and praiseworthy. If we do joke about each other in front of anyone, it would be in front of a couple of close friends that understand the full context of who we are so nothing could be taken as a slight. Even still, that joking would be far from degrading the character.
Now granted, I speak every Sunday in front of 400 people and I use lots of stories from real life. So when any story involves her, I get her permission when it could be taken as humor at her expense.
Here’s a hard truth I would wager all men feel: We feel very disrespected when made fun of by our spouses in front of our peers. I don’t care if you’re a white collar business guru or a tough-as-nails blue collar good-‘ol-boy, being made fun of in public by the woman we’ve granted our trust and partnership will get us to shut down and shut her out for a certain length of time.
When I hang out with the boys, we poke fun at each other all the time in front of the others. But the chemistry there is different. The way I get my value of friendship doesn’t access the same depth and investment that exists with my wife.
I’ve given my wife my trust with who I am in total. That’s a lot of vulnerability to grant anyone. Yet that risk is how we were designed to experience value in this life: through deep relationships that require deep risk. And when she chooses to build up instead of tear down, I consider it a service, honestly. Because she deals with the REAL me at home that is miles from perfect. It’s not that she chooses to lie, trying to create a perfect image of our life, but she chooses to leave the jabs at home when she talks about me to others.
Your Husband and Mine
Do you think your husband might feel like these guys? Let’s extend “public” to social media as well. What we say about our husbands and our marriage is a big deal and has a huge effect on how they feel. They may brush it off on the outside, but on the inside it is chipping away at their confidence in your relationship.
Complaining about your husband or your marriage over social media is like complaining about a restaurant by yelling through a mega phone on the street corner downtown. While it’s true that many people may hear you, most people aren’t listening and will try to avoid you instead.
I totally agree that with the guy that submitted and said that he thinks this kind of negative talk is like a cancer. We could even compare it to something contagious, and smart people don’t want those kind of germs infesting their own marriage, so they will likely avoid you when they see you are starting to spread them.
You may think you’re “just being real” when you write that status update about your husband coming home late from work again, but you need to save your “just being real” for the people closest to you, your real-life-face-to-face friendships. It means everything to your husband to know that you speak and think highly of him, and I think it’s safe to say this goes both ways. I would feel awful if I thought Tony was making a joke of me, talking down about me, or complaining about me to his co-workers or friends.
Let’s do our best to build each other up and encourage our spouses, especially in public and on social media. Nothing means more to a married man than having his wife beam with pride and tell the world how happy she is to #staymarried.
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