A common mistake

So I received this email yesterday, and with Omega writing my last post, I thought it fitting that I post this today.

Miss Jen,

I was wondering if you could help me.  I married a wonderful vanilla woman who was open to D/s.  Over the past couple of years we’ve gradually been moving closer and closer to a TPE.  But lately it’s come to a complete standstill.

She got a new job and it’s really been stressful for her.  She comes home stressed and tense but it seems like whenever I try to help her, it just makes it worse.  Whenever she starts venting and I try to help her it just makes her more annoyed.  I’m at a point where I really just don’t know what to do.  I almost wish she’d just quit her job.

Thank you for anything you might be able to provide.

Sigh

Alright, so I know that you’re trying to help, and your heart is in the right place, and all your intentions are pure.

But you’re making a huge mistake here.

Don’t feel bad, pretty much all men make this mistake.  And since I’m in a good mood, I figured I’d take this opportunity to tell all the men who make this mistake why they need to stop doing what they’re doing.

The thing is, all you men want to swoop in like knights in shining armor and solve all our problems.  And cool, that’s admirable.

But you’re going about it in completely the wrong way.

There’s this show I watched when I was a kid, and one particular scene stuck with me.  A girl was locked in the bathroom, the door was jammed, so she called for help.  Her parents came and said, “Have you tried the knob, honey?”

She said, “Of course I’ve tried the knob!  I’m not an idiot.”

So then the repairman-superhero came and asked what was the matter.  The parents explained that the door was jammed, their daughter locked inside.  So the repairman walked up to the door and said, “Have you tried the knob, honey?”

I didn’t know why it stuck with me, but now as an adult, I get it.  It’s funny, but what most men don’t realize is that it’s funny because it’s true.

Picture this for me:

A young maiden is out in a field, picking flowers and putting them in her basket.  Suddenly, a group of cruel men run up to her, hold a knife to her throat, and tell her to give them her purse, with all her gold, or they’ll rape and murder her.  She’s terrified, she drops her basket.

But then, the valiant young knight comes riding into view, galloping on a magnificent steed to save the day.  He quickly dismounts and picks up her basket, then sets to picking flowers, filling it up the rest of the way.

The men take the maiden’s gold and run off.  And then, the knight hands her the basket, filled with flowers.  “Here, milady,” he says cheerfully.  “I’ve filled it for you.”

“Have you lost your mind?” she shouts.  “How was that supposed to be helpful?”

The knight is offended.  “See if I ever help you again.”

Now picture something else:

Stephen Hawking has agreed to teach a math class to a group of young students.  After his first class, he is annoyed at how little they know, and he vents to his friend.

“I have to start all the way from the beginning,” he says.  “They don’t even know the prime numbers through 100.”

His friend tries to be helpful.  “Oh, well I could help you find the prime numbers if you want.  It can’t be that hard.”

“What?  Are you insane?  Do you not know who I am?  I’m Stephen-fucking-Hawking.  I know the prime numbers up to a thousand.”

“Geez, I was just trying to help.”

And one more:

A young woman is driving through Amish country and gets a flat tire.  A young Amish man, completely unfamiliar with cars, comes to her aid.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s a flat tire.  So annoying.”

“Well, have you tried turning the car on?”

“What?  How would that help?”

“Don’t they pump up the tires automatically?”

“No.”

“Oh.  Well what about using a straw to blow air into it?  That would work, right?”

“No.”

“I see.  Well what about replacing it with a wooden wagon wheel?”

Now the woman is irritated.  “Look, stop pretending you know more about this than I do.  I’ve already called a tow truck.  I’m annoyed because I have to wait so long, but I’ve already solved the problem.  I don’t need your help.”

Yeah these scenarios are exaggerated, but that’s literally how ridiculous you all sound when you try to help us solve our problems.

Because the thing is, we don’t need your help.

To the gentleman who wrote this email, I’d say your specific situation is the third one.  Do you know the ins and outs of your wife’s job?  Do you know everything about it?  Do you know it better than she does?

I’m going to assume you don’t.  So you “trying to help” isn’t helping.

It’s demeaning.  Fuck yeah, it makes the situation worse.

We’re not idiots and we’re not children.  We know how to solve our own problems.  We don’t need your help.

Whenever I’ve had this same identical conversation with any man, it’s always been the same.  He, trying to be helpful, suggests obvious things that even a child would’ve tried.  Or completely irrelevant things.  Or he tries to pretend he knows the situation better than I do.

Kazander is very good at very many things, but he is particularly bad with this, no matter how many times I correct him.  It’s a habit 38 years in the making.  It doesn’t break easily.

Most recently, I couldn’t find the TV remote in the bedroom, the spawn has the habit of moving it to random places.  So when Kazander texted me to ask how my day was going, I told him I was annoyed because I couldn’t find it.

He replied with, “Have you looked under the bed?  Or with the spawn’s toys?”

Oh wow, you know I never thought of that.  I would’ve just stood there in the middle of the room like an idiot if he hadn’t suggested those things.

Yeah dude, that’s demeaning as fuck.

Of course that’s not the way he intends it.  The last thing he wants to do is disrespect me.  He genuinely thinks he’s being helpful.  He’s trying to help me.

I get it.  And yeah, it’s sweet that he tries to help me.  Still, he’s going about it in entirely the wrong way.

Stop it.  All of you.  Just stop it.

Want to know how to handle it when your wife vents to you after a hard day?  Easy.  Remove all the suggestions and replace them with, “Damn, that sucks.”

You want to help her?  You want to be the knight in shining armor?

Say it with me: “Damn, that sucks.”

When your wife/girlfriend/literally any woman vents to you, that is your mantra.  And build on it if you need to.  I mean, make it your own.

“Damn, that sucks.  I’m sorry you have to deal with that.  It’s got to be rough.”

That’s how you do it.  Don’t belittle her by trying to solve her problems for her.  That’s not what she wants.

She wants support.  She wants empathy, or at the very least, sympathy.  She wants to know that you’re there for her.

If she wants your help, she’ll ask for it.  Until then, don’t offer it.  Just offer support.  Do that, and you’ll be shocked at how quickly her anger will fade.

So do that for a week.  And I’m serious, don’t make any suggestions.  Don’t “try to help” her.  Don’t try to solve her problems for her.

Hell, I’m a living example of how well that works.  Sounder is very good at the “Damn, that sucks” thing.  And it’s almost eerie how quickly he can calm me down when I’m annoyed or irritated, or flat-out enraged.

When I need his help or his advice, I ask for it and he readily gives it.  Other than that, he generally sticks to the “Damn, that sucks” thing, and even I’m continually surprised at how effective it is.

Stop “trying to help” your wife and actually help her by giving her what she wants.  Do that for a week, and then let me know how it works.  Tell me it doesn’t make a huge difference in your marriage, in her ability to cope with the stress of her new job.

12 thoughts on “A common mistake

  1. Damn that’s good advice!! And that’s all I’m saying!

  2. Coyote from Orion says:

    So nice to hear simple common sense. Hope you are going well Miss Jen and that you’re enjoying things x

  3. Jen, thanks for this. I am so damn guilty of this behavior with MrsL. To be honest, I’ve never heard it explained this beautifully and simply.

    • Domina Jen says:

      You’re very welcome. And I totally get where it comes from. It comes from a really good place. All the guys who do this do it with good intentions. We appreciate the desire to swoop in to our rescue. It’s just not the kind of help we want.

  4. A long time ago … at least 20 years ago … I was commuting to my boyfriend’s house every Friday to spend the weekends with him. On one particular Friday, I got stuck in traffic. For an hour. In humid, 95 degree heat. Without air conditioning.

    When I finally arrived at his abode, very sweaty, and in an atrocious mood. He took one look at me and asked what was wrong, waited a beat and said “Oh no! You poor thing! Your car doesn’t have air conditioning. I’ll get you a cold drink while you take a shower.”

    This was more than twenty years ago. I still remember it. It was the single most comforting, validating interaction of my life, a variation on your “Damn, that sucks.”

    Every “fixer” on the planet needs to learn to say it!

  5. Carly Quinn says:

    A great answer, to a question that seems to come up all to often.

  6. Coyote from Orion says:

    The journey from the head to the heart is one some never even realize is there x

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