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Confusing communications

Jacob Ninan

John was feeling bad about himself after he read some article about expressing love between husband and wife in a way that the other person would appreciate. He thought he hadn't been very considerate of his wife Anne's feelings, and hadn't been thinking about how he could make her happy. But he really loved her, and in his heart he sincerely wanted her to be happy. It was just that he hadn't given much thought on how exactly he could make her happy, in practical terms.

So he sat there and thought about something he could do that would catch her by surprise and demonstrate how much he cared for her. He thought of buying her some flowers (he knew he should do things like this, but he himself was not the type who would pay much attention to flowers!), buying her a new dress (he marked it in his mind as something to do for her birthday), going out together on a holiday (but he couldn't do that just then because that would need a lot of planning, and getting time off from his work), etc. Finally it struck him! Why can't he take her out for a surprise dinner? This would surely be a good surprise for her, and it would also free her from having to cook dinner that night. He thought of different places they could go to, and finally chose one that was exotic in a way but also within his budget. Now he was just waiting eagerly to catch the look of surprise and love on her face when he would announce it when he reached home.

When John reached home that evening, he greeted Anne with a special charm (which she was surprised to see!) and asked her about how her day had been (which caused yet another surprise!). He wasn't really listening to what she said (he should have), because he was just waiting for her to finish so that he could spring his surprise on her. When he got the chance he said, "Darling, let's go out to Mint & Dill and have our dinner. Let's have a good time together, and you don't have to cook also." As he watched her face expectantly he saw her expressions moving rapidly from surprise to confusion, doubt and finally to a blank expression. She said, "No, John. Not today." He asked, "But why?" She said, "I am not ready for it today." John felt totally deflated. He thought, "After all that I planned for her, just to make her happy!" He said, "OK," and went off to pick up a newspaper. He felt he couldn't do anything more than what he had done. If she was going to be like this, how could he ever make her happy?

Anne looked at John, and unhappiness was written all over her face. She went off into the kitchen, but she stood there without any interest in cooking. A few drops of tears started rolling down.

What happened to both of them? For an outsider it looks mysterious, and perhaps comical! But for this couple it broke their hearts. If they are not able to understand what happened to each other and learn some lessons from it, the chances are that their communications will become more clouded.

The problem was that John didn't understand a woman's psychology. One of her basic psychological needs is for a sense of security, when she would feel wanted and loved. She needs to feel secure knowing that there are those who love and care for her, who would be there for her, who would look after her and provide for her, and who would miss her if she was not there. As a child she sought for this security from the love of her parents, and when she is married, she looks for security from her husband. If the husband is not very expressive about his love for her she keeps looking for signs of love from him.

We would have then imagined that Anne would have been very happy to hear this announcement from John. Actually she was thrilled, inside. But she didn't want to show it yet, and she was trying to get the maximum thrill from this occasion. So she pretended as if she was not specially happy about it, hoping that John would press the matter with her and then she would pretend as if she was giving in to him. That would strengthen her sense of security because she would know that he really wanted her.

But as it happened, John had no clue at all about what Anne was thinking, and he heard only what she actually said. He was disappointed, naturally. But so was she, ultimately. If only John knew what Anne really wanted, and if only Anne was aware that men don't catch on to such things naturally!

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