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What can Wade do with his wife Wendy?

(Life 168 - Season 1 Episode 2)

Seven years ago in 2015 it started...

Leisurely strolling through the side streets with their dogs on a Sunday afternoon, Wendy and my friend Wade were enjoying their neighborhood in Mountain View, California. Wendy noticed a uniquely large lot with a huge, ostentatious, dilapidated mansion sporting a "for sale by owner" sign at the curbside.

Wendy had caught the scent

Always on the lookout for business opportunities, Wendy immediately dialed the owner whose number was on the sign. Eager the sell, the owner arrived at the property within fifteen minutes. After showing her around the property, which included a manicured tennis court and wine cellar, he and Wendy began to negotiate. 

Wade kept holding his tongue

While this was happening Wade was watching and listening, his anxiety beginning to build. He loved Wendy dearly and wanted her to be happy. But they had so much on their plate already and he couldn't see how he would be able to fit in this additional project of refurbishing and flipping this monstrosity. He knew that Wendy would need his partnership and time to make this new project a success.

Finally, Wade spoke up

Just as Wendy and the owner seemed to be closing in on a handshake, Wade chose courage and pulled her aside. He shared with her his sense of overwhelm in taking on this new project along with all their other projects and responsibilities they were currently overbooked with. These included periodic several out-of-time commitments.

Wade could feel he was going to rain on Wendy's parade, but he didn't know anything else to do. In their heated discussion, Wendy finally relented, with all the excitement and joy drained from her face. They thanked the owner for his time and walked away from Wendy's dream.

Within a month someone else bought the property. Every Sunday afternoon when Wade and Wendy took their afternoon stroll with the dogs, they passed that property. Wendy could see the former eye-sore transform into a magnificent, die-to-kill-for, Mountain View mansion, something she knew she could have done, if not even better.

Regret and resentment started to build

When the refurbishing was complete, the new property sold right away. Unable to contain her curiosity, Wendy checked public records and quickly calculated that the flippers had probably netted at least $1.2 million from their few months of effort. She felt sick to her stomach.

Wendy can't leave it alone

Almost every Sunday when Wendy and Wade take their special walk together with the dogs, Wendy brings up the issue of the house. She blames herself for "giving into" what Wade wanted. But Wade can feel the blame coming his way too. "Why did I let convince me to let that go? It would have made a nice difference in our lives today if we had that extra money. What was so important to you then that you couldn't just be my partner in finding a way to work it out?"

Wade tries to listen

He knows how important that is. And he tries to answer Wendy's question when she asks why he insisted so strongly to let it go. And yet Wade also regrets how he said what he said. Maybe he could have done it differently. Maybe even they could have found ways to put other things aside for a while and take on that project together. He doesn't know.

And, loving Wendy so much, even though he gets a bit defensive (he thinks to himself, "Why can't she just let it go?"), he feels her pain and he doesn't want her to suffer so. 

Wade asks me for help

Wade asked, "Dwight, could you talk with her about this, try to help her let it go and be at peace?"


OMG, what can I say to my friend Wade?! This is such a sticky, tricky problem. What would you say to Wade if he were your friend?

What can Wade do with his wife Wendy [FINALE]

"I'd be happy to speak with her, Wade, if she's open to it. And I have another idea we might try first. Could I ask you some questions and see if there is something you can do on your side, okay?"

"Sure, go ahead," Wade agreed.

External problem or internal problem?

"One of the most pernicious ways that our DNA leads us astray is to make it appear that a problem is outside of us, rather than recognizing that it's an internal problem. Or course, it could be both. Even if it is both, most often it's more effective to resolve the internal problem first before addressing the external problem, if it still exists. Could that fit for you?"

"I've noticed I've got that tendency especially since I've got an engineering background."

"Makes sense. I'd like to ask you about several points. In the end, I think they'll all fit together. Let's see. 

"First let's talk about a common dynamic that often exists between men and women and see if it might apply in your relationship with Wendy.

Will you be a Rock of Gibraltar for Wendy or will she pull you out into the raging sea with her?

"An important factor for a woman is that she feels safe with her man. One of those cornerstones to feeling safe is that she has confidence that whatever upsets she might be going through herself, her man is going to be like that lighthouse of calm and stability that's not going to move around in the tumultuous sea even when she's being tossed this way and that. Do you think this might be true for Wendy? What difference would it make for her if you were that rock and that lighthouse?"

"Yes, that fits. It could make a lot of difference."

Listening: often the most powerful solution (let go of being a fix-it machine)

"One essential way of being that lighthouse is to listen, just listen. This tends to go against our grain as men. We're fix-it machines. We think that if our woman has a problem, it's our job to fix it. Consequently, many of us men think we're listening, that we know what she said, yet we're still not fully listening. We're still trying to fix her. Listening means that you think that your only job is listening to her and doing your best to understand her, to be in her shoes, and to have her feel listened to. 

"To the extent that you're trying to fix her or to explain and justify yourself, even if it seems to be in response to a question she asks, she's not likely to feel fully listened to.

"Listening so that she feels listened to doesn't just mean keeping your mouth shut. That can be even worse. Be aware of your body language. Be aware of your voice image and your voice tone as you're speaking. It might mean interjecting, 'Say more about that...' or 'I might feel that way too...' or 'Oh, that's disappointing, isn't it?' or 'So what I understand is... Is that right?' I suggest you check out Listening and Listening to listening.

"So when you tried to answer Wendy's about 'What was so important...', you stepped out of the role of her listener and into a role of trying to explain and justify yourself, even though it seemed like you were doing what she was asking for. As Byron Katie says, 'Defense if the first act of war.' What do you think, Wade?"

"I know...I know. But I wanted to make her feel better and I wanted her to understand why I did what I did."

"Understandable. But almost always counterproductive. Stephen Covey's time-honored aphorism is 'Seek first to understand, then to be understood.' And in this circumstance, does it matter if she 'doesn't understand' you if you get a woman who is happier with you? It can sometimes be big courage for us men to keep our mouths shut and not try to justify ourselves.

Listening is not necessarily agreeing or obeying: it is no threat to taking care of yourself

"One other essential point. Many of us don't have a clear operational distinction between listening as contrasted with agreeing or obeying.

"An example: someone could be arguing strongly for how the earth was flat and you could still be curious about the thoughts that supported the idea and even have empathy for them. You could show genuine interest as to why it was important for them to believe the earth was flat, even though you didn't believe that.

"Further, they could even be asking you to join the International Flat Earth Research Society and you could still remain focused on them feeling fully listened to by you, while respectfully declining their request, right?"

"I don't want to admit it, but I think you're right about all of that."

"One time I was attending a men's group led by an ex-Landmark-Forum leader and his wife. I was struck by his expression, 'Women are self-correcting machines if you'll just listen to them.' To the extent that I've trained myself to listen well to women, I've found this to be true. It actually makes our job as men a lot easier than we think it is."

"Could it really be that easy?"

"Yes and no, Wade.


Nothing to prove or defend

"I suspect that part of the issue here is that you think you have something to prove or defend. Of course, you would prefer that Wendy feel happier and not blame you or herself. You might have some influence over that, but you certainly have no control. And, if you're trying to prove something or defend anything, not only will you lose any chance of you influencing Wendy in a way that both of you would like, but it will be counterproductive.

"If you're like most of us, Wade, when it seems as if someone is blaming us, we get defensive and we even want to blame back. Knowing that, however, may not be enough to let go of that defensiveness. Check out the two links Undoing guilt and Undoing defensiveness.

"Okay, next time Wendy brings this issue up, I'm going to just focus on being present with her and listening, letting go of any urge to defend myself."

"You inspire me, Wade."

Your next exciting episode >>> "Anne's dilemma: her life or her parent's"

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