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Do I have to listen?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 24, 2010 09:13 AM

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We chat at 1.

Q: Hi Meredith, I am a happily married man and father, and occasionally I read your column because it interests me to see the kinds of problems relationships have and I want to see if I can sympathize and learn something.

My problem may not be unique. I am educated, articulate and caring, and sweet. But my problem has to deal with communication. Usually in just about 99% of the problems couples have, the advice is usually "talk it over" or "share your problem with your lover." My particular issue is that I grow weary of the talking and bull. I grow glassy eyed hearing my wife complain about this or that that bothered her day, or soured her mood. I mean I care, but I really don't care about EVERYTHING.

My particular instinct when presented with a problem is to try and offer a solution. The problem is, often times a woman does not want a solution, just somebody to hear her out. That role is terrible for me. To sit there and listen to someone unload is a tough role to play, but unfortunately one of the responsibilities that a spouse accepts. So I sit there and nod my head mumbling "uh-huh" without really listening.

And to be honest, I feel bad about it, guilty. But my wife would get glassy eyed if I explained to her the nuances of my working day as well., My question is, how can I be a better husband, and be more engaged and fulfilling to my wife, without playing the role of "best girlfriend" who has to listen to the details of who said this gossip and what annoyance ruined her day? Why do some women assume their man has to be "everything" and be cool with that?

– Would Rather Not Talk About the Crappy Stuff, Boston

A: WRNTATCS, listening is sort of a big part of relationships. It can be super annoying, but it's necessary. Sometimes we have to listen to things that are boring. Sometimes we have to smile and nod. But I get what you're saying. It's no fun to be someone's bad news receptacle every night after work. I can see why you'd want to tune out, especially if your wife's after-work talk is mostly negative.

My advice (you're going to love this) is to talk it over and share your problem with your lover.

Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. You're allowed to tell your wife that the negative rundowns need to be balanced by some good stuff, some fun and discussion about issues that affect both of you. You also need more doing than talking. That means going out and sharing some experiences (in my opinion, watching television counts). And that's on both of you. If you don't want to sit at a kitchen table hearing about her day for two hours, ask her to a movie. Play a game with the kids. Take a drive. Be proactive about engaging her.

It's not about censorship, it's about balance. Instead of complaining about her complaints, tell her how you'd like to liven up your nights. Do your part to make this better.

Readers? Must we listen to the day's events? Is this guy wrong to tune out? Is he right to think that he's being forced to serve as a girlfriend? How does a couple get out of the I'm-unloading-everything-terrible-from-the-day rut? Share.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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