Why Is He So Touchy?
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Why is he so touchy?” It’s a question a lot of wives ask. Shaunti Feldhahn and Brian Goins dig into this subject and reveal how influential a wife can be as her husband grows into the man God wants him to be.
Bob: Is your husband irritable/touchy? Shaunti Feldhahn says that may be because he’s masking deep-rooted insecurities.
Shaunti: When you look at that big strong husband, recognize that, inside, he is thinking: “Am I any good at what I do on the outside? I don’t think I know what I’m doing,” and “I am desperately looking to the people around me—even though I don’t look like it; I’m looking oh-so confident—but I’m looking to the people around me for signals as to the answer to that question.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 7th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Your husband needs a cheerleader. Does he have one? Shaunti Feldhahn talks more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m curious. Does Dave ever—
Dave: Never. [Laughter] I don’t know what you were going to ask, Bob; but it’s probably going to be negative. I’m not—
Bob: Does Dave ever love and serve you well? That’s what—no, I’m kidding.
Dave: Oh yes; always! Always! [Laughter]
Bob: No, the question I was going—“Does Dave ever cop an attitude?”—like: you bring something up, and he just kind of gets touchy—that would be the word.
Ann: He really—I don’t think he has much of that except right before we get up to speak. [Laughter]
Ann: It’s terrible; all of a sudden, he’s like short and snappy and like, “Just do this.” I’m like, “Oh, I feel great about getting up to speak with you.” [Laughter]
Bob: Did you know you do this?
Dave: Aw, yes; I did the same thing before football games in college—I really did. I was the meanest little guy ever—big guy; big guy—I was a big guy. [Laughter]
Bob: When the lights are about to come on, and when it’s show time, you get focused; and any distraction you get annoyed with.
Dave: There you go Bob—that’s what I do.
Bob: There we go.
Ann: Do you do that? You seem to be able to relate. [Laughter]
Keith: [From sound booth] No, he never does that—never ever. [Laughter]
Bob: Stop, Keith; stop.
Who told him he could open his microphone? [Laughter] You’re the engineer; we’re going to get that technically fixed so that that can’t print today.
Dave: I think that might have been the Holy Spirit, Bob.
Bob: We’re going to listen today to a portion of a podcast. This is the Married with Benefits podcast that is part of the FamilyLife® Podcast Network—Brian Goins talking with Shaunti Feldhahn about questions that wives are asking in marriage. One of those questions is: “Why does my husband cop an attitude? Why does he get touchy when I bring something up?” And again, we’re just going to hear a portion of the podcast; their conversation is an extended one. We thought this was an interesting dialogue and something that our listeners would be interested in hearing, so hear it is.
[Married with Benefits Podcast]
Brian: Shaunti, you’re married to Jeff. I’m guessing, every now and then, he gets touchy about something.
Shaunti: He is the best husband ever.
Brian: Right; he is a good guy. I’ve hung out with him—love the guy.
Shaunti: He is a great guy, but he’s a guy.
Shaunti: Every woman knows what I mean by this—that sometimes, our husband just gets kind of touchy about something. You’re like: “What?! What was wrong? What did I say? What did I do?” I mean, just the other day—I think it was two or three days ago—we were in the middle of a discussion—you know those discussions?
Shaunti: Yes; I literally was trying to process through something. He’s like, “Look, I can’t say anything; so I’m just going to shut up.” [I’m] like, “Ah!”—you know?
Brian: Yes, so that’s why—
Shaunti: You’d think I would have written a book about men or something—[Laughter]
Brian: Right; exactly.
Shaunti: —like I wouldn’t do this, but I did.
Brian: —that you would know.
Brian: Yes, which she has. Shaunti, of course, has written a number of books. How many books are you up to now?
Shaunti: I haven’t added it up. Actually, you’re going to laugh; but I haven’t. It’s probably 15-ish.
Brian: —15 or so. I know that she’s—you’ve probably have heard her from the For—is it For Only series? Is that what you call it?
Shaunti: Yes; the Only series.
Brian: Yes; the Only series—so, For Women Only, For Men Only, For Young Women Only, For Parents Only.
Shaunti: Yes; yes.
Brian: But this one—the idea of being: “How do I know—like that my husband’s tells?” It’s like in poker; you know? It’s like: “Oh, I know that guy is bluffing; so how do I…” What are the tells of my husband when ‘Oh, he’s being touchy about something’?” I think every wife could probably—if we had a call-in show, they’d go: “Oh, I know exactly. It’s when my husband says this—like, ‘Fine, you just do it your way.’”
Shaunti: Yes; I’ve heard that one, too; yes.
Brian: You’ve heard that one a couple times?
Shaunti: Every wife is nodding—
Shaunti: —because every woman is like, “Yes, been there.”
Brian: For me, it’s like it comes out—and I’m generally a pretty patient guy, I think—but I get really short.
Shaunti: Yes; every wife is like: “What?! I don’t get it. It was just this little”—in our minds—“it is this little thing.”
Here’s really the reality of this—is that, honestly, it feels little to us; but clearly, it’s not to him, or he wouldn’t be upset; he wouldn’t be irritated. In our minds, he wouldn’t be over-sensitive.
Brian: Oh, that’s the word we use.
Shaunti: That’s the word—see, this is the word that women privately use amongst themselves: “So touchy/so over-sensitive.”
Shaunti: The reality is—at least, what we found in the research with men/all these different studies—is, honestly, it’s minor to us; and it’s not to them because it’s hitting a raw nerve, down deep, that we, women, don’t know is there.
Brian: It seems like there’s a mismatch of the importance of something—like: “Why? He shouldn’t be touchy about that. It’s really not a big deal. I’ve basically just showed him how to put the dishwasher—all the dishes in right. Why wouldn’t you want to do it the right way?”; right?
Shaunti: Whenever I do—Jeff and I do a lot of marriage conferences—and I use that example sometimes/that exact example of: “Okay; so, you know, ladies, that time when he’s done the dishes after dinner. He’s cleaning up, and he puts the dishes away; and then you come along behind him and put the dishes in the right way.” Every man in the audience starts going, “Oh, yeah,”; and he starts nodding.
Shaunti: The women are like: “What?!”
Here’s what we don’t realize is going on—is that our big strong men look so confident; and on the inside, there is a lot of self-doubt under the surface. We don’t know it’s there. It’s essentially this deep feeling—like, “I want to be a great husband, but I don’t know that I know what I’m doing.” He’s looking for these signals from the people around him, especially his wife, as to whether or not he measures up. He thinks: “I don’t think I measure up; but if she thinks I do, then I’m okay.
Shaunti: “But if she’s signaling that I didn’t measure up, then, now, I’m like really in trouble; because this is the woman who knows me the best in the world”; you know?
Shaunti: We think, “What is dishes—redoing the dishing have to do with this?” Here’s really the bottom-line underneath that sort of emotional surface—is for us, as women, the question in our hearts is kind of—it is an “Am I loveable?” kind of question—like down deep: “Am I loveable? Am I special? Am I worthy of being loved for who I am on the inside?” What we love/the signal we are looking for is that he loves us—that he loves us—he says, “I love you”; he does these loving things.
We don’t realize that, in the heart of our husband and our son—like this is most men/not all; you know, statistically—but the vast majority—the question in their hearts is a completely different question. The question that he has isn’t: “Am I loveable?”—but—“Am I able?”
Shaunti: And he is always concerned, in the deepest places of his heart, that someone is going to figure out he’s an imposter/he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Finally, I realized, as I started down this path of listening to the hearts of these men—I’m saying that because it wouldn’t bother me—and he’s not me; he’s wired very differently.
Brian: For us, as guys—I know for me: “I want to be shown that I can do things. If you’re—and all of a sudden, you come down and redo something I just did, you’re basically saying: “Whatever you just did wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t like I would do it, which is the right way”; right?
Shaunti: Right; of course, because there is one right way to load a dishwasher.
Shaunti: I mean, really; come on!
Honestly, I’m kind of joking; but we, as women, we kind of have to confront something that we didn’t even know was there. We didn’t know that—with everything we’re doing; everything that we’re saying—every interaction with him, we are either—because it’s not because of us; it’s because of him and this question and this insecurity in the inside—we are either signaling: “Yes, you measure up,” or “No, you don’t,”—one of those two things. You know, we love our husbands; we care about them; we don’t want to trigger that feeling.
The thing that a man most wants and needs, as a result of this doubt—what I heard from all of these men/saw it on the surveys—is they most need to know that their wife/the most important person in his life: that she appreciates him, that she does believe in him, that she does respect him; she does admire him; she does trust him. All of those things that say, “You’re good at what you do on the outside.”
Shaunti: If he doesn’t feel that way—whether it’s sort of systemically or just in that moment—what we found is that there is usually one or both of two responses. The guy gets angry, or he withdraws, or both; right?
Shaunti: That’s a signal of a guy feeling this sense of total, complete inadequacy. We don’t realize, as a woman, that that is his most painful feeling—that that truly is like: “Just kill me now. This is horrible.” None of us, as wives, want our men to feel that way.
Shaunti: I mean, we care about our husbands. We just think—we kind of have this: “He’s just has this little minor thing. He needs to get over it.”
Brian: Yes; “What’s the big deal?”
Men feel that insecurity when it comes to competence about certain issues or doing something the right way. Do you feel like there is a same/similar feeling that women would have about an insecurity? What I don’t hear you saying is—like, “When do women get touchy?”—to know that: “Hey, this—how men feel here—is how we feel over here.”
Shaunti: Well, you know, imagine your husband saying: “So, honey, why are you getting so angry? I just said you needed to lose ten pounds.”
Shaunti: Seriously, there are so many men, who are like: “Of course, I think she’s beautiful. All I did was tell her she needs to lose ten pounds. Why is that making her so upset?”
Brian: “It’s great to work out. You should work out every now and then.”
Shaunti: Yes, I mean—you know.
Shaunti: That’s an example of—because it’s our nerve/our question: “Am I beautiful?”; right?—we really don’t believe that. So, when he pulls away during an argument—I mean, ladies, think about how you feel when you’re in the middle of one of those discussions over breakfast—it’s emotional—he’s upset with you, and you’re both kind of emotional. He’s like, “I’ve got to go to work”; and he gets in the car and drives away.
What happens in your heart? Is it: “Oh, it’s just minor. It’s no big deal”?
Shaunti: Or is there this “Uh,”—like: “Are we okay?” kind of feeling. Most women say, statistically, it’s like this has risen into this sort of conscious thing, that’s there in your heart, kind of going, “Uh, nothing is right with the world until that’s resolved.” You wouldn’t want your husband to go: “Get over it,”—like, “Why are you so—why are you clingy?”
Shaunti: You would want to be reassured: “I love you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say those things.”
Look, what you want is—before he leaves, when he’s upset—to say, “Look, I’m angry. I need space; but listen, we’re okay. We’ll talk about this when I get back from work.” Why is that such a big relief? It’s because he’s reassured you in your area of insecurity.
Shaunti: And with a guy, here’s how you reassure him in his area of insecurity—when he does the dishes, and they are all in different spots than you would do it—
Shaunti: —you say: “Oh, thanks so much, honey, for doing the dishes. I really appreciate it while I was being with the kids. Really, you’re awesome,”—and absolutely nothing about what you wish he would have changed.
Brian: Even though, inside, you’re dying—you’re going: “Those bowls will never get cleaned—facing that way, it’s not going to happen. [Laughter] The cereal that’s stuck on there—I’m going to have to clean that off.”
Shaunti: “I’m going to have to chip it off.”
Brian: Right; “…chip it off.”
Shaunti: Well, there are some women—I promise you; there are women listening to this—because I used to be one of them—who are getting their head wag on and are like: “Are you kidding me?!”—like: “I can’t say anything?! What?! I have no rights here?!
Shaunti: “What? He just needs to get over it.”
I started asking guys—like: “Come on. If the dishes do have to get done correctly, what do we do?” I heard consistently two things from the guys—
Shaunti: —about—some of them actually called it this, and I started looking into it. We call it the Next-Day Rule.
Brian: The Next-Day Rule?
Shaunti: The Next-Day Rule—there are two parts to the Next-Day Rule. Ladies, honestly, if you will start thinking this through and watching for opportunities for this, honestly, this one thing can be a huge improvement in your marriage; because you avoid the touchiness.
The first part of the Next-Day Rule is you ask yourself: “Okay; here is this thing I want to change. I want to come along behind him,” or “I want to question his judgment about something right in the moment.” Ask yourself, “Is this thing going to matter the next day?” If it’s going to matter enough that it may be worth hurting your husband’s feelings—
Shaunti: —then mention it; right? If it’s not going to matter enough—that it’s not worth having that kind of soul-shredding feeling—
Shaunti: —then, maybe, don’t mention it. Yes, the kids may have been taken out in the snow without their gloves. [Laughter]
Shaunti: He’s all excited because he’s been outside playing snowballs with the kids and being a great dad. Is it worth it to say, “Why did you not put gloves on them?”
Shaunti: Is it worth it?—knowing that he is high from his triumph of being a great dad, out there, playing snowballs with the kids. Is it worth it to kind of sink that feeling; okay?
If it is, then mention it; if it’s not, then not: “Like, honey, thanks for dressing them for school; but you know what? You didn’t realize there is a special uniform that they are supposed to wear today. They are supposed to each have a blue shirt on, because they are going to have class pictures”; you know? “You might have forgotten.”
Brian: Right; right.
Shaunti: That’s an example of: “That’s worth it. You don’t want your kids to be the only ones to show up in normal wear when they are all supposed to wear blue t-shirts or whatever.”
Brian: “Is it worth it?”—that’s a great question.
Shaunti: “Is it worth it?”—that’s the first thing you’re supposed to ask.
Shaunti: Next-Day Rule: “Is it going to matter the next day? Is it worth it to hurt his feelings?”
The second part of the Next-Day Rule is: “If possible, mention it the next day—if it’s important enough that it’s going to matter, and it’s not super-time sensitive—like the blue shirts for the kids going to school that minute—
Shaunti: —then mention it the next day—like, “You know, honey, thank you so much again for doing the dishes. That was awesome. I’m so glad. You know what? I thought you’d want to know. I looked at how the water jets hit the dishes, and they actually hit it from the right instead of from below,”—or whatever it is you’ve discovered—“so I thought you’d want to know.”
Brian: And if you could use the word, “schematic”: [Laughter] “I pulled up the schematic for the jets on the dishwasher,”—that would get him. “Oh, really? I haven’t looked at the schematics, but I kind of want to.” If you could use that word anytime—schematic—you’ve got your guy’s attention.
Shaunti: —along with quantum physics.
Brian: Yes, quantum—yes; exactly.
Shaunti: Yes; exactly: “The numbers prove….”
Brian: Right; right. [Laughter]
Shaunti: —whatever it is.
Brian: Anything like, “If I’m not knowing—I want to be in the know now,”—so—“Oh, the jets point that way; that’s interesting.”
Shaunti: But you have given him his triumph.
Shaunti: Do you agree that—because a lot of women are sitting here, listening, saying, “This sounds kind of patronizing,”—you know: “Come on!
Shaunti: “You know, my husband is more secure than that.”
Brian: Exactly; he’s not.
Brian: He’s not. It’s amazing how easily offended I can be. A mentor friend of mine said that: “Hey, as a man, I always feel insecure—not just insecure—but desperately insecure.”
We don’t come across that way; we don’t project that; but inside, when a comment is made—here’s one example that I’ve seen, a lot, with couples. A guy is telling a story, and he is fabricating some of the details; right? [Laughter] He’s trying to build it up and make this—I mean, let’s not let the truth get in the way of a great story. As guys, that’s kind of our mantra.
Shaunti: I think Tony Campolo once said, “It should have happened that way.”
Brian: “It should”—exactly.
Shaunti: “It should have happened that way.”
Brian: And you see the wife going: “No, it wasn’t four people; there were three people there,” “No, no, no, no, no; it wasn’t a right turn.
Shaunti: Oh my!
Brian: “It was a left turn.” The guy is sitting there, feeling—
Shaunti: I’ve probably done this.
Brian: —like an idiot. It’s true; it’s true, but is it spoken in love? Probably not, because she’s not caring about what’s going on in his heart; and at some point, some guy goes, “Why don’t you just tell the story?”
Shaunti: Yes; well, that’s that: “Nothing I do is every good enough for you”; right? So many of us, as women, have heard that phrase and had no idea what the guy was talking about/no idea what our husband was talking about; right? We don’t think of it that way. We don’t realize you guys do.
Shaunti: We don’t realize that, for you, again, it is: “Ladies, get this into your heads/into your hearts.” This is something I’ve had to wrestle with for years. “When you look at that big strong husband/next time you look at that big strong husband—next time you talk to him—recognize that, inside, he is thinking: “Am I any good at what I do on the outside? I don’t think I know what I’m doing.
Shaunti: “I am desperately looking to the people around me—even though I don’t look like it, and I’m looking oh so confident—but I am looking to the people around me for signals as to the answer to that question. If the heart-cry of a woman is: ‘Am I loveable?’ the heart cry of a man is: ‘Do I measure up?’”
Shaunti: He really, sincerely doubts it. Honestly, I mean, let’s just—if we can get all theological for a second. It’s really—honestly, it traces back to the curse; right? I mean if you look at how God said: “Adam, here is what life is going to feel like for you. You’re always going to feel like you are toiling the ground by the sweat of your brow, and you’re never going to get there.
Shaunti: “You’re going to always feel like the thorns and the thistles are rising up against you. No matter what you do, you’re never going to feel like you’re going to get there.” That is the heart of our big strong man. There is a tenderness inside/a vulnerability—a self-doubt.
What a precious opportunity we, as women, have to steward that self-doubt, and speak to it, and build them up in the same way that—once he knows we have our self-doubt/our vulnerability, we want him to tenderly steward that—
Shaunti: —and speak to that and reassure that as well.
Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to an excerpt from the Married with Benefits podcast—Brian Goins and Shaunti Feldhahn talking about questions that wives are asking about marriage; and this question: “Why is my husband so touchy?” The truth is we both get touchy with one another.
Bob: This is not a one-way kind of scenario. But I do think it takes wives by surprise, sometimes, when they ask what they thought was an innocent question, and they get a flash back.
Ann: Yes, I think for me, to learn to go deeper into: “Why did Dave respond like that?” That’s the big question; I think that’s what they dealt with as it goes way deeper into insecurities.
Dave: And Shaunti did such a great job just illustrating that. I’ve said this many times: “Men are like little boys. When somebody critiques us, it gets at the core of disrespect, so anger often happens.”
That’s why I do it; I feel disrespected. I never even knew it—I just blew up, or got touchy, or responded. Boy, oh boy, you start to look inside your soul; and you’re like, “Wow, I long”—I didn’t want to say this out loud—“but I longed to be respected, especially from the woman that I loved the most in the world—my wife.”
Ann: We really saw this with our sons as well, because they would respond in anger or be touchy. That same thing: “Whoa! What’s really at the heart of this?”
Bob: And I think it’s good for both of us to remember that what’s at the heart of it often is not us—it’s not about us—it’s about something inside of them. It could be about something that happened earlier in the day. It could be about something that goes back to your relationship that you had with your mom or with your own dad, and things are being triggered.
Because I know for me—I’ll see how Mary Ann responds to something; and I’m instantly thinking: “What did I do? What did I say?” I have to pull back and go: “This may not be about me. This may be about something deeper than me.” Now, the question is not: “How do I get defensive?” but “How do I love her in the midst of whatever set off that flare in her life?” I think that’s true for both husbands and wives.
If you’d like to hear the entire conversation that Brian and Shaunti had on this subject, you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and listen to this particular episode of the Married with Benefits podcast; or subscribe to the podcast. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
We also have information about Shaunti’s book, For Women Only, where she talks about why respect means more to your husband than love and how he feels, deep inside, about his role as a husband and as a provider. Again, the book is called For Women Only, and we’ve got copies of it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—that’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I mentioned the podcast that Brian and Shaunti do. This is just one of three new podcasts we have added this year. It’s a part of our commitment to continue to provide you with practical biblical help and hope for your marriage/for your family. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on the FamilyLife Podcast Network and find out all that’s available to you via podcasts.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how important moms are and about the eternal mark a mom leaves on the lives of her children. Linda Weber joins us to talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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