The evening hours.
It’s the most blissful and harmonious time of your day. The time when your significant other breezes through the door after a long day of work. Today, like every day, he greets you with a smile and a kiss. Also like every day, he’s positively beaming. Grinning from ear to ear, in fact. That’s because your home is a scene of domestic perfection and tranquility.
Like it always is.
Tonight he catches you in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on your famously fabulous lobster bisque. The children are quiet as church mice and sitting at the counter finishing their homework. You’re so glad he’s home and he feels the same. This is his favorite time of the day too. For the sole reason that he can’t wait to hear all about your day. Nothing lifts his spirits quite like a blow-by-blow account of your activities since sunrise.
‘God, I love this man’, you think to yourself.
Taking his seat at the dinner table, he listens intently without interrupting while you regale him with the latest and greatest in your world. This is one of the things you love most about your guy. He’s an exceptional listener. He doesn’t try to fix the problem or offer too many suggestions. He just listens. And no topic is off-limits as far as he’s concerned. He’s happy as a clam to hear about the latest drama with your gaggle of girlfriends as he is to hear about the kids.
How lucky are you?
After dinner, he takes out the trash, helps clean the kitchen and then spends the next hour or so hanging out with the kids before making sure he gets them in bed on time. At no point during the evening does he turn on the television, belch out his backside or disappear into his man cave. In fact, he deplores the very idea of a man cave and has continually resisted efforts by his buddies to build one for himself. He says he doesn’t feel the need to escape. He’s smart enough to know spending time with you and the family is what really rejuvenates his spirit.
So no man cave required.
As bedtime approaches and your guy heads upstairs to fold his own laundry and draw you a bath, you suddenly hear the sound of music floating in dreamily from far far away. It starts softly at first and then gets progressively louder as it drifts ever closer to your ears. In a flash, you realize it’s one of your favorite songs of all time. A rhythmic powerhouse from back in the day and a lyrical tribute to the finest man you’ve ever known. The man who at this very moment is upstairs sprinkling lavender-scented bath beads into your brand-new whirlpool bathtub. The words of the song sum up exactly how you feel about your guy each and every waking moment of the day….
♪Whatta mighty good man!
With the lyrical brilliance of Salt-N-Pepa still ringing in your head, you suddenly realize the music is coming from your car radio.
Which means you’re sitting in your car. In bumper-to-bumper traffic. Fighting your way home after a long day of work.
With a heavy sigh, you realize you’ve just been daydreaming for the better part of half an hour.
Of course this was all too good to be true, right?
Of course it was.
Nauseatingly sweet scenes of domestic bliss like this don’t exist anymore – if they ever existed at all. For most of us, our reality is the exact opposite of the picture I just painted.
At the end of the day, chaos usually reigns supreme.
When I was married, I remember coming home after a long day of work to the same old scene time and time again….the interior of my beautiful home laid-to-waste courtesy of my genetic replicas. Despite having just arrived home themselves, my kids could create scenes of devastation on par with Hurricane Katrina in sixty seconds flat.
Walking through the front door, my tired eyes witnessed a swath of destruction that surely must have contained every toy, book and crayon color known to man. And as if that weren’t enough, I could always count on my delicate eardrums being mercilessly assaulted with the combined cacophony of pots and pans set to a backdrop of The Wiggles theme song. Yet somehow, the amazing female brave enough to take my last name took it all in stride while her husband damn near had a meltdown of nuclear proportions.
Because of scenes like this one, my desire for escape at the end of the day was stronger than that of a death-row inmate incarcerated on Alcatraz. Like a lot of guys, the evening hours often found me locked behind the doors of my home office praying to The Fates that my family would leave me alone for some much-needed downtime.
Much to dismay of women all across the land, this is typical guy behavior. Men come home at the end of the day wanting nothing more than to check out and be left alone. Yet in an ironic twist of fate, women want the exact opposite. Women need to talk.
Even if they’ve been talking all day.
This isn’t to say women don’t need their alone time too, but as a general rule women have a much greater need to emotionally connect at the end of the day than men do. Most guys I know, myself included, have little such desire. In fact, the average guy is borderline moronic when he walks in the door:
Her: “Hi Honey, how was your day?”
Her: “There’s pizza for dinner and I need to talk to you about a few things before I go to the gym.”
Her: “Also, we also really need to finalize our plans for this weekend too.”
Him: “Uh huh”
Her: “Are you even listening to me?”
If you’re a woman, the overwhelming need to deliver your own personal State of the Union address the second your guy walks in the door is totally understandable. And fully expected. After all, life is a constant flurry of activity from the moment we roll out of the wrong side of the bed in the morning, so it’s important we huddle up on a regular basis to make sure we’re all on the same page.
The evening hours are the perfect time to do just that.
Unfortunately, the problem with blasting your man the second he walks through the door is he’s already commenced his system shutdown routine. If he was a laptop computer, his screen would be gray and preparing itself for sleep mode. At this point in his day, he wants nothing more than to plant his backside on his favorite piece of furniture and jerk off the television remote to his favorite sports channel. Nobody knows this better than you do. And it’s frustrating to no end, isn’t it?
So how do we handle the fact that men need to shut down while women need to boot up?
Well, if you’re a woman, the first thing to understand is that your man’s withdrawal doesn’t have anything to do with you. This is a critical point. Many women think that when their man wants to be left alone that he’s somehow mad or irritated with them. If you’re a woman who feels this way, I can’t say that I blame you. When men don’t want to be messed with, we definitely do give off a certain vibe.
Now…could he be ticked off at you?
But more often than not, he isn’t and all is well. Acting like an antisocial imbecile is just how he deals with stress and recharges his batteries.
As I mentioned earlier, when I used to come home at the end of the day, I wanted nothing more than to disappear into my home office for some peace and solitude. This used to annoy my wife to no end because she didn’t understand what I’m sharing with you now and automatically assumed I was bent at her for one reason or another. Again, not that I could blame her since my communication skills during the twilight hours amounted to little more than a series of unintelligible snorts and grunts. But the truth is I wasn’t irritated at all. In fact, I’d had a great day. I just needed to shut it down for a bit before getting on with the evening routine.
So if you’re a woman, as difficult as it may be, try not to take your man’s social ineptitude personally. Once you understand it’s just his way of decompressing as opposed to something you’ve done, you’ll be less apt to allow his monosyllabic grunts and gestures to get under your skin.
Austin’s Word to the Wise
There isn’t an easy fix for this one because our needs are almost polar opposites. So if women like to yap and men like to nap, how do we bridge the gap? (Take THAT, Dr. Seuss!) Well, we do what we always do when the relationship is important to us yet we don’t see eye-to-eye on a particular issue…..
For women, this means understanding that some solitude is what your man needs and not holding it against him. It means allowing him a decompression period and NOT blasting him the second he walks in the door. If he gets some downtime to clear his head and rejuvenate his spirit, he’ll be a much happier camper and YOU will be the direct beneficiary of your understanding and generosity.
For guys, compromise in this case means recognizing that a critical part of a woman’s satisfaction in her relationship with you is feeling like she’s heard. So even if it’s the last thing you’d rather do, you absolutely MUST give her some time. It doesn’t always have to be a lot, but quality in this case goes a long way. Even ten or fifteen minutes of uninterrupted quality time can make a world of difference. Please don’t do what I did in the latter stages of my marriage and disappear for the entire evening, every evening. If you do, your relationship will hit the skids faster than you can say Hell Hath No Fury…
Fellas, spending quality time together is a critical part of a woman’s love language and the importance of acknowledging and validating what’s on her mind cannot be overstated. If a woman doesn’t feel like she’s being heard or understood, the rejection she feels will ultimately breed a resentment that can shred the very fabric of your union. So do the right thing, Gents. As someone wise once said, we always have time for the things we put first.