MAKE IT YOUR PROBLEM, NOT HIS
This was originally posted to the PCAI list on 5/24/00. A couple of women said it should be put at P5. It has been edited slightly from the original.- Robert Young, Webmaster
I got two very long emails from women who were asking me for advice about talking with their husbands because there was this growing gap or silence between them on the issue of sex.
I tried to point out that I don't have any magic bullet and the problem is that I didn't really know their situation to be able to speak specifically to points they were asking about.
But as I was responding, I started to have an idea about one aspect of a lot of men - certainly not all but a lot of men - that might apply and I decided to move it to the list in case it might help some other women. Plus I'd love to hear from men on this.
We - as a gender - are not an easy group to get along with and there are women out there who are struggling with this issue. It is tearing them and their relationships apart. They need recommended methods for how to talk with men. Granted there is no one way to do it, especially when dealing with PCa. But one idea might jog another for someone out there.
Here's my two cents. Remember that it doesn't apply to all men so don't flame me that it doesn't apply to you or your husband/companion. Also excuse the generality of "men."
Men like to help. They don't like to be helped. What you might do is put your conversation on the basis of YOU needing help, not him or "us." Maybe - and this is really an out-of-the-blue suggestion as I don't know how you guys work so it may be off the wall - you could back up a bit into being a sort of woman that is bothered with something and she needs her husband's help on it, like how in the world does one get this (some kitchen tool) to work.
If you think on that attitude, if you back up into making it YOUR problem as if you were talking to a friend rather than him, e.g., "Sally, I have this problem that is really bothering me. I feel like I'm saying the wrong things to my husband." Then he gets to help YOU. And if you think on it, that's really what you are trying to do, isn't it?
I remember so well once when my last wife and I had this horrible argument and suddenly she broke down crying and she was saying something like, "Dammit, I screwed it up! I was trying to help you and now we are arguing more and I got it all wrong." Now some guys MIGHT respond to that with an attack like, "Damn right you got it wrong!" but maybe he's not that type. I'm not. I put my arms around her and asked her to tell me about it and the next thing you know, we forgot the argument. It wasn't a tactic of hers. It was how she felt.
The other suggest is do it on a trip as you will be in neutral territory. Driving would be the best. Men like to be doing something when talking even if it is "nothing" like driving or fishing or watering the lawn. They are generally not good in just sitting and talking. They are best doing something, like playing cards or watching television. Even walking is good. A lot of women don't know that it would help - if it were their style - to say, "Honey, let's go for a walk" and then take it up. Men are MUCH more comfortable doing something while talking.
Heck, even if they are sitting at a bar with a drink, they are "doing something," get it? But sitting on a couch and talking, they aren't.
Also try to get onto some neutral territory, like out for a walk, a restaurant, a drive. Get it away from the home and the bedroom or anyplace connected with intimacy. The more neutral, the better.
When talking, really make it YOUR problem, not his. If you bring up the PCa, don't make it his cancer. E.g., "And you've got the cancer and I don't know what to say about it..." Notice how I made it "You've got THE cancer..." Not "You've got cancer" as that puts it over on him. Saying THE cancer makes it something apart from him, like the TV remote, the car, the phone. For example, if you say, "You've got indigestion" then you are incorporating it into him, get it? Try it on someone sometime. Someone who's got a really bad upset stomach or headache and say, "So you've got the upset stomach/headache" and if they are REALLY sick they might say, "No, I've got AN upset stomach" keeping it in them. Or they might say, "Yeah, I've got that headache." This may sound like nit-picking but it works. All you are doing is objectifying it and not identifying him with it.
Even works in arguments. "We're having that argument."
"The one we have when..."
See? You are objectifying it, stepping outside it, pointing over AT it, keeping it away from you.
Never make it HIS prostate cancer. Don't say YOUR prostate cancer. Say THE or THAT. That is the problem a lot of men suffer. It has become so subjective because it hits them as men and that is them, being a man, so talking about the PCa is talking about them.
Now in turn make it YOUR problem. Use words like MY feelings, MY problem, MY upset but about THAT cancer. Identify the problem with you, not him, and get him to help you solve YOUR problem. Talk to him as if he is some other guy. Heck, it even works with some couples (this is VERY individual) where one can say, "Well, my problem is that I have this husband that I really love and I don't know what to do about us." But that is tricky. (Don't say "a man I really love" as the guy can freak out for a minute.)
In other words, do what some women do right on the list or in email to a friend. They come in crying because they have a problem. Do that with him but don't make HIM the problem. Make him the PROBLEM SOLVER, just as if you were crying over that leaking faucet or the light bulb that won't screw in etc.
Oh, one other way to approach it. Again, this is very individual. "Honey, I'm really having trouble explaining ____ (some part of PCa) to my friend _____ because she wants to get her husband checked and she doesn't know what to say. What should I say?" Now the part of PCa has to be a safe part, like PSA or Gleason score or something that he has spoken of and is willing to speak of. If you'll notice, it is a problem of yours that he can help solve.
Or maybe back it up one more notch. Find something you've really been bothered by (not related to PCa or your relationship) and get him to help you with it. Then maybe you can take a walk and say, "You know, you were so good at helping me solve that. Maybe you can help me solve another problem I'm having." Men do like to move from one solved problem to the next problem.
This doesn't directly address your problem of the intimacy issue but it is some ideas on how to open the door in talking to him on PCa-related issues.
Just remember, most men do like to help. Get him to help you with YOUR problem, not his.
[Nikki Meloskie who heads Family to Family responded to the list. To read hers click here.]