A 13-year old girl, all dressed up, excited to attend her first school dance. She is anticipating a magical event. She pictures herself walking in and being asked to dance by any number of boys. She wants to be Cinderella, chosen out of everyone else.
Yet, it doesn’t take long for her to figure out that things are not going as planned. She spends the entire two hours waiting and never being asked. None of her friends are asked either, but that is irrelevant to her personal devastation.
Her mother picks her up from the school and, once home, tries to console her. Her father tries to add some perspective, hoping that it will alleviate his young daughter’s distraught feelings. He sits on the bed next to her and says, “Well, honey, it is kind of like the story of the ugly duckling … ”
Pause the story there and cringe.
Lesson number one – NEVER use the story of the ugly duckling to make a point with any female. Ever.
Lesson number two – Life for a woman is like a junior high school dance. She wants to be picked.
Granted, we all want to be important, desired, and wanted. But the ways in which we want to be chosen is different for each gender. The depth of that need is different.
Because our brains literally work differently, men tend to focus upon the external experience. More often than not, they want to be picked because it shows that they are the best, or it is proof of some kind of accomplishment. It gives them the respect and admiration they crave.
For women, it is totally other. They focus upon the internal experience, which means their thoughts, their feelings, and their very own internal relationship barometer. They live off of feelings and relationships. It is the gas in their tank, the air in their lungs. So it is understandable that they would be very sensitive to any shifts in either. And, let’s face it, both feelings and relationships shift a lot. Which can leave her feeling insecure, overly-sensitive, or moody.
It only takes a little change in that barometer for her to feel wary, nervous, or even scared.
- Am I still important?
- Does he still love me?
- Does he still want me?
- Does he still find me attractive?
- Why do I feel a distance from him?
- Why won’t he talk more? Touch more? Give more?
It’s crazy-making, right?
We know it. We just fail to understand why we feel and think this way, so it can be overwhelming and out of our control. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We just need to sift through all the feelings to get to the heart of the matter in order to find some resolution and peace.
Let me give you an example.
The first fight I ever had with my husband was over the toilet seat. Pretty cliché, right? Sad, but true. I was getting upset that he wouldn’t put it down after he was finished and he was getting upset that I was making a big deal out of it. It didn’t take long for both of us to become entrenched in our position, virtually immovable by the other’s arguments.
“It only takes a second for you to put it down.”
“Exactly, it only takes a second for you to put it down.”
The stalemate remained in place for as long as I was being ruled by my emotions about the situation. Things shifted once I got to the heart of the issue. Why was I so upset about a toilet seat? Why was I being so stubborn about it? What was really going on?
Well, in a very specific way, I explained to him that I was one of three girls. The toilet seat was only up when we were sick or when we were cleaning it. Neither circumstance left a pleasant association, so I really hated seeing the toilet seat left up. But that wasn’t the real reason for how I felt. The fact that it bothered me and that I disliked it so intensely wasn’t the real issue. The real issue was that he didn’t care. My feelings didn’t seem important enough to him. He was choosing his convenience over me.
I wasn’t being picked.
I was upset and stubborn about this situation because it communicated to me that I wasn’t important; that he was picking himself over me; that I wasn’t worth a second of his time. The air in my lungs was being threatened and I was feeling very sensitive about it.
This realization did two things.
- One, I was able to dial back my sensitivity once I uncovered the real issue. I got underneath the feelings and found the reasoning and was able to see more clearly.
- Two, all my husband’s desire to fight evaporated. He really didn’t care about the toilet seat one way or the other.
He was being stubborn because it turned into a competition between us and he didn’t want to lose. Once he saw what it meant to me, the message that his behavior was sending me, he had no problem with putting the seat down. And it’s been a non-issue ever since. He chose me.
So, I would suggest that the next time your feelings are hurt or an argument arises, that you step back and sift through the feelings to find the real underlying problem. My guess is that it will have something to do with feeling picked, chosen, important, and valued.
Once you can see that, you can finally find resolution and peace.
Where in your relationship are you feeling sensitive or upset because really you aren’t feeling picked? It may be serious like how time or money is spent, or it may be silly like my toilet seat example, but it is the issue underneath that needs to be addressed. How could you dial down the sensitivity and actually express your need to be chosen?
About Jennifer Miller
Jennifer Miller, MAR, MA, LPC is a Christian pastor, professional counselor, and author of No Longer Two: A Guide to How God Created Men, Women, and Marriage. For over a decade, she has been combining her expertise in psychology and theology to help individuals, couples, and families both in private practice and in ministry, as well as through her writing, speaking, and teaching.
She is the co-founder and Co-Executive Director of The Center for Living Well, a nonprofit Christ-centered wellness ministry dedicated to helping people live well and love God. She regularly leads classes, workshops, and retreats on a wide range of topics including faith and relationships. She is also a Master-level Christ-Centered Yoga Leader at the Center.
On a more personal note, Jennifer is very happily married to her high school sweetheart, Brandon. They live in Arizona with their two boys, Nathaniel and Samuel. She has a passion for all things I Love Lucy, a good cup of tea, classic movies, great books, family and friends, and most of all, for Jesus.