What's He Really Thinking?

by Paula Rinehartthinking
{ 2009 | Thomas Nelson | 224 pgs }

I’ve known the Romgi for 11 years now, and I freely admit that those teenage years were infuriating. He was silent when I wanted him to really talk about how he felt, he missed my seemingly obvious hints about wanting to go out or be complimented, he didn’t get angry when we had a fight. And while I’m sure there’s much about him I can still learn, I feel like by now I know him like the best friend (and husband) he is. I thought Rinehart’s book might help me learn a few more of those things I’m missing.

Rinehart divides her book into two main sections: “Understanding the Man You Love” and “Loving the Man You Understand.” She draws heavily on her religious views to explain how men are different from women, what makes men tick, and how we as women can best understand – and therefore support and love – the men in our lives.

To be fair, What’s He Really Thinking? is well-written, and Rinehart has clearly put a great deal of effort and research into her book. Yet I found myself disagreeing with many of her assessments of men – and those that I did agree with were hardly earth-shattering discoveries. (I doubt I’d consider them facts that would make me “a relational genius with the [man] in [my] life.”) For example, in the early chapters of the book, Rinehart asserts that the drive to do is what makes men men, and that they are therefore measured by performance in all aspects of their lives. Inadequacy is their biggest fear. The weight of their responsibility is tremendous, yet as men, they cannot admit the burden.

Rinehart emphasizes that we should be grateful to be women, because it’s so difficult to be a man. I’ll have a conversation with the Romgi about this, but I’m going to guess that it’s difficult to be a man or a woman. Human existence is a challenge, and it’s meant to be. You know me better than to think I’m going to say, “Oh, yeah, womanhood is actually pretty easy. Especially compared to being a man.” The Romgi may envy my chance to stay home with the Bwun and not worry about homework, but I envy his chance to interact with peers and have academic discussions.

I’m glad that Rinehart acknowledges and embraces the differences between men and women, but I wish her tone had been a little less…catering. We work together as husband and wife. Yes, I support the Romgi, and do my best to make sure he’s taken care of temporally and emotionally. But I can’t spend all my time having heartfelt conversations wherein I say, “The Romgi, how do you really feel about what’s going on in your life? How can I ease your burden without emasculating you?” Maybe that isn’t the way the Romgi and I interact. I tried in high school to get him to tell me that – how he really felt. It was a complete failure. If I’m being reasonable – and by that I mean, not asserting myself and my opinions to the point that he doesn’t dare contradict me – the Romgi does tell me how he feels. (I hope he doesn’t leave a comment telling me I’m way off on that…)

I did find Rinehart’s section on conflict and conversation interesting. She talks about the differences in how men and women communicate, and how these can lead to challenge when a conflict arises. Rinehart says that for many women the biggest vulnerability is admitting what we want or what is making us hurt, which I can see to a point. In order to resolve a disagreement, however, both parties need to understand what the other wants. She suggests a stroke-kick-stroke approach, in which a woman first strokes by sharing something she appreciates or values about her man, then kicks with a specific request, and strokes again by returning to a more positive statement.

Let me see if I can come up with my own example of the stroke-kick-stroke structure.

Dear the Romgi, I’m glad that you schedule your classwork so that you have time to spend at home with me and the Bwun every day. When you do reading or other classwork at home, it seems like it ought to be ok to interrupt you, but I still feel guilty about asking you for help or even talking to you at all. I’d rather that you do your homework on campus. That way, when you’re home, we can enjoy each other’s company without interrupting your studies.

Hmm. It might have been quicker (and more fitting with our relationship) if I said something more like this:

Hey love, can you study on campus so I don’t have a weird guilt complex about asking you to change the Bwun’s diaper when you do homework at home? Thanks.

(The “love” and “thanks” are my versions of stroke.)

I think Rinehart’s book is probably best for young to middle-aged women who’ve had little close interaction with men or who really don’t have a great marital relationship.

(The Romgi, how about you tell me if I need to read another self-help book? Maybe I’m not as insightful as I thought. Just give me a heads-up, ok?)

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