Question: I just don't get my wife. She has been complaining that I never have any time for her. So I planned that we would spend an entire day together. I took her shopping and bought her whatever she wanted. After four hours at the mall we went home, and I was ready to get some work done, when she came up with this: "But we haven't spent any time together!"
I am at a loss. If four hours together isn't enough, what more can I do?
One of the deepest differences between men and women is in the way we view reality. Men look at facts, women look at feelings. For a man, the facts determine what's real, irrespective of the way I feel about it. For a woman, her feelings define reality, and the hard facts are only secondary. Take a typical example. A couple is running late to a wedding because the wife is not dressed yet. Here's the conversation:
Husband: If we don't leave in the next three minutes we will miss the ceremony.
Wife: But I have nothing to wear.
Husband: What do you mean you have nothing to wear? There is a wardrobe with 78 outfits right in front of you!
Wife: I'm telling you I have nothing to wear. This dress makes me look fat, that one I wore to the last three weddings, and everything else I'm just sick of wearing.
The husband at this point has no clue what to say. He fears that the only solution is to buy her a new outfit, which cannot be done in the next three minutes. So he leaves the room exasperated.
That's because he is looking at the facts. The facts are that there are indeed 78 outfits in the wardrobe. And if none of them are good enough, then the only answer is to change the facts and buy another outfit. But if he would see things from his wife's perspective, then he would be able to understand what she really means and help her solve the problem.
When she says, "I have nothing to wear", she means it. She can see the clothes in the wardrobe. But what she is really saying is, "There is nothing in this wardrobe that I feel comfortable putting on". A woman's reality is based on her feelings, rather than just the cold facts. So she really has nothing to wear. As far as her feelings are concerned, the wardrobe is empty. Her husband must realise that his wife's perspective is as valid as his. He may be right, in the world of facts, there is a full wardrobe here. But there is another equally real world, the world of feelings. If she doesn't feel right about her wardrobe, then she literally has nothing to wear.
To solve the dilemma he need not change the facts and buy her another dress. He needs to forget about the facts and address her feelings. Let him take out an outfit he likes and say, "But you look so good in this!" If he says it with sincerity, then something amazing occurs. That outfit appears out of nothingness, and she has something to wear. Not because the facts changed, but because her feelings changed. She now feels good about herself in that outfit.
The same applies to your confusion about your wife's need to spend time with you. When your wife said that you haven't spent any time together after a whole day of shopping, you immediately looked at the facts. And you rightly pointed out that you had spent four hours together.
But that is not what she meant. When she originally said that she wants to spend more time together with you, she didn't mean that she wanted the clock to move while you were in the same room. She meant that she wanted to feel close to you, to reconnect with you, to share her feelings with you and for you to share yours with her.
Standing in line at a department store doesn't count - even though technically you are spending time together. But a walk in the park talking about deep life issues, or laughing together about nothing in particular over breakfast - that is real time together, because you are connecting. One hour of undivided attention is worth infinitely more than a whole day of running errands together.
G-d created men and women to be different so we can learn from each other. From men, women can learn the value of sometimes stepping back from their feelings and looking at the facts. From women, men can learn that feelings can be more real than facts. Life is not measured by the ticking of the clock but rather by the beating of the heart.