How would you like to take a 5-day cruise to the Bahamas with your wife, or the woman of your dreams, watch the sunset off the balcony of your cruise suite; go snorkeling together, hold hands walking on the beach, get massages, go dancing, sing Karaoke together, and sip drinks with tiny umbrellas in them? Sounds good, right?
But how would you like to do all those things and have your teenage daughter tag along with you? What you talk'in about Willis? (in my best Gary Coleman voice)
That's right! My beautiful wife and I decided to take my precocious, 16-year old daughter on a cruise to the Bahamas for Spring Break. What could possibly go wrong living in the confines of a cabin with two women, one bed, one sofa, and one bathroom?!
Let's just say, it was a vacation to remember! (or forget - depending on if you're a glass half-empty-half-full kind of guy).
My friend, Dr. Michelle Watson, wrote a wonderful article a couple of months ago about women not being able to "speak car,” which she defined as a challenge she’s experienced in not always being able to communicate in ways that men understand. I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot.
However, after spending almost a week in a cabin and on a boat with two women, let's just say, Dr. Michelle needs to write another article, but this time to women to educate them on the way that men often struggle to relate to them, calling it, "I don't speak feelings."
Here are just a few lessons I learned from my five days on a cruise ship with my wife and daughter, drenched in estrogen. (Play at your own risk if you choose to let your daughter or wife read this!)
Lesson #1: Apathy: "If you don't ask about it, that means you must not care."
I didn't know that my inability to ask 21 questions reflects my insensitivity to the "isn't it obvious" needs of a woman. I can't tell you how many times I heard the following questions (and you can fill in the blank with whatever you choose):
"Sweetie, aren't you're going to _________?"
"Daddy, why didn't you do __________?"
"Baby, how could you forget to do _________?"
"Daddy, you're not going to ask me about _________?"
Lesson #2: Insensitive: "If you question my mistake, then you're not being loving."
My daughter lost one of our bags that contained most of my wife's valuables. Could you imagine how upset my wife was; and she was sure to let my daughter know about it. But during the entire time, I didn't say a word; I just sat back an observed.
I must admit, my wife handled the situation like a pro (much better than I would have). But as soon as my daughter tried to make an excuse and shift the responsibility to my wife (Can you believe that?), before I could get even three words out, my daughter burst into tears claiming I was bashing her, criticizing her, and being insensitive to her feelings. And I didn't even finish my thought!
I didn't know that a man should refrain from teaching, questioning, or correcting a woman when she's feeling bad about doing something wrong or refusing to accept responsibility for it.
#3: Selfishness: "If you don't respond to my requests quickly, then you must only care about yourself."
On the cruise, I felt like I was part of the ship staff. Because I guess it was agreed upon, without my knowledge before the trip, that I would be the personal valet for my wife and daughter. I would be on-call 24 hours a day to get all the drinks, grab all the towels, and get all the midnight snacks whenever requested.
Of course, to survive the trip, and still have a bed to sleep in, I did everything without complaint. However, my teenage daughter thought my delays were my personal rejection of her, and she felt like I didn't care about attending to her needs as much as I did her mom's.
Coincidentally, I wore a Fitbit during the cruise, so I surpassed at least 10,000 steps every day during our time on the ship. How is that even possible? I was running so many errands on the cruise that I seriously thought about asking the crew for a uniform and filling out a W-2 form!
Lesson #4: Anger: "If you take time away to be away from me, you must be mad at me, someone, or something."
I know most people go on vacation to do stuff, go a lot of places, and try different things. However, the perfect vacation for me is me doing absolutely NOTHING and reading a good book and sleeping - disconnected from the world. Boring, yes, I know, but definitely relaxing to me.
However, I must qualify this statement, I intentionally tried to do almost everything that my family requested (with joy), from snorkeling, working out, acupuncture (yes, that's right), to singing karaoke, which my loving family forced me to do; then they secretly videoed me impersonating Prince and proceeded to post it on Facebook. I'm still getting text messages and weird stares about that.
However, as soon as I decided to find a hide-a-way to go read, drink, and relax, I received more questions than a perp on Law and Order:
"Are you okay?"
"Are you upset about something?"
"What's wrong with you?"
"Where did you go?"
"Why are you hiding from us?"
Who knew "going away" meant you're getting angry? I thought it just meant getting away.
I'm sure there were other lessons I missed. And for the most part, I still managed to enjoy the vacation, spend some time with my wife, and even bond with my daughter (we had a dress-up dinner date without mom - priceless), but the trip felt more like boot camp than a vacation.
All I can say is, as soon as Dr. Michelle publishes her book for men on "speaking feelings," I'm purchasing the first copy. Trust me, it's destined to be a best seller.
Dr. Joe Martin is an award-winning international speaker, author, and educator who has authored nine books. He is also the host of the #1 radio podcast on iTunes for Christian Men called Real Men Connect and heralds from Chattanooga, TN where he lives with his wife and teenage daughter. You can connect with him at www.realmenconnect.com.