Women, have you ever noticed that when your man is focused, there is a lot he just does not see? Men, are you sometimes baffled why your woman is exasperated that you did not automatically know to do something? The problem is a phenomenon I call “obliviosity.”

Women want to avoid being labeled a nag, so we drop hints or expect our man to read our minds. We leave things out somewhere obvious (to us!), thinking that our men will see it and take charge. A basket in the middle of the floor means, “Please put this laundry away.” A box with new cabinet parts in front of the cabinet means, “Please fix this.” A coupon for flowers means, “Please get me some.”

With obliviosity, he doesn’t see that something new has been done or added to the environment. He walks past us or around an item, not to torment or aggravate us, but because he is focused on other things and oblivious to the subtle messages.

Women’s and men’s brains are constructed differently. Men tend to focus on one item at a time, and women tend to have multiple processes going on mentally at any given moment. It’s just one of the charming ways we tend to be different.

It is time for some new strategies so you are harmonious in your interactions. Here are some of the ways I’ve found to manage obliviosity and expectations of mind-reading. You probably have other solutions too (please share them!):

  • Both: Create a to-do list and set priorities together.
  • Both: Help each other remember important dates and agree together how to celebrate them. Consider keeping a common calendar.
  • Both: Take time each day to check in with each other, providing updates on agreed tasks and seeing how you are each doing with your lives.
  • Women: Catch his attention, be certain he is focused on you, and then make a concise and direct verbal request (kindly and lovingly!) that something be done. Include any requirements for how and when it needs to be accomplished if there is a legitimate reason; otherwise, leave him to do the task his own way. Do not criticize how he did it, or he may not willingly do it again! [Note: Sometimes a written request can work, but at times obliviosity kicks in there too. Experiment and see what works for you both.]
  • Women: Let him know that you are going to the hairdresser (or any other self-improvement or improvement item) and you will look forward to his appreciation. Give him a tour of changes you have made to the house and let him know how they will benefit his life. Stick to highlighting the most important items.
  • Men: Look up and around once in awhile and observe your environment; check in with the woman in your life from time to time, and ask, “Is there anything you need me to do that I’m missing seeing?”

I know managing obliviosity applies within marriage, but it’s good to pay attention to this dynamic in the courtship stage too. You can then develop healthy patterns in your communications while dating and also in a marriage if you go forward in that direction.

Warm greetings,
Susanne Alexander, Relationship and Marriage Coach

Need help with your couple communications? Buy Deciding in Unity: A Practical Process for Married Couples to Agree on Practically Everything;

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Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net