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MARRIAGE DONE RIGHT A COLUMN BY JAMES SHERIDAN

Marriage column: Couples can learn to shop together without stress

Learn to respect the differences in methods.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 7:48 am

Shopping malls can be risky places for marriages.

Despite appearances, men and women typically aren't doing the same thing when they shop. Therefore, malls are often where the dreaded Shopping-Induced Stress Syndrome (SISS) strikes, resulting in unnecessary marital discord.

Men are problem solvers and hunters. Before men go into the woods hunting or go to the store shopping (for men it's really the same thing), they've usually decided what they're after. “Shopping” simply means finding what they're after.

They may “shop around” for a better price, better quality or an alternative solution, i.e., Plexiglas instead of window glass. But once they find what they're after, they buy it and leave. Successful hunting/shopping means: Get the highest quality for the lowest price as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Shopping for women is a more complex process. They, too, can be after specific items (“need 2 gallons of milk”). When their list includes an unspecific menu (“family gathering on Sunday”), however, they want to consider alternatives, remembering which guests are vegetarian or need gluten-free items.

Indeed, women are wired to shop. Women's brains have far more connective tissue than men; women have constant, instant access to their unwritten list of needs for everyone they know. Moreover, women have better peripheral vision designed to continually scan for items that will meet those needs.

The SISS strikes when a husband and wife walk through a store for the stated purpose of finding him a new shirt. He thinks he needs one shirt; that's all they're after. However, she suddenly notices a perfect toy for their grandson, a beautiful blouse for her mother and an incredible shoe sale on the way to the shirt department. An hour later they make it to the shirt department, where he ends up with three shirts.

Experts Barbara and Allen Pease explain that most men rate this type of apparently aimless shopping with their wives “on a par with having a prostate examination by a doctor with cold hands.”

For women, shopping is worthwhile, even if nothing is purchased. The Peases note, however, that for men, the idea of going “out for the day with a group of other men with no clear destination, no clear goals, objectives or time limits, and return home empty-handed, would class him as a failure.”

As with other male-female differences, it's important that couples recognize and respect the fact that they do not shop the same way.

Wives: If you leave the house with your husband for a specific purchase, you have produced an expectation about the trip. Violating this expectation is like violating a promise. The first time you see that “special something” that's not on the list but you “have to look at,” realize you're violating an expectation you've helped create.

Husbands: Understand that shopping is important for wives and gives them ways to nurture others. If you go with them, think of your goal as learning more about your wife, not buying anything in particular. Stepping into her world and helping her is a gift that will be appreciated.

Shopping can be time spent together strengthening the relationship. By understanding and respecting your differences, you increase your chances for enjoying shopping together.

2014, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan's website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.