Gentlemen, this post is for you. Let’s just be honest, we aren’t wired like our wives, especially when it comes to communication. Sometimes it feels like she’s speaking a completely foreign language. I won’t try to list common scenarios, because I haven’t found any.
We try to listen and respond the best way we know how; why does it sometimes have the complete opposite of the intended effect?
Full disclosure: I have no idea.
John Mayer uses a great analogy in his song, “Daughters“:
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
As soon as we think we’ve found the “help” switch at last (!!), it moves. Right when we’ve got the “supportive” dial tweaked perfectly, it stops working.
I may not know exactly why the communication-maze walls change, but I think I’ve found a few ways to help navigate them.
1: Hear what she’s not saying
Selena and I have had countless conversations where she presents a frustration (to be fair, I often express the same), either with me or with a situation, and I simply address what she’s saying.
“You never help with the dishes!”, she might say. What do I do naturally? I tally up all the times in the past week I helped with dishes. Then I fire back: “What? I just did them yesterday, and 3 other times this week!” Boom. Argument won. That’ll set the record straight, right? She’s frustrated about the dishes, so I’ll simply state the facts and it will be done…
Think! What is going on in her world that could be causing her to be on edge? Yes, it could just be the dishes. But it could also be a co-worker that said something hurtful. It could be a family issue weighing heavily on her. Maybe she’s dealing with an insecurity of her own.
There’s no cut and dry solution. You need to discern what’s really going on and respond lovingly. Address the issue at hand, but keep the conversation going until she knows you’re right there with her, caring for her, and feeling what she feels.
In those “dirty dishes” scenarios, I’ve found that stopping whatever I’m doing to help her is a good first step. Then, conjure up your most neutral tone you possibly can and start mining for information, reading her tone and heart as wisely as you can.
2: Don’t fix it, listen
This is a big struggle for me, I love to fix things. Lots of my friends like to fix things too! “Bro, got a problem?” Boom. Fixed. And done…
Guys, your wife isn’t a bro. She’s not a flat tire, she’s not a leaky faucet, and she’s not a client submitting a helpdesk request. There is no manual.
She’s a living, breathing being who shares the most intimate bond with you possible: lifelong devotion. She’s coming to you for connection and compassion, not a simple solution. She needs to know that you’re there, present with her – able to walk through her storm side by side.
Sometimes, yes, there is a quick thing she needs help with. Selena, somehow, always makes her Macbook do weird things I never imagined possible… those are quick fixes. But when your wife comes to you with a sense of despondency and deep frustration, it’s time to perk those ears up and listen – fixing it may break it more.
It’s up to you to know and listen to your wife, you’re the only one who can – listen like your life depends on it. Then, lovingly (with the help of the Holy Spirit) minister to her, just as Christ ministers to the church. Pray with her, encourage her, and assure her that everything’s going to be alright. Sometimes that’s really the answer she’s looking for.
3: Don’t get frustrated
Don’t be surprised when knee-jerk logic and fixes don’t calm things down.
Once, Selena and I were discussing some financial hurdles we were facing. My tactless expense shaving became abrasive, this gave rise to a heated debate about every area of lack she felt we had. Of course, everything was magnified at that moment.
My first reaction was to get VERY defensive and remind her of how hard I work and how blessed we are. “How can she be so ungrateful!!??” I thought. I started to steam and stew, simply waiting for my turn to speak so I could prove my point once and for all.
Then it occurred to me: the issue wasn’t the issue (Selena writes about that here). She was dealing with a lot and I just needed to see her, listen to her, and be present with her. Then I just needed to love her, speak tenderly, and remind her that everything was going to be just fine.
The result? As I softened, she softened. The walls began to crumble, and we were able to connect on a deeper level.
It’s your job to know your wife
Bottom line: be in tune. You know her and what she needs right then.
As husbands we are mandated to love our wives as Christ loves the church. We are ministers to our wives, just like they’re ministers to us. Next time you feel that burning desire to fire back a quick fix or logical retort, stop. Listen to what she’s not saying and respond lovingly so she feels loved.
Photo credit: Jeff Marsh Studios