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Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Number One Complaint I Heard from Wives

Does your husband talk to you as much as you would like him to? Probably not. This is a common frustration among wives. I found this out after talking to a lot of them.

Some men are more naturally talkative than others; but most are not talkers. Why is that? I don't know. I really don't, but I have a few guesses. If you have a husband who talks to you as much as you would like him to, you've got a rare man.

Husbands not talking to their wives. That was the number one complaint I heard from wives when I was a bishop. 

Recently a friend of my wife wished out loud that her now ex-husband would talk about his feelings—or just talk about anything.

Men are like that. They seem to prefer to hide or ignore their feelings rather than to bring them out in the open or deal with them. As if it were a weakness or an inconvenience to even have feelings or to share them.

I know. I am one of those men.

I have been a husband for two-thirds of my life, and I have a wife who understands exactly how to get me to talk. Most of what I'll say below is inspired by her actions over the 36 years we have known and been falling in love with each other. And we keep falling.

First off, I am not saying it is your fault that your husband won't talk to you. What I am saying is you are not powerless. You can do something about it, even if he won't. 

If you would like to have your husband, or any man in your life for that matter, talk to you, this is what I would do.

Secret #1. A man is a turtle who lives in a shell.

Show him respect—even if he does things that are not worthy of your respect. This is what he longs for more than anything else. Though he is imperfect, he still has qualities worthy of your respect. Let him know what those qualities are, and you will, little by little, draw him out of his shell. 

Secret #2. He can't keep up with you verbally. Word for word, you have him outmatched. 

Don't talk over him. Don't talk down to him. Don't use your verbal machine gun to get your point across. If you do, he will hide in his "trench" until the enemy fire dies down. Kindness is your white flag that will get him back to peace talks.

Secret #3. You may not realize how much your words hurt and silence him.

Don't criticize him. That will shut him down and you will get the opposite of what you are after. He wants and needs your gentle acceptance, in spite of his weaknesses and mistakes. Unfeigned, unconditional love is what will win him over. It will win you over, too.

Secret #4. He needs time to think.

Ask him direct, personal questions respectfully and then listen patiently for his answer, even if it takes a few days to get an answer. But do it without judgment or wrath.

Say something like this, "I really want to know what you are feeling about how Emma's acting at school." Then wait. He might answer you on the spot, or it may take time. Then, even if you don't fully agree, respect his answer.

You would like it if he communicated with you in this way, too, wouldn't you? Of course. But to get that, you have to apply the Golden Rule in marriage, "Do unto husbands as you would have husbands do unto you." That goes the other way too, gentlemen. (See Matthew 7:12.)

I am not saying, "Don't disagree with your husband." By all means, you should disagree with him! He needs that and expects that. You need to express your feelings and you should do it daily and fearlessly. But the way you express those feelings will make all the difference in the way he communicates back to you.

Almost more than anything, he does not want to be pounded by vocal artillery.

He is not perfect. He knows that. He gets reminded of that every day. Reinforcing his imperfections will not get him to talk openly with you, but reinforcing his gifts and higher qualities will, over time, get him to open up more and more.

And you won't be able to pry things out of him (or her) by force. Love is unenforceable. It is a respectful invitation to love you back. All the anger and threats and complaining and sharp words in the world will not, for all the world, get you what you really want, momentary victories notwithstanding.

If you must be "right" at all costs, you cannot and will not have peace or the fulfillment you long for. 

I am not saying that these things will work for everyone or that they apply to you or that change comes overnight.

It takes "patient continuance" (see Romans 2:7). The persistent application of fundamental virtues are the only thing that will work on the eternal scale. Following Christ's example is the key.

Don't wait for others, not even your husband or wife, to do the right thing before you do the right thing.

This is what it means to "overcome the world"—to do right and to be right with God, no matter what anyone in this world says or does. (See John 16:33.) And overcoming the world is, first and foremost, overcoming yourself.

(Here is Part 2.)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I listen to the news on the radio, read the newspaper. My wife wasn't like that. Very social, lots of friends, but not a big newshound.

When I got home from work, I would tell my wife some little tidbit of news: often a "human interest" story or somesuch- just to get the conversation going. I kept my eye out for these sorts of things.

Hint: your wife will ask you about your feelings, but don't expect her to respect your feelings.

"If two people in a marriage agree about everything, one of them is unnecessary." - Nancy Reagan

Rich Alger said...

I love this post.

Stephen said...

I've a friend who spent her life teaching people to communicate.

Hint: your wife will ask you about your feelings, but don't expect her to respect your feelings.

When she met women who were in that mode, she would teach them that if they wanted the men in their life to talk, they had to not jump on whatever the men said and strangle the life out of it.