While reading a book on how to have a happy, God-directed marriage last night, I came across two chapters that caught my attention. Them first chapter included testimonies from men about what they did to bless their wives and make them happy and the other chapter had testimonies from women about how their husbands bless them. The second chapter from the wives' perspectives was interesting because it also included responses from women to the question "If you could change one thing about your husband, what would it be?"
For most women, the answer was simple and they needed no time to reflect on it. Women want men to genuinely care and listen.
James 1:19 commands us to be "quick to listen and slow to speak." This scripture isn't just aimed at men, but it speaks powerfully to the role a man is supposed to play in his relationship with his wife as a listener. Most women have two basic needs: to be heard and to be affirmed. You cannot affirm your wife if you do not hear her. I, as well as many other husbands and boyfriends out there, really need to focus on listening to my girlfriend and processing what she is saying instead of being concerned about my day-to-day activities or creating my response to her statement. My dad always says that "there is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth." I believe under normal circumstances in a healthy relationship, whenever you are having a disagreement with someone you should feel like you are listening twice as much as your speak. When you do this, you are sure that you are actually hearing, processing, and understanding your spouse, not just waiting until the noise ends before you reply.
I know sometimes it can be hard to actually listen to your spouse when you feel like you are under attack. This is something I personally struggle with a lot. Marisa and I both have sharp tongues, and while we are good at communicating, we both struggle sometimes in separating our emotions from our disagreements and concerns. Whenever she says "you do" or "you are" versus "I feel you do" or "It seems you are," I get very defensive. (I do this a lot also, and normally her response is not getting defensive but getting confused or clamming up, so we're both guilty of a lapse in communication.) I immediately go into attack mode, pointing out her flaws and the errors of her logic instead of realizing that (about 99.99% of the time) she isn't trying to be rude, she is trying to correct me gently, even if it doesn't feel that way.
In this circumstance for men (who generally escalate more quickly to defensive mode in arguments than women), the greatest thing you can do is be patient, proceed in love, and realize your wife isn't attacking you. My girlfriend sent me a quote the other day after a disagreement that we had that read "Don't give up when you have something to fight over, give up when the will to fight is gone." I am not saying "fighting" is healthy, but it is true that normally (and I stress "normally") when people have fights or disagreements, especially about personal issues, it is because your spouse really does genuinely care for you and is concerned. If they didn't care, why would they waste their energy trying to help you or convey their concerns to a person they don't love? It's important to realize that although some of us may not be the best at communicating in a gentle way, arguments are a sign that your spouse loves you and is concerned, not that they hate you.
I encourage you all to take the steps Marisa and I are taking by reading books on marriage and relationships and, also, refocus your life and your relationship with God. When you do this, your communication will improve, your marriage will improve, your family-dynamic will improve, and even your general happiness will improve.
One resource I've found particularly helpful in helping me develop my communication skills in my dating relationship is this lesson by Crosswalk.com. This lesson lists the who, what, when, where, and why of communication in marriage. Truly a blessing!
The point: I hope this post helps you (men) understand what your wife or girlfriend is doing when she needs to talk with you or when you get into disagreements. Women need to be listened to, need to be affirmed, and they need to be shown that you actually do care about them. The best way to do that is to take the time to show her that her thoughts, opinions, and criticisms do matter. Heck, I'd even recommend to implement some or most of them because the times Marisa has corrected me and I took her advice it made the world of difference in my life.