Marriage Mondays: Men, Listen and Understand Your Wife’s Feelings First
Every guy has been there. Your wife comes home from work or school or managing a playdate, very upset about something that happened. Let’s say that someone she thought was a close co-worker threw her under the bus and got her in trouble with her boss. So she arrives home in tears. After a few minutes, when she wails “I don’t know what to do!”, you see the opportunity to ride in on your white stallion, with your cape flying. You put on your calmest voice, to try to make the conversation more clear-headed and say, “Honey, it might be a good idea to send an email right now, asking for a meeting with your boss first thing tomorrow morning.”
So you’re stunned when her anger is suddenly directed at you. She stands up, tense and upset, and cries, “You never listen!”
You ever been there? When my husband Jeff and I were doing the research for For Men Only he told me that it is so easy at that point to get defensive and angry yourself. (Not that I ever yelled at him, mind you. Ahem.) Those hypothetical occasions when I would say “you’re not listening,” would usually be situations where he had been listening for the last ten minutes. He had been intently taking in all the relevant information, and preparing to help me solve the problem that was causing me so much stress.
The problem was… he wasn’t listening in the way I most needed him to. And we found in our surveys of women that this is a very common pattern.
You see, what most women deeply want at that point is for their man to understand their feelings about a problem, not the problem itself. I know that sounds odd to you. But what she most needs you to listen to, and draw out of her, are not the facts of the situation but all the emotions about the situation. For the majority of women, all those jangling feelings are what they most need to talk through before they can even think about a solution.
Now, don’t worry: You don’t need to set aside your Mr. Fix-It hat. After all, God made you that way! But you do need to Fix-It in the right order.
So the first thing you do is draw out her feelings. Ask questions like, “Wow, I can’t believe Janet did that. What did you think when she said that?” Or, “What were your other colleagues doing at that point?” You may think pulling out her feelings will be like throwing gasoline on a fire and make all the jangling emotions that much worse… but just try it. I think you’ll be shocked to see that as she talks through all the feelings, that she will actually get more calm and more relaxed (even if she’s still upset), because she is feeling heard.
That is when you can move to step two, which is figuring out a solution – if a solution is even needed. Try asking “I have a thought about what you might want to do – do you want to talk about that yet?” Now that she’s felt heard, she may be eager to talk through a solution. But don’t be surprised if, in some cases, she doesn’t even really need it.
Because here’s the truth: the main solution she needed from you was not the technical solution, it was simply your empathy. It was you entering into her upset feelings and showing (as best you can) that you cared about them.
After all, if she has to, she can probably figure out a solution to the problem on her own. But she can’t feel listened to on her own.
You may think this ‘listening to her feelings’ thing feels wimpy and foolish, but trust me: for most women it is one of the most important tools for helping bring a smile back to your wife’s face and making her feel loved by you.
Join us next Monday for the next in our Marriage Monday series, as we help women draw out the part of their man that wants romance as much as they do.
Drawn from Chapter 6 of For Men Only, by Shaunti Feldhahn.
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage (now through June 30, buy a copy of Good News from your favorite retailer, and receive an additional copy FREE from Multnomah Books – up to 100 copies!). A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. (Inquire about Shaunti speaking, or visit www.shaunti.com for more.)
The post originally ran at the Christian Post for Marriage Mondays. Welcome to Marriage Mondays! Each Monday, join us here in the Book Corner as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on the surprising truths that men and women tend not to know about each other–and which change everything once we do.