Tip #24: Men, instead of saying “Just don’t let it bother you” encourage your wife’s actions to resolve what is worrying her.
Husbands, imagine this scene: all week your wife has been a bit preoccupied and upset about something going on with her relationship with her mom. You have listened to her, encouraged her, she has talked it through more than once, and you’ve encouraged her to set the worry aside… but the same topic keeps coming up! Where do you go from here?
My husband Jeff and I often hear similar scenarios from puzzled (and, let’s be honest, frustrated) men at our events. They listen, they’re supportive, and to their knowledge they do everything right, but their wife keeps bringing up the same issue. So at that point, the guys offer some advice to their troubled bride that would be helpful to them in the same situation: “Honey, just don’t think about it.” Guys, you mean well but you need to know something: she has no clue what you’re talking about!
Here’s a key fact about how the female brain is wired: she can’t not think about it. Your own remarkable brain wiring allows you to just click off something that is bothering you. We women…. not so much. In my surveys for For Men Only, almost nine out of ten women said they couldn’t just set aside the thoughts that bother them.
If you’ve ever had ten tabs open and active in your Internet browser, or have bounced back and forth between ten open windows on your computer screen, you know what a woman’s inner life is like all the time: there are ten topics “out there” and competing for your attention to some degree.
And my husband always gets himself in trouble when he says this, but as he explains delicately to men, “And it’s almost as if her system is infected with a virus or something, because in addition to the ten windows that she’s working on, a window that she really doesn’t want keeps popping up on the screen of her mind.”
Like that frustration with her mother.
Or whether little Suzi’s fever has gotten worse while you’ve been out on your dinner date.
Or…um… how you keep telling her you’ll fix the kitchen cabinets but never do.
So if the same issue keeps bubbling to the surface, it’s because, in her mind, the underlying problem hasn’t been solved yet. Most women said they couldn’t close the window until the issue is resolved. So it works wonders to ask, “Would it make you feel better if you called the babysitter to ask her to take Suzi’s temperature again?” instead of getting frustrated that she can’t just set it aside for an hour.
Of course, that’s a fairly easy one. The emotional things are more dicey. So if your wife keeps talking about her relationship with her mom, realize it’s an open window that’s popping up and bothering her. Make sure (very important) you have already sympathized and acknowledged her feelings (if you haven’t, that needs to be your first step). Then ask if she would feel better if she did something about it. That then gives you entrée to ask, “Since we’re going to your family’s house for Easter anyway, would it help if you went a day earlier than me and the kids, just to have some one-on-one time with your mom?”
Then, help make it happen. Instead of her feeling a bit foolish that she can’t just set her worry aside, it will melt her heart as she sees that you’re not only willing to listen to her heart, but you’re encouraging her to take the action she needs to resolve the issue once and for all.
Join us next Monday for the next in our Marriage Monday series, as we talk about a secret about men that women need to know.
Drawn from Chapter 3 of For Men Only, by Shaunti and Jeff 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. 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.