It’s funny. When Jeff and I speak at marriage conferences, or when I speak at women’s events, it is extremely common for a man to come up to us with a particular LOOK in his eyes as he is about to open his mouth to say something. It is hard to describe the look, but when I see it, I know exactly what he is going to say.
The look is part grateful, part absolutely bemused and part the look of a man who is about to say—“I have to tell you something!”
Cue our grins. We already know where this is going.
“I read For Men Only.” (Or, “I heard you guys on a podcast” or “I was at one of your conferences.”) “And that thing you said about the open windows . . . !” If his wife is nearby, she usually looks at him with a huge smile. “I had no idea!”
So, to all my male friends out there, here’s a short version of a little tip that will yield BIG results in your marriage or relationship. (And frankly, will help reduce drama and improve the quality of any relationship, including with a daughter, female colleague, mother-in-law, and so on.) There are three simple things you probably don’t know, but need to!
#1: A Woman’s Brain Is Like A Computer Desktop With Ten Windows Open At Once
Of course there are exceptions. But for most men, your brain wiring is more like a computer desktop with one window open at a time. You work on whatever thought, feeling, problem you’re engaging with, then you finish it, click the “x” to close out that thought window, and open the next one.
Your wife is not like that. If she is like the majority of women (about eight in ten), her brain wiring is like a computer desktop with many windows open at a time. And she is bouncing back and forth between all of them, all at once. Five, ten, fifteen thoughts, feelings, worries, problems to solve.
If you want an interesting exercise, turn to your wife and ask, “So what is in your mind right now?” (“Oh! Well, I’m thinking about the analysis I have to turn in on Monday to my boss. And I’m wondering whether my colleague is going to get me her piece in time. And whether the presentation is too late in the day, and if we run late, how am I going to be able to pick up Callie by the time track practice is over. So I’m thinking I need to call my friend to see if she can get her instead. And also that I haven’t done meal planning yet for next week, and I probably won’t have time this weekend. But that if we eat out too much we’re going to blow our vacation budget . . .”)
See what I mean? Ten windows. But that’s not all.
#2 You Can Usually Close Windows That Are Bothering You. She Usually Cannot.
Imagine that you’re trying to focus on one thought or problem, and suddenly another thought or worry tries to intrude. What do you do? If you’re like most men, you simply click the “x” to close that annoying window so you can focus on the first one. If your wife is like most women, that doesn’t work. According to our surveys, she probably can’t just “close out” windows that are bothering her. Instead, she probably needs to take some action to resolve it.
Suppose your wife arrives home from work, upset because her boss embarrassed her in front of the team. It really upset her, and she’s wondering what things are going to be like when she goes in tomorrow. Is her colleague going to be on her side? Is her boss going to do it again? Did anyone see the tears that leaked from her eyes? She ponders it several times during the evening. Now you know: This is an “open window” that is bothering her.
You love your wife. You are worried about how upset she is. So you might say, “Honey, since you can’t do anything about it until tomorrow, just don’t think about it.”
You are trying to be helpful and caring! But what you’re saying is “Just click the ‘x’ and close the window.” And she has no idea what you are talking about. In most cases, she can’t just decide to “not think about it.” That is not how her brain is wired. She has to take some action to resolve it.
And here’s where you can start to get major brownie points.
#3. You Will Make Her Feel Loved If You Say, “Is This An Open Window? I’m So Sorry. Is There Something That Would Make You Feel Better?”
Guys, the next time you find yourself wanting to say, “Just don’t think about it” or, “Just don’t let it bother you,” stop. Stop, and think to yourself, “This is my chance to make her feel loved.” And instead say, “Is this an open window? I’m so sorry. Is there something that you want to do here, that would make you feel better?”
You are recognizing an open window that will be flashing at her until she takes action. And instead of making her feel a bit silly for wanting to do something that would make her feel better, you now have the opportunity to encourage her to do that if she wants to.
“Would doing something tonight make you feel better?”
“Well . . . yeah. I was thinking I wanted to text Jessica and ask what she thought about that incident, and whether I should send my boss an email tonight. It might be good to get on top of it and ask to speak to him first thing before we start our meetings tomorrow morning.”
“If that would make you feel better about the situation, I think you should totally do it. It’s a good idea.”
As long as you are being sincerely supportive (including offering adjustments if you think her idea needs some tweaking), this simple action on your part is doing something profound: it is sharing her load. It is showing her love and helping her with something that is causing her distress. And it is making her really, really grateful for you.
THAT is why we have so many men come up to us at our events with that bemused, grateful look on their faces. They are completely bemused that a) this is true and b) that it matters so much! And they are grateful that they have a chance to show their wives how much they love them.
Guys, this is such a simple thing. Ask your wife if it matters. And if it does—enjoy.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Peace: A 40-day Devotional Journey For Moms, focuses on discovering biblical direction to become a woman of serenity and delight in all seasons – and have impact for generations to come.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.