Picture for a moment a twentysomething woman who has recently fallen for a great guy. She can’t believe how amazing he is. Imagine her meeting a friend for coffee the next day and describing the sweet things this incredible guy said and did that made her feel special.
Can you picture that “I can’t believe how wonderful he is” look on her face? That delighted tone in her voice?
Well, that’s the exact look and tone I saw on the face of a friend recently, talking about her husband of 35 years, and one simple thing he did!
He is a normal, average guy, just like any other guy. . . so what action made him such a paragon in her eyes?
Here’s what happened:
My friend’s husband had just gotten home from work, and they were getting dinner ready. She mentioned a conversation she had had with a prickly co-worker that day, and he responded with a simple five-word sentence. She told me that hearing those five words felt so wonderful that she had to actually stop for a moment to take it in! She then gave him a big kiss and a heartfelt thank-you before continuing the conversation.
So what was the unexpected sentence?
“Tell me all about it.”
There it is; the magic bullet of a phrase that made my friend so incredibly happy. That turned her husband of 35 years into a hero – and turned her into the equivalent of a twentysomething young woman delightedly gushing over such a great guy.
When my friend mentioned the difficult co-worker, and her attempts to navigate such a tricky conversation, her husband simply said, “Tell me all about it.”
Here is what makes that such an incredibly powerful sentence for a wife to hear. We know from our research for For Men Only that most women greatly benefit from talking over their successes, joys, challenges, and fears with their husbands—in fact, they don’t just want that, they need it.
Saying “Tell me all about it” goes far beyond a willingness to receive your wife’s words if she wants to share them: It invites her to share.
For a woman, that invitation is priceless. It says that you’re not just going to patiently or grudgingly sit through the conversation, waiting for it to be over, with what she suspects is a silent sigh or inner eye roll. As long as you are ready to follow through and actually listen as she “tells all about it,” your invitation demonstrates that you actively care about what is going on in her life and in her heart.
In fact, guys, the closest equivalent to what she feels when you actively invite her to share verbally might be what you feel if she actively approaches you sexually. As one man told me, “Usually I feel like my wife is willing to have sex with me, which is fine. . . but what I really want is for her to want me. When she initiates, that’s what it says to me. She wants to connect. She truly cares. It’s a salve to my soul.”
So men, if you think about how loved you feel when your wife initiates sex, that may help you understand the deep delight she feels when you say you want to hear from her. Then the key is to follow through by listening to her story and inviting her to share all her feelings, rather than giving in to the temptation to cut her short by “solving the problem.” By inviting her to share her story and her feelings you are solving the problem!
A note for wives
OK, ladies—this post is targeted to men, but I need your listening ear for a moment. All of us need to keep two key things in mind here:
First, if your husband invites you to share with him, don’t take advantage of it and of him and unload every concern in your world at that moment. This is a sweet chance to connect with him, and I hope you’ll use your stellar ability to read facial and body language to know when he might be moving from “connection” to “overwhelmed.”
Most of the time, the story won’t be as long and involved as he might think. (Many men are worried that such an invitation to “tell me all about it” will mean listening for an extra hour, when in fact it probably means they will end up hearing what we would have told them anyway, without the invitation!) But even when it is longer and more involved than usual, you can make it less overwhelming by inserting beats and pauses. (“Hey babe, I know this is a long story—should we get dinner fixed, and then maybe I can finish what I was going to say in a few minutes?”)
Second, and most important, if your husband takes the risk and says, “tell me all about it,” do show how delighted he is making you. Give him a kiss and a hug and say “thank you.”
Both of those things will encourage him to try it again!
So guys, how about giving this sentence a test drive: “Tell me all about it.” Take it out for a spin. Then listen to her. See whether she responds with delight. I hope you’ll see the benefit of making it a new habit!
Read part 2 of The Sex & Conversation Series: Sex Creates A Powerful Connection With Your Man’s Heart
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Check out Shaunti’s latest book and Discussion Guide (co-authored with her husband, Jeff), Thriving in Love and Money. Because you need a better relationship, not just a better budget.
This article was first published at Patheos.