Okay … so I’m thinking I’m doing the best thing I can do when my wife Beth comes to me and shares her feelings about something that is bothering her … and I offer a perfect solution that is guaranteed to “fix it.”
Well, after almost 25 years of marriage, I’m getting the idea that my amazing way of accurately diagnosing problems and spouting off quick-fix solutions is not the “love language” Beth wants to hear!
In reality, during times when Beth’s emotions are stirred and she wants to talk to me, she really doesn’t want to hear anything, especially a solution. More than anything else, Beth wants to be heard, and she wants me to just be with her.
Beth, like most other wives, values a husband’s support more than their solutions. That’s not to say that they’re not interested in solutions. They are, but not until they ask for it.
I find comfort in knowing that I’m not the only dim-witted husband in this area of communication blunders. Come to find out, most men are hard-wired to solve problems, and most women are hard-wired to talk out their emotions.
We’re radically different in what we need and how we respond—and I’ve got to learn to adjust.
Just for the record, my desire to offer solutions that I think will “fix” Beth’s problems is not (usually) because I’m impatient and don’t want to listen. My desire is sincere. I don’t want her to carry her heavy, emotional weight one second longer than necessary. I want her to get over it as quickly as possible and be happy again.
But, here’s where I need to remember the wisdom of scripture:
“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound” (Proverbs 25:20 NLT).
“When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow” (Romans 12:15 TLB).
Author Kenneth Kaugh reminds me that my natural, God-given “fix-it” approach needs to stay in the tool box when Beth wants to talk through her feelings with me:
“Fixing can be okay, as long as it’s dinner or the other person’s car. But trying to fix a person is not an appropriate or even attainable goal. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Fix things; relate to people. … Listening is the closest thing to a magic bullet you will find in your kit of caring skills.”
Here are a few things I’m trying to do when Beth wants to talk:
- Instead of going with my natural instinct and assuming Beth is looking for answers, I need to ask, “Do you want to talk about solutions, or do you need me to just listen?”
- Instead of trying to keep up with the ballgame while she’s sharing, I need to turn off the TV and give her my full attention. Good eye contact is essential to show I’m being attentive.
- Instead of “hollow listening” (listening without responding), I need to give her some supportive feedback that assures her that I’m connecting with and understanding her feelings.
Husband’s, we can love our wives well if we’ll just remember . . .
When she wants to talk, she’s not asking for solutions, she’s simply asking, “Be with me!”
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