I’d like to reference the top three responses to the second question on the Men and Openness Survey that I conducted recently.
I asked: “What encourages you to open up about your feelings with your spouse?” (I allowed the men to choose all answers that applied.)
- 52.46% – When I consistently get the sense that she is interested and is “for” me.
- 50.82% – When she truly listens instead of analyzing or diagnosing me.
- 47.54% – When she doesn’t pressure me to share or share more than I’m comfortable with.
In reference to response #1 …
So how does a wife communicate that she is interested and “for” her husband?
1. Say that to him at the outset!
This may sound simplistic but I cannot tell you how many people don’t think to reassure their mates before they begin a complex and difficult conversation. You need to “say the words”… Say “I love you” and “I am for you!”
Never take it for granted that your hubby will just know! 😉
2. Show interest in your husband’s disclosures in-between times.
If you have a habit of mindlessly nodding your head as your hubby talks to you—all the while you’re more interested in the TV or what your children are doing in the next room—then commit to a new and more intentional focus anytime he speaks.
That means stopping what you are doing, turning towards him and giving him good eye-contact. If you can’t do that in that moment, then ask for another time to talk—emphasizing how you want to really listen and absorb what he is saying.
This will set the stage for the next time you or he wants to share something important.
3. Affirm your mate on a regular basis—in particular about what and when he shares with you.
If your husband doesn’t typically let you know how he feels about situations at work but does on one particular occasion—then thank him for opening up about it.
If he says something that’s funny, interesting or wise, then point that out to him.
Make it your mission to affirm him in his communication efforts and skills every single day. #graceattracts
4. Commit to a no-defensiveness mode during the “heart-to-heart.”
In essence, you agree to listen to your husband without defending yourself or becoming angry—even if he is flat-out wrong! You can always discuss how “you” feel another time. For now …
[bctt tweet=”Make your only goal in communication to help your husband feel heard and validated. #communication #marriage” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
5. Stretch your empathy muscles.
This deserves a whole post dedicated to unpacking this fine art! But for now, simply practice looking at things from your husband’s perspective.
Put yourself in his shoes and view things from behind his eyes. Reflective listening aids in this tremendously!
In reference to response #2 …
How does a wife listen without an agenda?
1. Pray before you have the conversation.
God can always help you to be more tuned into your spouse and less tuned into your internal dialogue. But, like your husband, God likes to be invited into the conversation and process.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
When you rely on God to guide you, you’ll always know when to speak and when to keep quiet. You’ll also gain the understanding that only God can impart to you, as you submit to Him in this delicate process.
2. Recognize that trying to control, analyze, or keep an agenda doesn’t work.
You might think that it does. But it really only serves to squash your husband’s sense that he is accepted by you. Not only that but it will inhibit his ability to take ownership—ownership that typically comes through being able to share freely without censure.
You know the old saying, give someone a little rope and they’ll hang themselves? The same is true here.
If your husband has any negative contribution, giving him the opportunity to air his feelings first will make that clear to him much more quickly than if you try to point it out to him.
Besides, when you make it all about you and what you want, you exclude your husband’s feelings and wants. And that’s surely not what you want, is it?!
Not only that but focusing on your feelings first, or even at the same time as your husband, can make your husband feel judged and looked down upon. No one wants to open up with someone who acts superior to them! Put yourself in your husband’s shoes.
3. Commit to learning and understanding your husband’s feelings.
This is the “James 1:19-20 Principle” that we all should strive to remember and live by …
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
[bctt tweet=”We need to listen to understand our spouses rather than talking so that we can be understood. When this is the focus, it lowers our mate’s defenses. #connection #validation” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
In reference to response #3 …
How does a wife come with realistic expectations and boundaries to a “heart-to-heart”?
Woah! That’s a loaded step, so I’m going to unpack that more thoroughly next week. I want to do it justice!
Which of these positive steps is hardest for you in your marriage or other relationships, and why?
Which of them do you hope to focus on more in the days ahead?
If you’d like to read any of the posts in this series on Men and Openness, click here.
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