Friday, March 9, 2012

She Needs to Talk About it

I think the most dreaded words that a man can hear coming out of his wife’s mouth are “We need to talk.” Those four simple words can cause the stoutest hearts to tremble, the strongest knees to quake and the strongest backs to bow in anticipation of a blow. When we hear those words, a sudden desire to run for cover grips us, providing us with an excellent opportunity to imitate a deer caught in the headlights.

Yet, why is this so? Didn’t we all say “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me” when we were kids? Yes, we said that, but we’ve since learned that the greatest wounds come not from those sticks and stones, but from words; most specifically, from the words that our wives say when they are upset. Those words often cut deep, creating wounds that don’t heal and creating that fear within us.

You know; most of the time, your wife really isn’t trying to hurt you with her words, she’s just trying to express her own hurt and get feeling better. You getting hurt in the process isn’t part of her plan, regardless of you it may look to you and me.

I don’t know how many times my wife has said those dreadful words to me in our 25+ years of marriage. Yet, every time, I let her spill her guts, and every time I end up feeling like I’ve been run over by a steam roller. Does that make me a hero? I don’t think so; it makes me a caring husband. Does it make me a fool? No, not that either; just one who cares about his wife.

We need to learn to understand the therapeutic value of talking. Maybe it doesn’t have that value for you and me, but it sure does for her. Her heart gets filled with things that bother her. If she doesn’t get the opportunity to get them out of there, they become a poison, eating away at her like a cancer. When we let our wives talk about those things which are bothering them, we provide an opportunity for them to “clean out their hearts;” throwing out the garbage that has accumulated there.

When the typical guy gets home from work he’s met by his typical wife. They sit down to eat their typical dinner and start the typical conversation. In that conversation, she basically relates everything bad that happened all day long; everything the kids did bad, everything that didn’t work, everything that made her feel bad and everything she didn’t like. If she has anything positive to say, it’s usually left for last.

What the typical guy hears in that conversation is “Here’s a list of problems you need to deal with. Get off your lazy butt and do something about them.” But, what she’s really saying is “I’ve had problems today and I want to get rid of them. Let me talk about them, so that I can clean out my heart. I’m so glad you’re home.”

Quite a difference, right? You see, this is just another case where men and women don’t speak the same language. When your wife says, “nobody loves me,” that doesn’t mean she doubts your love, it means that she feels unloved at that moment. When she says, “nobody listens to me,” it doesn’t mean that you never listen to her, it means that she needs someone to listen to her right then. When she yells, “you never take me anywhere,” it doesn’t mean you’ve never done that, it means she’s feeling penned up and wants to go out and do something, even if it’s to go walk in the park.

I realize it would be much easier for us guys to understand our wives if they would just say what they mean, but take my word for it, we’ll never win that battle. For millennia, men have tried to get women to change the way they express themselves, but it’s never worked. Why should we think it’ll work for us?

The trick in all this is for us to learn how to not take the things she says as what she means to say. In other words, don’t take it personally. Granted, those are very emotionally charged things she’s saying; filled with negative sentiments and accusations. But, in reality, that’s not what they are, they’re a cry for help. Likewise for that list of problems she presents you with over dinner. She really isn’t expecting you to do anything about it; she doesn’t want a solution, she just wants a sympathetic ear.

So, learn how to develop a sympathetic ear. Listen to what she says, and don’t let it get to you. Really, you don’t have to take it personally. You don’t have to take it as an attack. You just need to listen enough to allow her to get it off her chest. That will do a world of good for her. And if you can learn how to listen, without taking it personally, you’ll help her without it costing you a thing.

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