Friday, October 19, 2012

Hear Her Out

Two of the biggest complaints that women have about their husbands involve communication. The first of these is that we don’t spend enough time talking to them. The second one is that we don’t listen to what they say. In defense of men, I have to say that women aren’t any better at listening to their husbands than men are in listening to their wives; nevertheless, the complaint persists, and with reason.

Most men take the words “we have to talk” as being some of the most dangerous words their wife can say. That’s because women don’t use that key phrase, unless they have something major to say. “Something major” usually ends up being an attack on their husband in one way or another.

So, how do we, as men, handle that? Most of the time, by avoidance. Yes, we’re pretty good at avoiding any sort of verbal confrontation with our wives; probably because they are more verbally agile than we are, and have the ability to chop us up in little pieces with their tongues. Nevertheless, avoidance really doesn’t solve anything, all it does is prolong the problem, allowing it to grow.

Then, when we finally do sit down with them to let them get whatever it is off their chest, we have a tendency to get angry or frustrated and storm off, ending the conversation before she’s done. Once again, this provides the same results; that of not allowing her to say what she needs to say.

We have to realize that women need to talk for the purpose of getting things off their chest, more than for the purpose of getting resolution to the problem. A woman who is complaining about her marriage isn’t necessarily looking for a solution; the fact of talking about it is therapeutic in itself. However, this doesn’t mean that we should never take what they say seriously. Often, hidden within the great volume of words they use to complain, there are some facts that we really need to pay attention to.

Unfortunately, finding those facts requires really listening to what they say. I say unfortunately, because often times in those serious discussions, they say a lot of destructive things. So, to hear the important stuff, we have to suffer through allowing them to chew us up and spit us out.

Okay, so how do we do this? The biggest secret is to not take it personally. I know that’s almost impossible, but many women reflect problems in their lives onto their husbands. Their boss doesn’t hear them at work, so they say that their husband doesn’t hear them. They think they’re fat or ugly (almost all women think this) so they say that their husband thinks they are fat or ugly. They think that they’re not good lovers, so they say that their husband’s sexual expectations are too high. The list goes on and on.

Remember, the world is constantly telling her that she’s not good enough. Advertising is aimed at making her dissatisfied with herself, so that she’ll buy products which make her “better.” She feels that she has to complete with every Hollywood starlet, Playboy centerfold and supermodel to be considered “adequate.” While that isn’t true to us as husbands, that’s the message she’s receiving. Many times, the message she’s giving us is coming from those other messages she’s receiving.

So, in addition to not taking it personally, or maybe to help in not taking it personally, try to figure out where she’s really coming from. While that can be really challenging, it’s necessary nevertheless. That’s where we find the facts that we need to.

At the same time, we have to realize that none of us is perfect. Some of what she complains about may be legitimate complaints about how we aren’t meeting our obligations as men. If she complains about some part of the house being in disrepair, we should take it seriously; after all, that’s part of our responsibility. No, we don’t have to jump up from the conversation to immediately fix that thing, but we should put it on our to-do list and make sure it gets done.

More than anything, keep your cool and hear her out. She needs that. Taking the time to hear her out does a lot to building up your marriage, even while you feel like it’s tearing you down. You’re bigger than that. You can get over being torn down. But she can’t get over not being heard. 

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