A wife writes to tell me her marriage is falling apart. In not a few cases, this happens because the husband does not understand his wife's heart. But he does not understand her heart and need for love because she misses his heart and need for respect. For example, a husband feels respected when his wife spends time with him shoulder to shoulder. But if she wants face to face time talking in order to feel loved and therefore denounces with great disrespect his request for shoulder to shoulder time, this husband won't understand his wife's heart. He won't hear her cry for love. Her disrespect deafens him to her cry.
I wrote this wife saying, "In both Motivating Your Man God's Way (Applying One Word.) and Love and Respect I talk about the importance of shoulder to shoulder friendship. This refers to spending time with someone just 'being together' without an agenda to talk or interact. Most men enjoy shoulder to shoulder time more than women. It is a way that they 'bond' or feel close to a buddy. This is why guys get together to watch sports on TV while having very little conversation other than comments on the game. Or, they enjoy having their wife or friend simply in the same room while they work. Again, not to talk, but to just 'be there.' For women, this is difficult to understand because a woman feels connected and close as a result of verbal communication, or even physical touch. Her needs are different than his."
Immediately this wife wrote back. "Shoulder to shoulder... wow, that was one of the horrible places that I spouted off to (my husband). I told him that I didn't like to go to the movies with him, or just sit and watch TV with him, it was fine but I wanted to have face to face time to interact not side by side! I had told him that I wanted to connect and he kept telling me that we were connecting. Talk about speaking two different languages. And, on our 20th anniversary I was so hoping for a 'connection' but of course I was thinking in my female way, so at dinner that night I told him... 'I wish you desired me as much as you desire that steak.' OH my goodness! That was so completely the wrong thing to say and that night he couldn't even finish his meal and after we got home he told me he was just done and that he just could not go on any more. I ended up spending the night at a friend's house. It took a few months before he was finally able to say that he might like to try again. But, he was really tired of all the junk. I think you are so right when you say that the man can't even put words to what it is that he needs! As I write this I'm just in amazement as to how he has actually put up with me for so long! Your statement of 'Since your husband has grown very bitter towards you, my guess is that he is reacting to what he perceives as your rejection and contempt towards him' is right on the money! You are so right."
I love this wife's heart. She is so tender and teachable, and I believe God will honor her. All she wanted was her husband's love. But she makes an innocent mistake that we all make, including Sarah and me. For example, Sarah learned that if she cries out for my love in a disrespectful manner or in a way that attacks my needs as stupid - like shoulder to shoulder time together without talking - I will pull back and disconnect. The same holds true on the other side. I have learned that if I request respect in a way that feels unloving or in a way that attacks Sarah's needs as stupid - like talking face to face for over an hour - she will feel crushed and want to talk even more because we have issues.
We cannot appeal to our spouse to meet our need for love/respect while stomping on our spouse's need for love/respect. We cannot poke a spouse in both eyes with great force and then say "Look at me. See my hurt."
Copyright by Emerson