June 2, 2010


In my last blog, I encouraged women to study male friendship and to reach out to their husbands through “shoulder to shoulder” activity. I hope some of you men reading this were happy recipients of some quieter moments with your wives!

Husbands, if you are like most men, you feel far more uncomfortable with conversations at an intimate level than your wife does. Most women live with words and emotions that can overwhelm you. You might feel like the guy who said to me, “My wife is always prying. I feel like she has these giant claws, you know the kind they use to open up automobiles to rescue people inside, and she is meddling to get inside me. I need my space. I need my independence.”

Maybe I can help.

If a husband will adjust his blue sunglasses and blue hearing aids, he will understand that his wife has a need to feel close and connect face to face in a way that he does not.

I learned about this female need for face-to-face connection from my daughter, Joy, when she was just four years old. One evening I put her to bed, and I lay there with her for a few moments to help her get to sleep. The room was pitch black, and Joy was talking as usual—little Miss Motor-Mouth. Neither of us could see the other in the darkness.

As she was talking, suddenly she said, “Daddy, look at me!” Then her little hands reached over and grabbed my face, forcing me to look toward her. Already at this age, even in the dark, she sensed that Daddy wasn’t looking, and if he wasn’t looking, then he wasn’t listening! I cannot recall my sons, Jonathan and David, ever grabbing my face like that and demanding, “Look at me!”

This connectivity is what women look for in any relationship, and especially marriage. When she married you, she thought you would be like her best girlfriend — you would figuratively sit with her to talk eye to eye. But that probably didn’t happen. With many husbands, it seldom or never happens.

Before you take a guilt trip, realize that no man can meet all the emotional needs of a woman. At the same time, perhaps you can start to try to meet some of your wife’s needs by forgoing your tall, cool one, your newspaper, your SportsCenter. You can understand what she is doing when she moves toward you, which she normally will do. That’s why she follows you around in the evening (or did when you were first married). It’s her way of showing you she loves you.

One way to picture your marriage is with a line that has the word Involvement at one end and the word Independence at the other, as shown below:

In the typical marriage relationship, she leans more toward the “Involvement” side while he leans more toward the “Independence” side. When you get too independent (especially when you stonewall), she does not feel close to you and begins to feel you don’t love her. When she doesn’t give you the space you need, you begin to feel that she’s trying to get too involved and doesn’t respect you. The line illustrates the tension that exists between your basic needs for involvement and independence. Tension is not bad; it is simply there. In fact, it is a necessary part of your relationship. A degree of tension in a marriage is actually one of the things that makes the relationship good.

The tension between involvement and independence is another illustration of the difference between pink and blue. As a man, you will probably not be able to be as involved with your wife as much as she may like. I am not asking men to become women who sit at tiny tables at cappuccino shops and sip coffee as they share life face to face. You are a man, and your wife loves you for being a man, not a woman. She
doesn’t expect you to become feminine, just like her girlfriend. But when you move toward her, when you show her you want to connect in even small ways, watch what happens. This will motivate her. It will energize her—and it will keep your marriage off the Crazy Cycle and on the Energizing Cycle.

So remember that she wants to connect…she needs to connect. For your wife, face-to-face time is heart-to-heart time. What she tends to look for is your desire to “dwell” with her for a short period to discover where her heart is. If she senses you authentically want to connect, this can do more for her than a one-hour discussion. A few moments of face-to-face each day can save you from those intense emotional “discussions” you tend to dread.


Dad said...

30 yrs ago, at a young couples retreat, Eph 5 came up. The wives were all over Jesus command "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church" part, but contended the part about respecting their husbands was optional; hubbies had to "earn" their respect. After 20-some years of being beat up by preachers who, influenced by the women's liberation movement, reflected the same sentiment, I read "love and respect" and my heart jumped. "Finally someone who gets it!!" But by then, I was "single again". Some years later, God finally brought a wonderful Godly lady into my life. Desiring to build a God-centered foundation for a lifelong marriage, we read "love and respect" together while we were engaged. We have since given numerous copies to friends. After once again recommending the book to a dating couple last night after church, I decided it was time to write Emmerson and express my appreciation. I have also gained such insight into how the male need for respect influences all my relationships with other guys. Having lead men's ministries for years, I would love to see you write a book exploring how important it is for Christian men to develop close friendships with one another, and how giving respect/honor to all men is key, (even for us "real men" who aren't consumed with professional sports). Perhaps a companion book co-written with Sarah for women exploring their need for healthy female relationships?

Laura said...

Wow...I just found you two. This is GREAT!

I'll be back, and I hope to post on a similar topic and direct my readers to you. Great work you're doing. Bless you!

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