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I Want to Know How

I’m working on listening

I talked with three men this week who all had the same question. They asked it in different ways but when you boil it down, they were all seeking the same thing. “How do I love my wife?” They were all sincerely motivated and had put lots of energy into their relationships. They actually thought the relationship was going okay until the day their wives announced they were unhappy and disappointed in the marriage.
When they heard the announcement, they were confused and the more their wives described what was wrong the more confused they got. They heard things like:
• I put more into this relationship than you do.
• You don’t seem to really care about our marriage.
• I feel like I have gotten lost while you have continued to grow. I don’t really know who I am any more.
• I can’t really trust you.
• You care more about everyone else than you do me.
On the surface, none of these things were true of these men. They cared deeply for their families. They valued their wives greatly. They would willingly die for these women who seemed to have lost sight of their loyalty. To say the least, they were frustrated. They were trying hard but were not making progress. The crisis along with the failure of their attempts had their attention and they wanted to know what they could do that would work.
Crisis moments often do this for us. The difficult seasons cause us to either call out for wisdom or cut and run. King David discovered this in Psalm 51. It was one of the darkest parts of his journey. He had messed up with Bathsheba and lost his bearings as he led her husband to his death. The son born from the sexual union was deathly ill. From a broken heart, he cried out, “Have mercy on me, O God . . . Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (v. 1-2) He also cried out, “. . . grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways.” (12-13) When things are out of sync, we need a willing spirit to learn new ways doing things.
We had a fruitful conversation about the way women build trust. We talked about the fact that women tend to connect all the parts of their lives together and that their lives are always changing. As a result, the question they ask most often is, “Is it safe to be who I am today around you?” I explained that some days Pam is the most reasonable person I have ever met. Some days she is the most intense woman I have ever met. Other days, there is a no fly zone at our home where I shelve important issues and only say things like, “You are the most amazing woman I have ever met.” The light came on for each of these men when I said, “If you meet the security need first, everything else is easier.”
Of course the next question was, “How can we do that?” It will take some work but they all committed to (1) Grow as a person. Not because it will win her back but because it is the right thing to do. (2) Practice listening with curiosity rather than correction. (3) Ask the Holy Spirit regularly, “Tell me what to say and what to do. Also, tell me what not to say or do.” When a new thought crosses your mind that you know is better than what you would have come up with on your own, do it.
I knew we hit pay dirt when one of them blurted out, “Oh, that’s what she has been trying to say.”

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