Prompting empathy from husband

Are you often really disappointed in your husband because he doesn’t seem to have a lot of empathy in your times of stress or sadness?  Do you find yourself longing for him to comfort you during times of discouragement or heartbreak, but he doesn’t seem to notice your distress or understand what you need?  Well, join the club! 

For most of my marriage to Raul, I found myself getting repeatedly frustrated that he didn’t comfort me when I needed comfort or even seem to notice that I needed empathy!  Then one day about 2 years ago, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me and say, “He doesn’t know what you need unless you spell it out to him.”  What?!  I remember thinking that if I have to tell him exactly what I need in those moments of despair or frustration, then his attempt to comfort wouldn’t be meaningful.  You might think the same thing.  However, I was wrong.

When I finally spelled out to my husband EXACTLY what I needed in moments of heartbreak, discouragement, or stress, he followed through.  He actually thanked me for TELLING him what I needed.  And guess what?  Even though I told him what I needed, it was still very comforting when he did what I instructed him to do.  Just in case you’re wondering what I asked him to do.  I said “Come up to me and wrap me in your arms and hold me tight.  Then pat my back gently 3 times and say ‘I can understand how that would make you feel and it’s going to be okay’.”  It was amazing!  I was comforted!

Husbands are not mind-readers!  If you need something, tell them!  Otherwise, your husband will sense that he’s failing you but be unsure of what to do.  Explaining exactly what you need is actually an act of compassion toward your husband.  This reminds me of the verse in Colossians 3:12  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

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Controlling your mouth!

Good grief!  Just when I think I’m finally growing a little more like Christ, my tongue trips me up yet once again!  In our marriages and in our friendships, what comes out of our mouths often tends to gravitate toward criticism, complaints, sarcasm, etc.  Try as I might, I just can’t seem to turn the corner on this problem!  How about you?

Chances are good that your tongue also gets you into trouble.  That’s because we have a common enemy.  Satan keeps subtly prompting us to spew negative, hateful, disrespectful, angry words. Thank goodness, there is One who has the power to tame our tongues!  Jesus is stronger than the enemy.  1 John 4:4 says “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  Hallelujah!

So, this morning I surrendered my tongue to Jesus and asked Him to control my tongue today.  Would you be willing to ask God to help you remember to pause before you speak to your husband, especially when you’re angry or frustrated!  Maybe you would benefit from asking God to remind you during that pause to speak words that are kind and loving, even if you’re asking your husband to stop a certain behavior or trying to explain your frustration.  I know this is a prayer the Lord will answer because God tells us several times in the Bible to speak gracious words.  Ecclesiastes 10:12 “Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.”

Will you courageously begin praying for God to help you catch yourself the minute you’re about to say something disrespectful, sarcastic, negative, critical, or arrogant toward your husband?

Key step before giving him advice

My. My.  I guess I’m reminded once again about the power of our words.  A few days ago, I wrote a devotional about the power of pausing during a heated conversation with our men so that we refrain from responding with words that are harsh or mean….something we’ll likely regret later.  Well, today I was reminded of another reason to pause.  As women, we need to pause before we offer casual bits of advice or “wisdom” to our husbands.

I don’t think we realize how our guys are greatly influenced by us!   We might think they aren’t really paying that much attention to a casual suggestion we toss out, but often they are.  In fact, many husbands in the Bible were greatly influenced by something their wives said, and the wives rarely had good advice!  I think especially of Sarah telling Abraham to sleep with her servant in order for him to have a son, since she was getting impatient waiting for God to fulfill his promise to give her children! Read the story in Genesis 16:1-4 and you will find out Sarah’s decision didn’t turn out so well!

So, let’s think twice before we offer a morsel of our brilliant counsel during a conversation with our men.  I did this recently, and my husband acted upon it.  I hadn’t really even thought it through, let alone prayed about it. Thankfully, there was no harm done, but it got me to thinking about the need to really pause and pray about any suggestions or counsel I decide to pass on to my husband.  How about you?

Marriage communication tip #1

You might recall the opening theme to the original Superman TV series.  The announcer proclaims that Superman is “faster than a speeding bullet”. Well, God has been showing me how a part of me is also faster than a speeding bullet….and can cause as much damage as a live round of ammunition.  That part of me is my mouth!

You may have the same challenge as me.  Do you often get impatient when your husband is trying to express himself and end up finishing his sentences? I do.  Do you interrupt your husband when he pauses mid-sentence?  I do.  Do you sometimes jump in and tell him how he should handle something as he’s trying to explain a challenging situation?  I do.  Do you get frustrated with him and react with harsh, disrespectful words that you can’t take back?  Hmmm. 

Let’s pray that God would give us the ability to be good listeners, patient talkers, and respectful communicators!  This is definitely God’s will for us, as revealed in James 1:19:  “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”   The first step is to coach ourselves at the beginning of conversations with our husbands.  Remind your soul…”I will honor the Lord and my husband by listening quietly and responding respectfully”…”listening quietly, responding respectfully”…”listening quietly, responding respectfully”…(repeat as necessary!!).

3 ways to kiss your husband

Okay – I’ll come clean.  This might not be exactly what you expected.  I’m not going to attempt to teach anybody how to kiss well…in the literal sense!  However, God reveals something interesting in His Word about kisses.  He says in Proverbs 24:26, “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips“.  Wow!

What if we were to bless our husband (almost as good as a passionate kiss!) and be honest with them?  According to God, being honest with our men would be very well received and appreciated!  Here are 3 ideas on how we can start being more honest with our guys:

1) Stop hinting and decide to directly and clearly state your needs, desires, and ideas.

2)  Be transparent about your past failures and even your current struggles instead of pretending you’re perfect.

3) Be respectful but honest if something is really bothering you, as opposed to stuffing your true feelings and allowing bitterness to close down your heart toward your husband

A man’s need to process requests

Have you ever noticed a blank look on your husband’s face when you suddenly bring up a heavy topic, voice a frustration, or ask him to change a behavior?  Or does your husband seem to get defensive very quickly in those moments?  I’m discovering that the reason for the blank look or the immediate defensiveness is because a man thinks differently than a woman!

Women process thoughts, ideas and feelings at lightning speed.  We are ready to engage in a deep conversation at the drop of a hat.  We can verbalize how we feel instantaneously!  Men, on the other hand, need time to process their thoughts and feelings.  So…..when we suddenly bring up a deep topic, or state how we feel, or ask them to make a change in behavior, or heaven forbid, ask them how they feel, our men become like the proverbial “deer in the headlights”!   Often they default to the blank look on the face or they become defensive because they feel pressured to do or say something, and they haven’t yet had a chance to think things through.

Here’s what I’m trying to learn to do.  I need to bring up a concern or state my feelings on an issue and then let my husband have some breathing room to process it.  I need to say “let’s talk more about this later after you’ve had a chance to think about it.”  Most men need some space to process their thoughts and feelings.  Maybe this is a good opportunity for us to practice patience!  Ponder these two Proverbs.  Proverbs 19:11  “A person’s wisdom yields patience…”  Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is patient has great understanding….”

Avoid this communication pitfall!

How many times have you muttered to yourself “He should just KNOW!”.  Most wives have muttered this time and time again.  I know I have, and just the other day, my husband and I were counseling a couple where this communication pitfall rose to the surface so clearly.  She needed her husband to romance her a little before physical intimacy and he had no clue!  She started getting resentful.  He most definitely felt her cold shoulder, but was oblivious to the problem!!

Expecting your husband to know what you want and need without clearly telling him…is a common communication pitfall.  Unfortunately, your husband doesn’t just “know” because he doesn’t think like a woman and most men have no idea what a woman wants or needs from her husband.  We can’t assume our husbands know what we want!

Avoiding this communication pitfall is so easy.  As a wife, clearly, concisely, and directly tell your husband what you want. Clearly tell him what you need.  Let him know the specifics as well!  Let me give a simple example.  Let’s say you have company coming over and the house is a mess.  Plus, you’re trying to make a dessert to serve.  So, you’re feeling stressed.  Meanwhile, your husband is oblivious to your inner turmoil. He’s contentedly watching ESPN.  In most cases, the wife would finally say “Hey, can you vacuum the house please?”.  To which the husband says, “sure” and continues watching ESPN.  At this point, the wife blows a gasket in frustration.  Here’s the thing.  She didn’t give him the details of what she was asking for.  Instead of simply asking, “Can you vacuum?”, she needed to say “Can you vacuum right now?”  She needed to clearly spell out what she was asking for and when.

Clear, honest communication is a gift to your husband!  It reminds me of Proverbs 24:26 An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

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A wife’s need for talk & empathy

I went out to dinner with a couple girlfriends recently, and it was….ahhh…refreshing!  We talked and laughed and talked some more.  Words were flying around faster than a cheetah on steroids.  Even though I love talking with my husband, it was so delightful to have an extended chat with some females for a change, and thus, I’ve decided to become more intentional about scheduling get-togethers with other women.

How about you?  Do you have at least 2 deep friendships with other God-believing women? Do you have at least 2 women in your life who encourage you or make you laugh?  We NEED each other!  My husband cannot possibly meet all my relational needs.  Men aren’t wired the same as women.  In case you haven’t noticed.  Most women need to talk about all the things happening in their lives, and we need listeners who will empathize with us!  Most men are not wired to listen to a lengthy discussion and they generally aren’t wired to express a lot of empathy either.  But a good female friend can fill that void for you, and you can do the same for her.  We need another woman to speak sweet words of empathy and encouragement in a way that most men just don’t understand.  Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

So, be intentional about making some solid female friendships.  Invite a woman from church or work to coffee.  Be a good listener yourself.  Ask her to tell you about herself, her children, her challenges, her successes, her spiritual gifts, her hobbies.  Be a good listener.  You’ll be on your way to developing a good friendship.

If husband seems headed wrong way

Sometimes, we will notice a trend in our husband’s behavior or reactions that are concerning.  He might not be engaged in something hugely sinful, but you are concerned about the harsh way he’s interacting with the kids or the resentment that he holds toward his boss, etc.  In other words, you fear that if he continues down that path, significant damage will be the result.  Hmmm.  What’s a wife to do in those moments where she senses her husband is headed the wrong way?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but let me share two things that have been effective in my own relationship.  1)  Pray earnestly that God will convict your husband through the Holy Spirit so that your husband will see that he needs to make some changes.  Jesus makes it clear that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict people when they are off track.  Jesus says of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8 “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  

2) If you feel like God is nudging you to talk to your husband about your observations, quietly come to your husband, take a humble posture by perhaps kneeling beside him while he’s sitting, and gently tell him of your concerns. However, don’t ONLY tell him of your concerns.  Take this opportunity to speak words of life to him.  Tell him about the good qualities you see in him.  Remind him that God is transforming him into a man who has Christ’s character, which is “gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8).  Tell him you’re proud of him for seeking to become more like Christ and for allowing God to mold and shape him.

Waiting for God’s timing & help!

When we feel angered, or disappointed, or frustrated with our husband, it’s so natural to immediately give in to our emotions and let our husband know exactly what a failure he is!  We feel entitled to unleash our fury and it actually feels kind of cathartic for a moment.  It lets the pent-up steam out of our bodies. Whew!

However, the damage we cause to that person in the process of our “venting” can have the opposite effect of what we desired.  We were hoping the person would immediately grasp how wrong they’ve been, quickly apologize, cheerfully repair the damage they’ve done and humbly seek to win back our trust and respect.  Unfortunately, when we give full vent to our anger and disappointment, without waiting on God’s timing, we can crush that other person with condemning words spoken in the heat of the moment.  In response to our anger and harsh words, that other person usually becomes defensive and lashes back at us…or withdraws from us and goes off to self-medicate in an unhealthy way.  Neither option is good!

It’s so much better for us to pause before venting our anger!  During that pause, you might have to leave the room to spend a moment with God, but it’s so worth it!  Ask God to show you when to speak to your husband, what exact words to use, and how to offer encouragement and hope…even if you’re asking for him to change his behavior.

Here are 4 Bible verses that might be worth printing out for yourself.  They remind us to be patient, to wait for the Lord’s guidance and to do what HE says you should do instead of reacting impulsively!

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Psalm 27:14 Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Psalm 32:8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.     I will advise you and watch over you.”

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