During my counseling with Joel and Kathy, one of the guys gave me some great advice.
Their online marriage forum has moderators who respond to your stories and questions. You can sign up, tell your story or read others. They will coach you through the hard stuff.
At one point, my wife wouldn’t even talk to me. Not in person. Not on the phone. Not even by text. She could give off a cold shoulder that created glaciers. She might have stopped global warming if this had gone on much longer. It was brutal.
One of the moderators told me this…
Once she starts talking again, shut up. Don’t comment. Don’t interrupt her. Don’t take the opportunity to to add your opinion. Just let her talk. Even if the “talking” is just her yelling at you and blowing off steam. Shut up. Listen to what she is saying, not how she says it.
When she has run out of steam and stops, shut up more. Keep listening. She is probably getting her thoughts together. She probably has more to say. She is not waiting for your response. She still doesn’t need your opinion. She has the floor. Let her run. Most likely, she will start up again. This is when you will begin to hear her heart again.
That advice came in at a very critical time. Had I not heard that, I would have ruined the next opportunity that showed up. The next time we talked, she went off. The fact that I kept my mouth shut made a huge difference in how that night ended up. That night, I heard her heart for the first time in years. It wasn’t all good, though.
The things she talked about were “too little, too late” and the fact that she already had a lawyer. She blew off at me big time. But, I kept my mouth shut and listened. The only thing I said during all that was asking questions, to make sure I understood a few things. She got frustrated over the whole situation and walked out. She retreated to her swing in our backyard.
I gave her a few minutes to cool down and followed her out with a glass of ice water. We ended up in a very calm conversation. That was the moment when she agreed to hold off on the divorce proceedings until we gave the marriage intensive a chance. Apparently, that whole exchange had changed something. She saw that I was willing to listen again.
Had I not gotten that advice, when I did, I would have treated that like a tennis match. She swats something at me and I swat something back. Like most of us guys, it would have become an argument that I had to win. Our naturally competitive nature seems to show up at the stupidest times. Like when our wives need to unload on us. About us.
When we don’t honestly listen, we miss the good stuff. If I hadn’t listened that night, it would have probably been the last time we talked. She was done. She had already made up her mind. She was already making plans that didn’t include me. The papers were ready. The divorce was in motion. If I had fought back, I would have lost her.
As men, we have a lot of self destructive stuff inside us. That competitive nature. That desire to conquer. That need to achieve more. To prove ourselves. To be “the man.” To hunt. All of it. Not bad stuff, in the right situations. Not good stuff when it comes to critical relationships. Our wives don’t want to be on the receiving side of that crap.
They are not conquests. They are not enemies. They are not competitors. They are not trophies. They are women who have given up other options in life to be married to us. They willingly gave their hearts and bodies to us. They trusted us with their lives and futures. They honestly expected us to do all the stuff we promised during the dating days and wedding vows. They trusted us and we have failed them. Arguing doesn’t fix that. Regaining focus and purpose will. Learning to love her will. Listening will.
Once you reestablish her place in your life, it will change. Once you decide, again, that you need this woman in your life, things can change. You have to understand how a mature, loving relationship between a husband and wife works. She has to know you are as concerned as she is.
There is something out there that you understand. Computers, cars, motorcycles, law mowers, airplanes, microwave ovens, video games… Something. Something exists in this world that matters to you in some way and you know how it should function. If this particular thing starts acting funny, you want to know why. If your car cuts off on the highway and leaves you stranded, it needs to be fixed. Something is wrong. If your computer starts hesitating, you want to check the game and see why. If your mower starts smoking, you cut it off and figure out the problem. Right? We understand that most problems don’t just fix themselves. Stuff breaks down and needs attention.
To your wife, it’s the same with your relationship.
She knows what she expected when she got married. She knows how you talked and acted while dating. She remembers the promises and plans you made before the wedding. She knows how this marriage thing was supposed to work. But if it doesn’t look like what it was supposed to look like, there’s a problem. She wants to figure out what the problem is. She knows that these things don’t just fix themselves. It takes some talking and working together to figure it out. She knows that something is breaking down and needs some attention.
If you get self defensive and argue with her, you will never resolve it. You will never get her back as your best friend. You will never stabilize and strengthen your marriage. All you will do is show her that she has a clunker of a husband who isn’t worth the effort to fix. Just like a junk car that you have wasted too much time and money on. Walk away and let it become someone else’s problem.
Where is the root of the problem? It’s in you.
Your idea of how marriage works and the purpose has to get adjusted. Your marriage is not purely for your benefit. You got married because that lady loved you and believed in you. You committed to love, honor and cherish her. If you have rejected your promises and quit pursuing her, it’s you that initiated divorce. Not her. You are the one who has rejected the marriage because you refused to find the real problems and fix them. Without true selfless love for your bride, it will never be as strong as she needs it to be.
If you want it to work, if you ever want to have a strong marriage to a healthy and happy lady, you have to work on it. You don’t learn things while talking. You learn while listening. Let her talk. Get involved. Listen. Make changes where you need to. Show her you are listening by doing something about it. Ignore the tone and anger. Sometimes it’s the only time you will hear her heart. If she doesn’t think you are listening, she will stop talking to you.
You need her talking. You need to be listening. You need to shut up once in a while. She needs you to shut up once in a while. Not to figure out what to say next. To hear her heart.
Dude. Shut up.