Posts Tagged ‘ talking ’

The Danger of Silence.

Young Couple Sitting on Love Seat

 

It continues to amaze me at how long it takes me to learn certain things about my marriage. Things that after I discover them, seem so simple. I guess that’s why I write about them when I stumble across them – hoping that I’m not the last person on earth to figure them out. Here’s the latest one I’ve “discovered”.

A couple of weeks ago, Val and I were feeling disconnected. Nothing huge was wrong, and by all outside appearances, we looked fine. Maybe a little crabby towards each other, but nothing anybody would notice. If you didn’t know us very well, you would think everything was great. We were still giving little pecks on the lips before bed, putting on a fake smile throughout the day, and doing a great job of being roommates. We both knew something was wrong, but we couldn’t really pin point what IT, was.

This went on for about a week, until we ended up having what we like to call a “forced date night” (Grandparents came over, took the kids, and told us to get out of here). While we were at dinner, I said “ok, I what’s wrong with us lately? I don’t know what it is, but I hate it.” My wife said “I don’t know, but I don’t like it either”. After talking through it, you wanna know what the whole problem was?! (I know you’re on the edge of your seat) It all came down to one thing:

We were both expecting the other person to meet an unspoken need/desire that each of us had. 

At some point we had both been slightly offended that the other one hadn’t met an unspoken “need” that we had earlier that week, and it was a need which seemed really obvious to us, but had not been noticed at all by the other person. And instead of just saying “hey hon, I really need you to (insert need)”, we decided to get a little attitude about it and pull a “well fine then, I guess I don’t matter very much to him/her if they can’t see what I pretty obviously need! I’m just going to wait, and let him/her figure it out. They can’t be that oblivious”. And so it went for a week or so. Both of us getting a little more irked as each day went on, but refusing to say anything, or ask, due to what really came down to our pride. We both wanted the other person to “get a clue” and “do what he/she is supposed to do” or basically “figure out what is so darn obvious!”. And because neither of us ended up being very good mind readers, we were resenting each other. Yeah, pretty stupid huh?

Let me sum it up this way –

Your spouse has NO IDEA what your thinking, or what you may need (most of the time), unless you tell them. 

Why do we get the idea that just because our spouse has been married to us for “x amount of years”, they suddenly become mind readers? And I can hear you saying “well yeah, but come on! He/she has to have some sort of idea on what I need/like/desire after being around me all that time!”. Yes, it’s true that you probably know your husband/wife more than maybe anyone else on the planet, but even so, how are they to know what you need at any given time, if you don’t even ask?!

There are so many times I hear comments from couples like “Well, he had better figure it out that I need a date night once a week”, or “She’s gotta know I need sex 3 or 4 times a week! How hard is that to figure out?” And so we go through our marriages, disappointed that the other person isn’t “doing what they’re supposed to do”, but yet refusing to calmly sit down with them, and say “hey honey, I know you’ve been really busy lately, but I would really like to (insert need). Would you help me with this?”

Wouldn’t that be so much simpler?! What an amazing idea – actually ASK for things we need our spouse to do for us. Not just hope and pray that can play “mind pictionary”, and guess what we need.

What if on a daily basis, we went to each other and said something like “hey hon, I’m just checking in to see what you need today” and doing it with a servant’s heart – really WANTING to give the other person what they needed to feel loved, cared for, and important? Would that be so hard? Not at all. But for some reason it seems strange, because we go back to that old “oh come on, he/she shouldn’t have to be told what I need, they should just know” garbage. Well, let me let you in on a little secret: IT DOESN’T WORK. Take it from me, the idiot who has tried it for years – you’d be more productive going outside, sitting on your deck, and waiting for the moon to turn purple.

So, for us, from that date night on, we promised each other that we wouldn’t do the “guessing game” anymore, and that if we needed something, we would try to be better at laying down our pride, and simply asking. For some reason we get this idea that our spouses are sitting there going “nope! I’m not going to give him what he/she needs!”, When in reality, they wouldn’t mind at all, and most likely would love to – if they could only read your mind.

“Can you please speak in a language I can UNDERSTAND?!”

Have you ever had to put something together like a baby crib, bike, etc, and opened the box only to find the manual inside was only in German, or some other foreign language? Doesn’t work so well.

Not speaking in your wife’s “love language”, and expecting her to understand you, will get you just about as far. I remember early on in our marriage, I decided to show my wife how much I love her, so I decided to get her a nice big bunch of flowers on my way home from work. I went to the flower shop, carefully picked out the “perfect” bunch, and proceeded to bring it home. I couldn’t wait to see my wife’s reaction to what I KNEW would be just what she needed to hear “I love you!” from me. As I walked in the door (beaming with “aren’t I a good husband” pride) and handed her the flowers, she said “Oh, thanks hon! Put them on the counter and I’ll get them in some water. How was your day?”. “Really? That’s it?” I remember thinking. I was expecting her to go on about how sweet I was for bringing her flowers, and how much it meant to her, etc, but all I got was a “thanks hon”. Where did I go wrong?

What I didn’t realize then, was what I guess was pretty obvious to everybody but me: Her love language was NOT gifts. What I would come to discover over the years (and with reading the book The 5 Love Languages), is her love language is TIME. Now this is not to say that she didn’t like a thoughtful little gift from me here and there, but if I would have asked her if she would rather have a bouquet of flowers, or a couple of hours of my undivided attention, she would pick the latter every time.

So what’s the point? My point is, I think we spend a LOT of wasted energy trying to tell our wives we love them in a way that WE understand (sex, etc,), instead of working on saying it in a way SHE understands. It would be like going up to somebody in the grocery store, and asking them if they knew where the chips were – in German. Pretty sure the odds are the poor clerk is going to look at you like you’re from the moon (You know that look from when your wife looks at you that way…lol). We have to remember to TRANSLATE our attempts at telling her “I love you” into ways that she understands. Ways that will be much more effective at filling her “love tank” than if we said it in a way that made sense to us.

The problem with “speaking her language” is that it takes some effort from us as husbands. We have to constantly remember that what we may THINK we said, is probably not what she HEARD. For example, if you say “Hey hon, I’m going to get a load of my laundry done”, she may hearhey hon, you’re not doing good at getting the laundry done, and so I am having to do it now”. Or when we feel a little disconnected with our wives, our effort to restore that connection may be “hey hon, I would love to make love later”, in which she heard, “Hey hon, I haven’t spent any time with you lately, but I need to use you for my physical need” – Not AT ALL what we were trying to say.

It doesn’t come naturally for us guys, but with some practice, there’s this little voice in your head that goes “Wait! Before you say this, how is she going to hear this?”, and it helps you re-phrase what you were going to say. If you need help figuring out what your wife’s love language is, Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” is a great help, or just pay attention to what your wife is most complaining about. If she always says “you never spend any time with me”, odds are, her language is “time”. If she is always buying people little gifts (including you), odds are her language is “gifts”. See what I mean? Most times, what we do most for the other person, is what we’d like done for us.

Being able to understand how to communicate with your wife, in a way that resonates with HER, is a HUGE benefit. Unfortunately it’s not easy. With practice however, it’s well worth the effort, and you will notice the frustration factor go way down in your marriage.

Your Wife’s Version of a “Quickie”

Some things you learn as a husband after the first few weeks of being married (she actually has a few faults, she talks in her sleep, etc), but others took me longer to figure out. Like how much communication means to my wife. She thrives on it. Loves it. Doesn’t care when it happens – it could be 11 o’clock at night, but she still needs to tell you about how her girlfriend’s kids did this today, or she was thinking of making black beans this year for the BBQ next week. Ever been there? Countless times I would lie there in bed – half asleep – wondering why in the world she couldn’t wait until later to tell me this stuff! Until I finally got a clue and figured out that wives must look at communication, a lot like we guys look at sex.

Think I’m crazy? Maybe I am, but you know the feeling you get as a guy, when it’s been a while since you’ve connected sexually with your wife? You’re ok for a few days, and then the thought seems to pop up more and more – until you get to the point after about a week or two – where it’s the foremost thought on your mind, and you feel like you can’t concentrate on anything, until you can somehow get this need taken care of. Well, now you have an idea of how our wives feel if we don’t really take the time to listen to them. To them, if we don’t take the time to listen wholeheartedly to whatever it may be that is on their minds, it’s just like we feel when we desire our wives sexually, and they may seem too busy to care, or just roll their eyes at us like “oh come on, is that all you ever want?”. Doesn’t feel real good does it? Makes us feel unimportant. But what if instead of rejecting us, your wife smiles at you like only she can, and playfully says “well, I’m not really there right now, but I’d love to go have a quickie – just for you”. That response totally changes how you feel she cares about you! You suddenly feel like you’re her #1 – you’re important to her! Important enough for her to drop everything she had on her mind, pause whatever she was doing, and put a need that you have, before her own. If you’re like me, it makes me feel like conquering the world for her, because she loves me, and is willing to unselfishly help me with a need that I have – not because she was “into it” or “in the mood”, but because she knew that’s my love language, and was willing to unselfishly SERVE me as her husband!

Ok, now SPIN THAT AROUND, and make it apply to when she seems like she is DYING to talk to you, but you just keep walking by her “busy” with other things, or mumbling things like “hang on babe, I have to get the lawn mowed”, or “just a minute hon, the game’s almost over”. How do we think that makes her feel? I’m guessing pretty unimportant, and way down on our priority list. But, what would happen if we just took a deep breath, stopped what we were doing, faced her, and lovingly said something like “hey hon, how did you day go?”, or “sorry I haven’t slowed down enough to actually talk to you today, how did your day go?” Just like the example I gave above, she all of a sudden feels like SHE rates above all of the things on our “to do list”, or whatever playoff game is on, etc. She feels like SHE MATTERS to us – that we CARE about how she is feeling, and even though it’s not what WE need at the time, we are totally ok with her talking out her feelings to us. One other thing – when she is talking out a problem she might have had during the day, make sure you don’t try to SOLVE the problem for her (unless she asks you to). That will get you nowhere fast (believe me I know). Instead, even though every fiber in your body is screaming “I know what you need to do to fix it!”, try to empathize with her. She wants you to validate the way she is feeling, not to tell her “you shouldn’t feel that way”. I remember the early days of our marriage when Val would tell me she felt a certain way, and I would say “well, you shouldn’t feel that way, because it’s not true”, and she would come back with “you can’t tell me how I feel! I don’t care if it’s not true, that’s how I feel!” (strange creatures women are). I know this whole “listen but don’t solve” theory is pretty foreign to us guys, but that’s really what our wives need! And I know you don’t feel like listening sometimes, but just remember how you feel when you have your biggest need dismissed by your spouse? Yeah, not fun. So MEN, we need to buck up, or “man up” or “put on your big boy pants”, or whatever you want to insert there, pull up a chair, and LISTEN to your WIFE. Oh, and did I mention, that God designed our wives to respond much easier to us sexually, when her “emotional connection tank” is full? Let’s just say that a “quickie her way” may lead to a little more than a “quickie your way” a little later on that evening. 

Miscarriage: The subject that never get’s brought up.

This is a tough post for me, and for most guys to talk about. It’s a topic, that if you’ve been through it first hand, that guys like to “stuff” and avoid thinking about, because we can’t “fix” the problem, and if you’re like me,  that drives you nuts. This is also one of those trials in life that no one talks about. When you go through it, your friends, and even your family, seem to walk on egg shells around you. It’s ends up being the elephant in the room. That being said –  I must admit that before I went through it first hand, I had some friends that went through it, and I was the same way. Scared I would say the wrong thing, that they would become upset if I mentioned it, I would even avoid them if I saw them in a store, all because I didn’t know what to say. I wish I knew then, what I know now: that it means a lot to the couple going through it if you were to just ask “hey guys, how are you holding up?” – and mean it – it would help so much. Just to break the silence. And so I share our story….

July 13th, 2011 is the 1 year ago mark for Val and I going through the heart-breaking loss of loosing a child to miscarriage. I still remember that day like it was yesterday, even though I have tried to forget. It was a sunny, beautiful day like most days in the Summer here in the Valley. Val and I were going in for a normal 15 week checkup with ultra-sound, and I had the day off from work. We ran a couple of errands before her appointment as we often do. Everything was normal. Val was even feeling better than she had been with the pregnancy. She had gotten up that day and said she felt good, and was hoping the “morning sickness” was finally over.

We finally arrived at the medical center after running all of our errands, and waited for her name to be called. We had done this many times before, as this was our third pregnancy, and when you live in a small town, there’s only one place you go for your ultra-sound. We knew the routine, and the staff. It was all normal. The guy who always runs the ultra-sound machine had Val lay down on the table like always, there was the normal warning about the gel maybe being cold, etc. Just another “normal” appointment.

Val could tell something was wrong before I could. I think I knew it too, but was in denial. “This doesn’t happen to us. We have healthy babies”, I kept telling myself.  The Tech. tried to act like nothing was wrong, but after about 10 minutes, said he had to go find the doctor to “look at something”. No explanation, no reason. The time it took for the doctor to come down from upstairs seemed like an eternity. I still remember the dead quiet of the room, except for the constant whirring of the ultra-sound machine. We didn’t say much to each other. We both knew.

The doctor finally arrived, and after conferring with the tech, told us “I’m very sorry, but there is no heartbeat. It looks like there was an abnormality in the brain-stem. I’m so sorry”. I could see his lips moving, and hear his voice, but it felt like I was in someone else’s body. Numb. Like it was some kind of bad dream. The doctor and Tech left the room to “give us a minute”, and I went over and held my wife as we cried together. This was not supposed to happen! This was a normal checkup! They must have something wrong – we don’t go through this, this doesn’t happen to us – were some of the thoughts racing through my head. There was such a feeling of empty. Shock. They told us to go home, and we would have to schedule a “D&C” for a later date.

I still remember walking out of that little room, and down what seemed like a really long hallway, that in reality wasn’t more than a brief walk. I remember thinking that you’re supposed to leave that room happy, talking about names, or the video of the ultra-sound you’re going to show your family – all the happy, normal thoughts that you’re supposed to have at that stage. But it seemed like I was in a dream. One that for some reason, I couldn’t escape from.

The first few days afterwords were really tough. The worst part was having to call our family and friends to tell them the news. Val was in no shape to talk, so I called our family one by one, and tried to put on a “God know’s best” face – all the while still feeling like I was in a daze. In my “guy” mind, there had to be some way to “fix” this! I would replay every possible solution over and over in my head, knowing full well there wasn’t one. The days ticked by, and rolled into weeks. I tried to be as supportive as I could to Val, but I felt like I just didn’t have the words to say that would help comfort her. Again, trying to “solve” it, I tried to encourage her by saying that we could “try again”, and that “we just have to believe the Lord has a plan in this somewhere hon”.  As the weeks turned into months,I began to look for projects to fill my time. Something to get my mind off of it. From my “guy” perspective, it’s so much easier to just put it behind me as much as I can, and bury it or push it down so I didn’t have to deal with remembering the pain.

A few months after the D&C procedure, I remember wondering why Val was having so much trouble “moving on” from it, and concentrating on trying again – or “fixing” it. It was hard to wrap my male mind around. “Why she would want to always be thinking about it! WHY would you want to remember the pain? WHY can’t we begin to move past this, we can make it better, we’ll just get pregnant again!” were my thoughts. I tried to be understanding, and supportive of her, but she was taking my attitude as “me not caring about our loss”. She instead wanted me to cry with her. She wanted someone to feel the pain with her, and not feel like she was the only one that was stuck in this grief that had gripped us both. But I was dealing with in a very different way. I needed to look through her eyes. It took me a lot of trial and much error, but I finally began to understand what my wife was longing for from me:

  • She wanted me to remember – she didn’t want me to act like it never happened! I wanted to put it behind me, but she needed me to remember with her! This was key to her being able to heal.
  • She wanted me to bring it up in conversation – This was so hard for me, but so important to her! It showed her that I remembered our baby in heaven, and I was missing him/her too. She wasn’t alone.
  • She needed me to hold her and let her cry – She wanted me to put down the “tough guy” routine, and hold her. To tell her that it’s ok to cry. Allow her to grieve. To grieve together.
  • She wanted to know it affected me also – Although I thought this would be pretty obvious, she said several times that “she felt alone” in her sadness when I would not talk about it, and deal with it by working in the garage, or taking a drive on the bike. Is needed to show her that it was hard for me too.
Loss of a child – born or unborn – is one of the hardest tests your marriage may ever go through. There’s no way around that. The biggest thing to remember is that men and women grieve in much different ways! This can not be overstated! There is not a WRONG way to grieve, God just designed us to do so differently, and it’s our job as husbands to learn and  understand our wives – even when it doesn’t make sense to us – and support and love them – especially during  times when the hurt is so deep.