Bob Grant, a marriage psychologist and author of “What Husbands Can’t Resist” and “Women Men Adore and Never Want to Leave”, writes “Words are for women.” Women respond to words. When a woman is upset, lonely, scared or even doing great, her husband’s words of love touch her soul deeply and heal her, making her feel cherished and loved. Women LOVE to read and hear LOTS of words from our men, especially emotional words - they make us feel emotionally connected and bonded with our men. We love letters. In fact, a love letter/email/text will actually give us an oxytocin high! That’s the bonding hormone associated with breastfeeding. Love letters and words of love give us a literal high, a feeling of euphoria! We love LONG talks – the longer and more detailed the better!
MEN ARE DIFFERENT FROM US!!!! WAY MORE DIFFERENT THAN WE THINK!
Well, the opposite is also true that words aren’t for men. We REALLY need to understand this! Men do NOT respond to words the way we do. Words do not mean the same thing to men that they mean to us. Men bond over time and by sharing experiences with us and especially by having regular physical oneness with their wives. That is a big way that they get their oxytocin high that makes them feel emotionally connected to us! Men are not wired to feel more loved and emotionally connected with words. And sometimes our Niagra waterfall of words and emotions are just WAY too overwhelming for our men – they can feel like they are drowning in all of our fast moving words and emotions and just want to get OUT!
When we are having a conflict in our marriage, we as women tend to want to immediately resolve things with a lot of words. We think if we can talk it out or write about it, we can make it better. And the sooner the better! That is what WE need and what WE want! But our men don’t do well with a lot of words – and they need a LOT MORE TIME to process emotions. We must be very patient and understanding about this or we will prolong and inflame the conflict.
In fact, our words can very easily repel our husbands further away, even when our intentions are good and we are trying to reconcile with them. All that emotion and verbal intensity can feel disrespectful, confusing and overpowering to a man. Our husband’s blood pressure goes way up during conflict – he feels that he is being challenged to a fight, and he can’t always see the loving intentions of reconciliation when he sees such anger and hears such volume and negative emotions from us. It takes most men a long time for their blood pressure to come back down, and most women’s heart rates and blood pressures stay stable during conflict. (“His Brain, Her Brain” by Dr Walt Larimore MD) Conflict is scary to a guy. All kinds of emotional accusations and information is flooding him from seemingly nowhere. He doesn’t have the millions of nerve connections between the halves of his brain that we do. He can’t access his memories or emotions very easily. Add to that - he is usually totally blindsided and unprepared, while we have been thinking about the topic all day before we bring it up. Totally unfair! If there is an important topic you would like to address with your husband, it could be helpful in some marriages to mention in an email, “I’d like to discuss X whenever it is a good time with you this week, Sweetie! Thanks!”
Bob Grant says that “Men respond to pain and distance, not words.” We think, “If only I could EXPLAIN!!! Then he would understand! He would rush to my side, hold me and kiss me and apologize for all the pain he caused me. And everything would be fine!” But we don’t get it that he wouldn’t understand. If he were a woman, maybe our explanation would help. But men don’t want or need our explanations. REALLY. Our explanations only make things worse and sounds like excuses for our sinful behavior to our men. It makes them think we are saying that we are right and they are wrong (which, honestly, is probably what we are usually saying – we may need to do some soul searching here), and our attempts to reconcile can come across very disrespectfully to our husbands. Disrespect will always repulse and disgust a man and make him want to run away and live in the desert by himself.
“Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” Proverbs 21:19
Or we think, if only my husband could read this passage of scripture, it would help him! Then he would love me the way I want to be loved. That’s really our goal. We want to change our men to make them love us and meet our needs the way we want them to be met and then we think we would be happy and everything would be fine. That is actually a fairly selfish and immature goal on our part. What about my husband’s needs? What about his feelings? What about his goals and desires? Am I following his leadership, or trying to take over? Am I honoring God, the Bible and my husband with my desires and attitudes? I need to think in terms of our unity and oneness, not just about me!
Or, we think, if he would just listen to this sermon by this pastor, he would be convicted and hear God speak to him, so I will tell him he needs to hear it. Or I will tell him about his sins and how he needs to repent to God, then everything will be great. He’s really the one that needs to change after all. I am a victim here. I haven’t done anything wrong. WAIT! Before you gloss over your own side of the fence, ask God and maybe even ask your husband if you have been disrespectful in some way and need to apologize to make things right. We ALWAYS have sin in our own hearts that needs addressing and when we handle that with God and apologize properly to our husbands, then we are actually moving towards real reconciliation and peace. That is the real goal – oneness, unity, peace, holiness, glory for God!
WOAH!!!! IF YOU HEAR NOTHING ELSE, PRECIOUS WIFE, HEAR THIS:
OUR HUSBANDS often CANNOT HEAR GOD’s VOICE THROUGH US through OUR WORDS – WHEN THEY ARE FAR FROM GOD. OUR WORDS CAN BE EXTREMELY DESTRUCTIVE IN CONFLICT – ANY ATTEMPT ON OUR PART TO PREACH AT OR LECTURE TO OR TELL OUR MEN WHAT TO DO SPIRITUALLY WILL WIDEN THE CHASM IMMEASURABLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I will say, that when the marriage is strong, and the husband’s leadership is being honored, husbands may be able to hear some spiritual things from their wives just fine, if it is done respectfully. But if your husband is being disobedient to God’s Word, you are not going to be the one he can hear spiritual words from.
If your husband is asking you to do something wrong, then you may need to cite scripture as the reason you cannot follow his leadership, but with great respect and humility!
WELL THEN, WHAT DOES WORK?
We want to HELP them. We want to MAKE things better. We have the best of intentions. We are trying to be loving. Unfortunately, many times the “loving” thing to do comes across to our men as “disrespectful.” This takes time to really study our men and understand their needs and HOW different they are from us! But our husbands can’t hear spiritual things from us – especially if there is conflict. Wives EASILY come across as “holier-than-thou” without realizing it. And a husband instinctively knows that God gave HIM the leadership role and authority in the marriage. It is a HUGE slap in the face of disrespect for a wife to try to verbally instruct her husband in spiritual matters. Even if he is less mature than she is spiritually – her WORDS WILL OFFEND HIM and he may walk away from her AND from God. THIS IS CRITICAL TO UNDERSTAND! We think we need to say “just one more thing” but we are causing serious damage that is very hard to reverse. A wife can quickly turn her husband off from herself and from God with any discussion of spiritual things especially when the marriage is not doing well. (If you are dealing with physical abuse, child abuse, an active addiction, active infidelity, an untreated severe mental condition – get godly, qualified help ASAP!! Don’t try to handle those kinds of situations on your own!) The ONLY way to get through to a husband who is far from God or who is deeply wounded by his wife is prescribed by God:
“Wives, in the same way (as Christ was submissive to God) be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe (or are disobedient to) the Word, they may be won over WITHOUT WORDS by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” I Peter 3:1-2
It is our behavior that touches our husband, our godly, respectful, humble attitudes that preach the most powerful sermons to them!
Some practical approaches to try:
- If your husband says something hurtful – and you say something very simple like, “Ouch.” (Laura Doyle “The Surrendered Wife”) Or “That hurt!” (Something that briefly communicates you have been wounded by him – he has caused you pain). He may immediately apologize. But if he doesn’t, leave the room quietly and respectfully if possible – you will get him thinking about what he did wrong and what he said that was unloving and hurtful and he will be left alone with his own damaging words (Bob Grant).
- Dr. Emerson Eggerichs (“Love and Respect”) suggests a wife might say, “That felt unloving, did I come across disrespectfully just now?” That gives your man the benefit of the doubt and allows him time to clarify his actions and whether or not you may have contributed to the problem. This approach is very humble and non-judgmental. Great one to try!
If you and your husband are in the midst of conflict – Shaunti Feldhahn “For Women Only” found that most men are feeling disrespected in conflict – you must learn the honorable thing to do from a man’s perspective. You must learn to speak the language of respect fluently or you will continue to sabotage yourself unknowingly and severely injure the man you love with your disrespectful attitude, words, facial expressions and tone of voice. Your love is not enough. Your husband would rather have your respect than your love! This is his BIGGEST need as a man!
If he says words that hurt you, and you fire back at him a barrage of name-calling, terrible words and accusations of your own, then he can think about what YOU did wrong and not have to think much about what HE did wrong! A woman’s respectful (NOT pouty) silence and/or absence give a husband the time and space he needs to process his emotions – which can take 8 hours or more from the original incident for most men (“His Brain, Her Brain” by Dr. Walt Larimore). Her silence allows him to hear God’s voice and his own conscience. If that doesn’t induce him to apologize, Bob Grant suggests whenever he approaches you to say, “I’m still upset.” (End of discussion) And stay physically distanced from him in a respectful, calm, peaceful, poised way. Then let him decide to come to you to apologize. This works best, of course, when you are normally happy, joyful, pleasant, peaceful, admiring and respectful around him and he usually really enjoys being with you. Then he will greatly miss your smile, your adoration, and the bright light that you shine into his life. He doesn’t really need more info than that you are hurt by what he said and that you have respectfully distanced yourself from him because you are in emotional pain. He’ll get the message. And you won’t have muddied the waters by responding in anger to him and then having a whole list of things to apologize for yourself.
- “In your anger, do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26.
- “He who holds his tongue is wise.” Proverbs 10:19b.
- “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1.
The whole thing will be a lot less painful and over much more quickly if the wife refuses to respond in anger AND keeps the words to a minimum. When he does apologize, be ready to forgive graciously as Christ forgave you!
GIVE HIM SOME TIME:
What to do with all that time for yourself? I know you are chomping at the bit to go approach him and try to reconcile. You can write him a long gushy, emotional letter, but DO NOT SEND IT! Tear it up after you have finshed with it. It will help you to get your thoughts on paper, and then condense it way down to maybe a short paragraph or bullet points to keep in mind for when he is ready to talk if you really have things that need to be addressed specifically. But he may need time to think and figure out his emotions. Give him the gift of time, space, peace and quiet to think.
Go pray for him. Pray for yourself. Ask God to bless him as the leader of your marriage. Thank God for making him a spiritual authority over you. Pray for God to give your husband wisdom to lead you and your family. Make a big list of every great quality you can think of for your hubby and thank God for his good points. Thank God for His grace and forgiveness that has been extended so freely to you. Thank God for empowering you to forgive your husband. Thank God for the opportunity to practice forgiveness and to see how ugly sin is and how much God despises all of our sin. Ask God how you can return good for evil and how you can bless your husband. What could you do to serve him? How can you respond in gentleness and peace? How does God desire you to maintain poise and grace? Ask God to show you if you did something disrespectful that may have triggered his hurtful words. Sing praises to God. Do something relaxing for yourself. Be patient. Once you have dealt with your anger between you and God and forgiven your husband, you don’t have to rush him. He will come to you to try to make things right if he knows the pain he caused you and he sees a godly, peaceful attitude in you.
LET HIM PURSUE YOU AND INITIATE CONTACT AGAIN:
Sometimes we try to rush things along by initiating a big conversation – but every time I have tried to make things better with lots of words, things ended up being worse! “Where words are many, sin is not absent.” Proverbs 10:19 Men often need only about 5-10% of the words that we would normally want to communicate when emotions are running high. They need the bottom line. And when they have done something wrong, or we have done something wrong, they may need space. We want to be pursued. They do not. For us to pursue our husbands makes them feel extremely smothered and suffocated and makes them want to run for the hills.
Wait on God to work. Wait on your husband to process things. He will come back to me when he is ready. I’ve tried this! It works! MY SILENCE DRAWS HIM TO ME. But my words would repel him. When I am upset, I have learned that I only do lots of damage if I freely spout all of the words and emotions in my brain. If I can condense things down, maybe wait awhile and let my husband sort through his feelings, wisely discern what to share and what not to, and actually have some discretion – I can avoid doing monumental damage that would take a long time to heal.
We don’t want the sun to go down on our anger. And we do need to reconcile with our husbands. But late at night when everyone is exhausted is usually a really bad time to have deep, emotional conversations with our men. You can deal with your anger and forgive your husband and pray, but if he needs more time, or he rolls over to go to sleep – we can graciously accept that our husbands need more time and peacefully wait for a proper apology and reconciliation the next day or two instead of demanding one late at night and causing more of a mess. We think we need to be honest. And we do – to a degree, but we must employ wisdom and discretion! Being honest is one thing – I can briefly state the problem and my feelings in just a few sentences or just 5-10 minutes if it is a big issue – but dragging up every single brutal detail and bringing up multiple things from the past and clubbing my husband over the head with each one for 3 hours is counter-productive, and destructive to the relationship and to my husband’s leadership – not to mention utterly sinful.
“There is a way that seems right to a man (or a wife), but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12
THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO MY FEMALE MIND!
This stuff is HARD for us as women to swallow. It is EXTREMELY counter-intuitive to be quiet and not talk about all the things we are thinking and feeling especially during a conflict. To follow I Peter 3 goes against all of our own wisdom, understanding and intuition as women. We all tend to think that surely we are the exception to that passage!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Our men are very different from us. Their needs are pretty much the opposite of ours. If we do what would help us feel better, it will likely not help our husbands, and may wound them much more deeply than we can appreciate. We can do what we are comfortable with as women – and continue to fail miserably to acheive the intimacy we long for in our marriages - or we can learn what works from God’s Word. We need to learn our husbands’ language and study their needs and become the wives God desires us to be – wives who stretch and grow and become selfless, humble, mature and eager to learn all they can about God’s design for marriage.
Help us to learn to have discretion, patience, self-control, grace, forgiveness, mercy and respect in the midst of conflict with our husbands. Give us wisdom to do what is going to promote love, respect and healing for everyone, not just ourselves. Help us see that our natural tendencies to talk a lot about the issues or write thousands of words about our feelings are likely to wound our husbands and marriages more. Help us to learn how to handle conflict in a healthy way that honors our feelings, You, our marriages and our husbands. We love You, God! We want to mature and grow and become all that You desire us to be as women, wives and moms! Amen!