A Little Affirmation Goes a Long Way
Marriage is tough. Anyone who says it isn’t is either a liar or a fool. Even after 31 years of marriage, trying to understand and satisfy my wife’s needs is still a daunting challenge. And I’m sure she feels the same way about me.
But it’s even harder when you don’t communicate effectively with one another—or don’t communicate at all! Part of the problem is that the way males and females communicate seems to be diametrically opposed to one another. Here’s just one example:
I spent a number of years as a middle school and high school basketball coach. My first several years were spent coaching boys’ teams. In order to communicate effectively with boys, one strategy I used was to yell at them. It got their attention, motivated them, and just plain felt good sometimes. I used it very effectively with all my teams. It was one of my best “coaching” tools.
So, the first year I coached a girl’s team I quite naturally used this powerful and effective communication method just like any good coach would. Within the first five minutes of the very first practice, I yelled at a young woman. It wasn’t mean-spirited, I just yelled at her like I would any other player I coached. But she stopped, looked at me, her lower lip started quivering, and she burst into tears and ran into the bathroom. Stunned, I watched as the rest of the team all stopped practicing, looked at me, and leaped in tandem like a herd of gazelles into the bathroom behind her.
That incident quickly taught me that I needed to learn how to communicate differently with girls than I did with boys. And men, you need to learn how to communicate with your wives and daughters differently than you do your dad or your buddies.
First, it’s important to remember that words actually have meaning to women. Generally, men tend to judge a person by his actions, not by what he says. We don’t often think too much about what we say. However, females use verbal communication for a variety of extremely important functions. They use verbal communication to develop intimacy with and to draw close to their loved ones. Notice how women go into the kitchen and talk when they first get together, or chat on the phone for long periods of time? They are bonding with one another. Females also use words to process information. It’s one reason they are always talking; because it helps them to sift through and understand information.
Finally, they use ‘words’ to process and understand their emotions. Since emotions play a huge factor in virtually every aspect of the way a female views life, this is an important part of her world. So because women place so much value on words they tend to believe your words and take them deeply to heart—ever notice how long it takes a woman to forgive you when you lie to her?
It’s frequently difficult for men to understand and realize how fragile a woman’s psyche is and that we can easily or inadvertently crush her spirit with our words. Sometimes I think to myself, I’ve seen her pop out a baby and hardly break a sweat, why in the heck is she crying over a couple of words I said? I’ve learned though over the years she often takes my words more seriously than I meant them.
Remember that while men get validation from achievements, women get it through their relationships. Women have a great need to hear words that validate their worth. They need to hear words that tell them they are loved and needed—especially from the men they value most (their husbands and fathers).
You’ll notice that women use a lot of words; two to three times as many as men. Many women crave compliments. She magnifies in her mind any perceived imperfections or flaws in her physical appearance. I use the word perceived because they are usually just that—figments of her imagination.
The great mystery is that even the world’s most beautiful women may think they are unattractive or have features they are insecure about. So your wife greatly needs and desires to hear words from you like, “You’re beautiful,” or “You are gorgeous.” Remember: your words mean a lot to her—more than your actions do most of the time. You may think you are showing her you love her by your actions, but she needs to hear your words to believe it. She wants to know she is needed and “wanted” by you.
Most of all she needs to hear the words, “I love you.” She needs to hear those words multiple times a day in order to believe them to be true. Don’t be the guy who got married and 30 years later said, “I told her I loved her when we got married. If anything changes, I’ll let her know.”
One of the things I’ve heard from women over and over again is that when their husbands give them their undivided attention, it makes them feel powerfully loved. So, because most men have a difficult time focusing on more than one thing at a time, it is extremely important that we put down the newspaper, turn off the television, or shut down the video game if our wife wants to have a discussion—even a minor one! If you’re like me there is no way I won’t be sneaking peeks at the hockey game over my wife’s shoulder while she’s telling me something very important that’s on her heart.
Here’s an important point, guys—women are wired to respond physically to strong feelings of love and intimacy. Most guys I know would love for their wives to respond physically more often. Therefore, if giving her your direct attention makes her feel more loved, and her feeling more loved leads her to feel more frisky…need I say more? My point is, don’t be preoccupied when you talk to your wife!
Lastly, remember that the way you speak to each other actually determines the quality of your marriage. If you speak to each other in a respectful, loving, affirming manner, then those feelings will follow and be ingrained in your relationship. But if you speak words of spite, contempt, and anger, then those feelings will rule, and eventually destroy, your relationship. Speak to your wife the way you’d like to be spoken to. As we seek the love that fills the desires of our hearts, always remember that we get what we give. If we want sacrificial love, we must give sacrificial love. If we desire unconditional love, we must give unconditional love. If we need forgiveness, we must extend forgiveness. If we crave passion, we must be passionate.
Love is a choice. If we choose to love, we will be loved in return. God chooses to love us despite our imperfections. This in turn should inspire us to extend the same grace to the woman we have chosen to spend our lives with and to be the mother of our children. She deserves that much from the man to whom she has given her heart.