Imagine you are having a conversation with a friend about a topic that you truly care about. You go off about this and that because you are very excited about this subject. Then, your friend makes a comment and takes the conversation in a completely different direction. Why, you didn’t get to talk about all you wanted to! Or imagine, you are having lunch with a dear friend, and she sits and listens, letting you talk and think and turn over your subject and then think and talk some more. What a difference in the friendships! How we yearn for friends who will listen until we have been completely emptied and heard!
And your husband is the same way. The problem is, you are bored with many of his topics. You do not want to hear about the same business proposal again. You do not want to hear about his workout again and how many reps he did. It is normal for wives to not be interested in many of their husband’s details, but we Proverbs 14:1 women are not normal. We are marriage champions! So, you must learn to hit the ping pong ball back to your husband until he is through talking about a subject. Being this kind of good listener, where you pay rapt attention, ask good questions (and don’t give too much advice!) is about as rare as finding loose hundred dollar bills. So many affairs start because someone else had time to listen, understand, and be interested.
When I got my masters in Counseling, the very best thing I learned during the whole program was a skill called “Active Listening”. What you do (and this takes lots of effort and practice) is to listen incredibly attentively so you can figure out how the other person is “feeling”. Then, you reflect back the feeling. For example, pretend your husband mentions the fact that today at work, the boss overlooked his contribution to the project. Since you’re listening for a “feeling” to reflect back, you could possibly say, “That must have been very discouraging after all that effort you put into the presentation.” See? Your husband will feel “heard” because you listened so well that you understood his “feeling” underneath. (Be careful, though. Sometimes your husband will say, “No, that’s not how I felt.” Be humble and try again.)
Let’s look at another example. Say your husband plays church-league basketball. You are not particularly interested in basketball (in fact, you think he should be home studying his Bible, painting the den, or playing with the kids), but your husband is having a blast playing. When he comes home, maybe you ask, “How was your practice/game?” Your husband says something like, “We won, 46 to 28.” Then most likely, if you are like many wives, your response is, “Do you want one or two pieces of chicken for dinner?”
I promise, your husband would like you to ask some good questions to draw him out. This takes work, effort, and time. If you make a bland or common statement like, “Tell me about it,” some men will talk but most men will go blank. But if you can genuinely learn enough about basketball to ask intelligent questions, he will open up. So you might say, “Were you able to hit your three-point shots tonight?” Men love to talk about their interests, but only to interested parties. Learn your husband’s job and activities inside and out. You don’t have to participate in all of his activities, but you had better know about them and be interested in them. Wives have an inside track to know and care about a husband’s life, and if she doesn’t, he will feel a deep disappointment.
As you know, an expectation we all have from marriage is for someone to be wildly interested in our details. I will continue to be annoying and continually remind you that wise women have two standards, the one they give and the one they expect for themselves. In all of life, the emotionally healthy people think about how to give and are not easily offended because no one is pouring into them. In Young’s Literal Translation of Matthew 20:28, it reads, “the Son of Man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister”. Let that model set in. Learning to “think about filling others” is a habit to learn. When “self-pity” creeps in (“What about someone listening to me?”), pinch yourself and remind yourself that you have to learn to think like an emotionally healthy person. (People with “addictive personality traits” all struggle with “being offended” and “never getting enough attention, respect, and high-treatment”.)
In summary, learn to be a great conversationalist. Listen deeply to your husband. Ask good questions. And then listen deeply again. Men immensely appreciate this effort by their wives.