How to Be a Good Listener to Your Wife’s Heart

Bob Parkins

Feeling like you are not heard, or misunderstood, is one of the fastest paths to loneliness. When we don’t believe that another person really knows or understands our heart, we can get lost in a crowd, feel all alone. Many men who struggle sexually will know exactly what I am talking about; this may be his daily experience. Tragically, it is also likely that he may feel alone and misunderstood in his marriage.

As a man in recovery learns how to communicate his heart to his wife, it is extremely important that you first listen to hers. This will begin to strengthen the connection between you and hopefully soften each other’s hearts to each other. To go bounding in, expecting her to just listen to you, while you have not listened to her, may become a set-up to recreate the wound that makes you feel so alone and insignificant – possibly leading to relapse.

This is not an article about communication tools or how to communicate (read those too). My primary focus is to encourage you to understand and connect with your wife’s heart and not just what she intends to communicate; her heart is deeper than that. That is not to say that verbal communication in and of itself cannot be intimate, but you can frequently connect at the heart without needing the rules of healthy communication, or even a word.

Likely there are times that your wife will repeat herself. This is both an opportunity and a signal. If your wife is repeating herself, most likely she is signaling that she is not feeling “heard” or connected to you. This can be an opportunity once you recognize the signal, because now you know you have probably missed it. You can clarify her intended message, but the heart needs to be “held.” You may do this simply by holding her. An empathetic word or touch can go a long way. Of course there may be times when a hug is not appropriate. If she doesn’t want you to touch her, maybe she is angry with you, make extra efforts to empathize with her by listening respectfully. The expression on your face may say to her if you care or are just trying to appease her.

Another way to “hear” your wife’s heart is to watch for it. When you first started dating your wife, you may have made an effort to notice things she likes and dislikes. Do this again but in deeper ways. Get to know more fully what makes her happy, sad, what her dreams are, etc. When you know these things, never stop looking for them and use them to exhort and encourage her.

When she is upset after a phone call from her parents: “I know how devastating it is for you when your dad disregards your feelings. Do you want to talk about it?”

When she is screaming at you: “If I hadn’t selfishly had my mind solely focused on work all night, I would have remembered how disrespected you feel when I forget to take out the trash.”

When she won’t say a word to you: “I know when you won’t talk to me, you are usually hurt. I would love to talk about it when you are ready.”

Don’t wait for the difficult moments to engage her. Engage her in the easy ones. It may seem too simple to start dating her again, but it isn’t. First, it will be difficult to be consistent, you won’t always feel like it or fall into old patterns. Second, it may not be complex, but it got you a wife the first time. Just like you hopefully do with your kids, look for connecting moments to share. Just as Mary Magdalene poured her precious perfumes over Jesus’ feet, treat her extravagantly. Extravagance is not about money, although some scrooges will have to loosen up a bit, it is about time, affection, and serving. As you get moving, she will be on your mind more, and it will be easier and more rewarding to continue. You will remember what you once knew about her and learn what you never did.

Healthy communication tools are an essential element to hearing her heart, but this is the long (also essential) way around. When you rebuild the connection between your hearts, it may take time for her to be able to trust it. Be patient and gracious with her, you haven’t earned her trust yet. Many men will come to realize they never “heard” their wife before. Take heart; things may be rough in your marriage right now, but to know and connect intimately with your wife in deeper ways than you have ever known will change things – the best years may yet be ahead of you.

Re-building the Bridge Called Trust

Pastor Ed Grant

The old covered walking bridge across the Delaware River had stood for as long as anyone could remember. It connected the town of Portland, Pennsylvania with Columbia, New Jersey. During the spring one year ice flows combined with a large amount of rain and the swollen river washed away part of the bridge and weakened what remained.

Trust between people is like a bridge built from both sides of a river. When it is built with care and careful planning it will be durable, capable of weathering the storms of life. Occasionally it will need repair and certainly will require periodic maintenance, but individuals feel safe to put a great deal of emotional weight on the bridge: keeping one’s promises is expected; sensitive secrets divulged are carefully protected; personal flaws and weaknesses are accepted.

Happy is the person who has one or two close relationships! Building the bridge called trust is costly, risky and requires a substantial time investment, but the rewards are truly fulfilling.

What happens, though, when a large section of the trust-bridge has been washed away through betrayal, deception or a litany of broken promises? The ache and bitterness of soul can be almost unbearable. King David wrote about the agony caused by a friend’s betrayal: ‘If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.‘ (Psalm 55:12-14).

Is it possible to re-build the trust-bridge? How can we be sure that it won’t be washed out again?

Because we are all fallen human beings the potential for getting hurt again is always a possibility. Only Jesus, the friend of sinners, Who loved us while we were still His enemies, is worthy of our complete emotional trust. His nail scarred hands continually reach out to us, inviting us into His loving embrace. Having said this, however, God does intend for us to take the risk to restore broken relationships and to establish new ones. The trust-bridge must be re-built from both sides. Whether it is a marriage, a parent child relationship, or a friendship, the following principles apply to re-building trust.

For the wounded:

1. Those wounded need to take an emotional inventory: what happened; what has resulted from the person’s action; in what ways can I still trust him/her and in what ways is it unwise to trust?

2. The wounded desperately need God’s healing hand and His protection against the root of bitterness that frequently spring up from a wound. Healing may take a long time, depending on the damage done to the trust-bridge.

3. Trust and forgiveness are not the same . Forgiveness may be given long before trust is re-established. Those who have breached trust must demonstrate their trustworthiness over a period of time.

4. Talking with a close friend, a pastor or a counselor can provide insight and a different perspective. Don’t go through it by yourself!

5. Ask God for wisdom and discernment to help you determine the sincerity of the person’s sorrow over the offense, the desire to make restitution, and the efforts to change.

For those who have broken trust.

Solomon wrote, ‘Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for.’ (Prov. 16:6a). Love is the consideration shown for the injured; faithfulness is demonstrated by consistent change of behavior . Fleshed out it looks like this:

1. There are no quick fixes for the pain caused, nor are there any shortcuts to getting back to the way things were before. A great deal of patience and humility is needed to hear the other’s pain, often many times.

2. Accept responsibility for your actions without blaming others or explaining them away. Attempts to explain minimize the offense and show the wounded loved one you ‘don’t get it.’

3. Accept the consequences of your actions, including the emotional distance, and make restitution when possible.

4. Be accountable for your actions without becoming defensive.

5. Ask God to give you a view your sin from His perspective and to allow you to grasp the severity of the wound you caused.

6. Pray regularly for God’s healing touch upon the person and for sensitivity to their needs.

God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.”

The wonderful benefits that spring from trusting relationships is worth the risk of potential heartache. God can heal heartache, but He won’t fill the lonely void within when we refuse to build trust-bridges with others, especially with His people.

Holy and Healthy Sex in Marriage: Part 4

David Wever

My guess is that many of you have heard this familiar phrase from your wives at some point in your relationship: ‘You just want sex!’ As men this is often times the main goal or mission we have on our minds even if it is with good intentions. The problem is that our lack of communication may leave our wives feeling that our sexual intimacy is more about getting to the goal rather than truly connecting.

One of the most essential, yet often times least developed facets of sexual intimacy, is communication. Romance and arousal are truly built on this necessary dynamic. Communication is the lubricant in a well oiled machine. Often times we learn as men by our culture or otherwise that talking may get us to sex. The problem though with our talking is that it may just be a vehicle to get our ‘goals’ met without truly connecting in the relationship. We may converse in order to get information or direction towards the goal we are trying to accomplish especially if we have hyper-stimulated ourselves to achieve certain goals in sexual intimacy.

I want to offer a different way of communicating for us as men. It is not the manliest way but it may help to establish connection rather than just completing a mission in sexual intimacy.

This proposed way of communicating is chatting. That’s right, I said it. You might be thinking, ‘But Dave, chatting is something guys just don’t do.’ You’re right! But when a person chats, there is often times not a goal or mission to get somewhere in mind. Instead when most people chat they are usually pretty relaxed and talking about their days or their hearts and thoughts. The main point I want you to catch here is that in your romance or arousal towards healthy, Godly sexual intimacy, sex is not the goal. It is truly connecting that needs to be at the forefront.

Sometimes a paradigm shift in the way we approach communication can help us move towards actually letting ourselves be there in heart and mind and then body. The Songs of Solomon are a beautiful picture of a couple moving toward God’s gift of sexual intimacy and then celebrating their oneness. The small but deeply explicit book on romance and intimacy is filled with conversations and chatting about how they feel about one another. Simply, it is filled with communication leading up to eventual physical intimacy.

One set of verses in particular can be found in Song of Songs 1:15-16, How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves. How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.’ Here the Lover (the husband) and the Beloved (the wife) are exchanging not only feelings about one another but are expressing and conversing about the heart of their relationship that leads to a verdant or lush place of intimacy in their marriage bed. Their chatting, if you will, goes on throughout the entire book. An exchange of not only passion but of true hearts is shared in a back and forth dialogue.

Is the vibrancy or lushness of your marriage bed rooted routinely in how good the physical component of intimacy is? Or is it founded upon the communication leading to connectedness in the heart?

Communication leads to connection. Ultimately, connection allows communion with one another in celebrating God’s oneness in your hearts. Rebecca and I both do not commune in sexual intimacy unless we feel connected. And the way we feel connected is to talk, to chat, to dialogue and express our hearts not just to gear up our loins. You may be thinking, ‘Well what about spontaneous, ‘quickie’ sex? Is that ok even if we don’t communicate?’ Yes. But I would guess if you go back a day or two, you may find that even that spontaneity may be founded upon safe, understanding, heart felt communication. If not you may be cheating yourselves of the most important part of sex: true connectedness and intimacy from the heart.

Next time you and your wife are feeling aroused, give chatting a try as it leads to further physical intimacy. Ask yourself before the fires of desire are fanned, have I communicated or talked about my day with her? As you rebuild and restore your heart around sexual intimacy ask yourself: Am I communicating? Is the communication we are having leading to connection? And when we commune in physical sexual intimacy do I feel and stay connected emotionally and spiritually?

Remember, your communication is an essential building block to connection and safeness to allow desire to blossom. It is also a building block to physical foreplay in sexual intimacy. We will look further at Holy and Healthy physical foreplay next time in this series.

For more help, join one of our couples groups at our next New Life Weekend.