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.

Spiritual Loneliness: When the Lord Seems Far Away

Brad Stenberg

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?” – Psalms 13:1-2

Spiritual loneliness is an experience we’d like to avoid because we feel excluded, punished, and abandoned by God. Still, there are times when we all experience that strange inner gnawing or hunger, that unsettling unrest that makes us say, O God, where are you? Few struggles are as acute as our soul’s search for God. We so desperately want His attention as we grope for answers, support, and relief.

You might have felt it when your prayers went unanswered, making God seem remote and uncaring. You may have felt it when you heard a friend’s experience of God’s presence in ways you’ve longed for, but never had. You might have felt it when your attempt to hold on to a word or promise from the Lord was not enough to keep you from acting out. You likely felt it when your sin separated you from God and the experience of His grace.

So what can we do? Spiritual loneliness is maintained by passivity, so it’s important that you get up and do something about it. Here are some things to consider.

Connect with others. Spiritual loneliness is a problem of relationships. People who feel like God is distant usually disconnect with others because a part of their soul is hidden, isolated, and lost. So the commands to love God and others as ourselves are not being realized. 1 John 4:20 says we can’t love God whom we haven’t seen if we don’t love others whom we have seen. So begin with the deficiencies in your relationship with others. Find out where you’re hiding from relationships and seek to connect with others. In the process God will find you and restore the connections.

Draw near to God. Though God may at times remove His presence to develop our faith, it is usually us that has moved, not God. Richard Foster says that ‘God aches over our distance and mourns that we do not draw near to him. He grieves that we have forgotten him. He longs for our presence’ (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 1). So, draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:4)

Listen to what God is saying. Embrace this time as an opportunity for listening prayer. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16) Be intentional. Like Jacob, seek the blessing that comes from a spiritual battle fought alone. (Gen. 32:26) Turn off the radio, TV, cell phone, pager, PDA, fax machine, computer, and take time to listen. Reflect on what is happening to you. God will meet you and speak to your heart.

Focus on who God is. He is with you. God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) He knows what you’re going through because He has been there too. Jesus experienced a painful spiritual loneliness at Calvary when God forsook him for a time. So, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathized with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are ‘ yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) God cares about you. Knowing would be empty if God did not also care with His concrete love. “He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” (Ps. 72:12)Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)

Tell God how you feel. Our honest, candid complaint to God leads to a more authentic relationship with Him. Prayer is not about “theological correctness,” but about a real relationship in real life with a real God who really wants to know the real you. Pious words will not fool the One who knows the attitude of our hearts. Thus, Job cried out: I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter: I have to speak!’ (Job 7:11)

Take control of your mind. It takes an inner determination and discipline of spirit to take the reins of your mind, speak to your situation, and choose to praise God. The psalmist repetitively did this: “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” (Psalm 42:4, 11; 43:5)

Also See:
Transformation

The Courage to Come Out of Hiding

Sam Fraser

One of the consequences of the fall is that shame makes us hide. It is the natural outcome of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When we sexually act out, instead of turning to the Father and asking for help we run 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Moving out of the light to conceal our secret into the darkness to hide our shame and sin. We put on our fig leaves and hide our nakedness. We prefer the wilderness instead of remaining in the garden in His Presence. We know we have sinned and have done wrong and our first impulse is to hide. That is what shame makes us feel. We judge and condemn ourselves.

Then there is the self-talk: you did it again, how could you? Was it worth it, the bad feeling in the pit of our stomach? How dare you ask for forgiveness again? We can get depressed. We beat ourselves up. Often many of us will essentially voluntarily isolate ourselves, feeling unworthy and deserving of banishment. Our sex drive seems impossible to overcome. As rebellious reprobates, we deserve judgment and punishment for our failings and shortcomings. So we feel we have no other choice but to do what Adam and Eve did–we’re naked so we hide and cover ourselves. We stay exiled, self-imposed. Because of our shame we feel we have no other place to turn. Even though we know there is good news because of what Jesus has done on the cross, it no longer seems to apply. We may feel that we have already used up all of the grace from what Jesus had done on the cross. Even though mentally we know this is not true, it feels like it is true.

Let’s spend some time unpacking that spiritual truth in this context because what good is this truth if we can’t apply it to real life situations? And this qualifies as a real life situation. It takes trust to believe that we are forgiven. That this latest acting out or series of failures is under the blood as well. Particularly after we have failed for the umpteen thousand millionth time. The audacity to believe that God’s love for us can once again be extended to us takes real bravery of the most spiritual kind. It takes trust that His love is still greater than our self-condemnation. It takes faith that this is true. We know that mentally, but to let it minister to our hearts is more difficult.

For some of us, we can accept that the Lord has forgiven us. We can believe that alone with the Lord, but to share it with someone else can be frightening. It takes courage to once again confess our acting out and the resulting shame and humiliation time after time. Feeling hopeless and full of despair we often prefer to quit than to open up to someone else and risk humiliation. We feel like quitting since there is nowhere to turn, and we can’t seem to resist this powerful drive. We may feel that there is no hope, and we are to remain as an outcast. We can play church, but as a hypocrite, in our shame and guilt, concealed by our fig leaves. To be exposed in our naked state and remain there takes courage of the most spiritual kind.

We need to realize that we have gone as far as we can alone by ourselves in isolation. We have to choose disclosure. The isolation of trying to wrestle with this issue alone only result in more of the same, bondage. We have to come out of hiding. It is important to find other men that will provide a safe compassionate place for us to confess our sin and shame and allow them to be Jesus with skin on for our repentance. Being associated with Every Man’s Battle, the workshop, we have seen over and over again the power of God being ministered one to another because of the fellowship that takes place there. The information and tools that can help us move into recovery is important. But by far the most common feedback we get is how powerful it is to be in the fellowship of other men who struggle with this same issue. The experience of being with other men who love God and love their wives and at the same time are shamed by this bondage is extremely salutary. Almost to a man the report is that they thought they were the only one. The healing power of being in the presence of other men and finding a common bond in the sharing the shame and humiliation of this addiction and having other men confirm their own struggle is very redemptive.

It is sin that many of us act out in isolation, or if it is acted out with someone else, we dare not share with people who care about us. It is a precarious situation. There are men and groups that can offer that place of mercy and compassion. We may have to spend some time and energy to seek out these individuals or groups. Sex addicts need the body of Christ for support and encouragement to experience victory. At this point we cannot do it alone anymore. My prayer is that you will find such a place. If you cannot, maybe the workshop is the place to start. There is also a roster of men that have been to Every Man’s Battle, the workshop who are willing to make themselves available for contact. You can also call 1-800- NEW LIFE to find other resources.