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.

Super Charged Communication

Martin Fierro

So your back home from being motivated and super charged at the last EMB conference. Feeling super charged spiritually? Ready to talk? ‘Hey honey let me share what happened and what I just learned!’ Her response of ‘un-huh, but what about me?’ should not surprise you. How you respond with any information shared from your wife will be vitally important. It is in the healing of the relationship that the events of the past behavior may be in the past historically but not emotionally. In such, healing for the relationship will come through periods of communication super charged with a sensitivity fruit cocktail of caution, fear, hurt, grief, despair (shall I go on?).

The keys many men miss in the opportunity and recovery of the relationship are the components of truly listening to your wife. She too, has a story to tell and an experience to process.

The reality is that the relationship is changed and you cannot go back to the old manners in communication with your wife (and behavior for that matter). For it was in that old nature of communication that deception and manipulation was nourished. On this side of the coin, your communication model should be based in love and grace (in speaking and listening). In the construction of listening there are three strong skills to listening to your wife. Before they are detailed, let it be known that problem solving (Mr. Fix-it) is not the top of the list for listening skills. Research has shown that when the primary components of listening are worked through first, then problem solving and resolution has a higher probability for success.

Think of it this way, we have been given two ears and one mouth. A good probable reason is so we will listen twice as much as we speak.

Listening is not a matter of making the comment back, ‘so what I hear you say is” or ‘I understand.’ Or worse is the appearance of listening while preparing for a rebuttal, ‘I see honey, and I understand, BUT’.’ Do you want to continue super charging the communication level through defensiveness? Because this last example is one sure way of doing it. Or do you want to change the engagement of the communication patterns to a deeper level of intimacy? Your options; continue the old patterns of super charged communications or create the change in your response behavior. And that is typically a good spot to start. Any change in one of you will create a change in the relationship.

The three primary components of productive listening are attend, acknowledge and inviting. Attending has three sub factors: look at the person talking to you, listen to what they are saying (not what your mind is thinking and feeling), and track what they are saying. Acknowledging is about reflecting back through brief statements the thoughts and feelings being heard and understood. And this does not mean a lengthy sentence. Think of acknowledging your spouse with simple words as she shares, such as ‘wow, that is sad, how awful, mad, disappointed, how exciting’etc.’ Inviting is about when you see that your wife is holding back on sharing, and you know that look and feeling, you simple say something to the affect of: ‘keep going,’ ‘tell me more,’ ‘I am with you, please continue,’ or ‘Is anything else you want me to know?’

These skills (attend, acknowledge and invite) give the opportunity to listen to your spouse through love and grace. Notice there was nothing about giving feedback or fixing what was being shared by the other. But more importantly time to allow your spouse to experience the thoughts and feelings without correction, distraction or manipulation.

It is important to know that communication of thoughts and feelings should never be expressed through physical aggression. Appropriate boundaries may need to be set if either one of you have such difficulty. It is also just as important that listening to your spouse may appear to be verbally abusive when in reality she is inviting you into her world of thoughts and feelings of pain, depression, anger’.

In communication there are two words that are recommended to avoid or use cautiously: why & you. Both have at their base a probable result of discord and passive aggressive communication. These two words all too frequently create defensiveness even if such is not meant. Yes there are alternatives that create an opportunity for clarity. Instead of using ‘why,’ try using ‘honey can you help me understand what you meant by’.’ In regards to using ‘you’ statements, it is best to not start a sentence with it such as ‘you should,’ ‘you said” ‘you are not making sense because’.’ Instead, as silly as it may sound, focus on using a ‘you’ later in your statements while responding with the pronoun of ‘I.’ Such as, ‘There is no way I can truly understand the pain I have put you through and I want to support you through this the best that I can. It pains me to know I have caused you so much hurt in your heart.’

In all, these skills are to build empathy and intimacy with your wife. The thoughts and feelings of the relationship will ebb and flow as the issues are worked through. The communication problem solving steps will have to be another article. But for now, it is important to clarify that when your wife is not attended to, acknowledged, or invited to share more of what they have on their heart and mind, the common experience and sense of feeling ‘crazy’ overcomes your spouse. Let me stress again that in listening to the communication from any person is the pathway to inviting you into their world as they experience it. Listening is sitting there with them, feeling and experiencing the world that person lives in. If the information being shared is abused, made fun of, not attended, acknowledged or invited to expound upon, one will commonly shut down. Listening is truly about following not leading. If you want to super charge the intimacy of communication, practice the basic skills of listening.

Holy and Healthy Sex In Marriage: Part 1

David Wever

When I first began recovery, I thought I knew everything there was to know about sex. My choices to sexually sin and the continual need for greater and greater intensity for sexual arousal had taught me a lot about sex. Or so I thought. My sexual acting out had indeed taught me a lot about pleasing myself or someone else to greater pleasure. However, I began to see that pleasing myself or reaching orgasm was only a small part of the whole of sexual intimacy. In fact, most of my knowledge of sexual intimacy was in many ways tainted by the large amount of hyper-stimulation upon my heart and mind due to the use of pornography and masturbation for years.

One of the neatest aspects of our recovery is to actually learn about something we may have always thought we knew everything about. Part of the premise of this thinking comes from a misperception that our greatest need has been sex. When a need is that great, we often put a great deal of importance on it leading us to a false sense of security. Think about it. What young man in high school, when the subject of sex came up, would not want others to know that he had a pretty good knowledge base about sex? Part of our feeling secure is often based upon how sexual or how much we may know about sex, even if we never divulge that it is that important to us. So, to that end, I want to propose something. Allow God to not only transform your mind and heart around your shame and sin but also around your perspectives and practice of sexual intimacy now and in the future. 

Whether you are currently married or single, I believe that a healthy understanding of sexual intimacy and sexuality is essential to our continued growth in recovery, both for ourselves and our marriages (including future marriages). We will cover topics such as sexual development, sexual intercourse, emotional connection in sexual intimacy, and oral sex. As I stated before I had so many misperceptions of these and other areas of sexual intimacy.

In order to grow and have healing sexually in our lives I believe our misperceptions must be challenged. Unfortunately, my misperceptions and hyper-stimulation through sexual acting out influenced my pushing the limits of sexual intimacy in my marriage bed. I attempted to bring into our sacred union the acts and over the top sexual practices that I saw in pornography. Those attempts only reinforced my misperceptions about sex. The pushing of the limits left my wife feeling unsafe within our marriage bed and left me empty and frustrated with her and myself. This eventually brought us to stagnation in the true oneness God had for us.

In Genesis 2:24-25, it states, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (NIV). One of the tenets of oneness is that the man and woman felt at ease with one another ‘safe. My misperceptions made it very difficult to be fully ‘naked’ with my wife thus making true oneness suffer. Becoming a man who understands sexual intimacy from a holy and healthy perspective will mean being transformed. Our sexual sin has caused us to conform to the world’s way of looking at sex. But God wants to cause a metamorphosis of your soul and your mind (Romans 12:2). A transformation of your thinking in every area of your being, even your sexuality. Just as giving ourselves to reading of scripture, daily prayer time and regular fellowship helps us transform our lives into a lifestyle that is pleasing to God, being an understudy of how the Lord has created sex within His parameters leads to a holy lifestyle in that area of our lives as well.

As we begin this journey of exploring healthy and Godly sexual intimacy in marriage, I invite you to open your hearts to the changes the Lord may begin to cause within your thinking and your heart. It is so encouraging to know that as we move along this path of recovery and healing, God replaces our sin with His love and strength. And it is also encouraging to know that He also replaces our old thinking and perspectives with His wisdom and understanding that far surpasses what we have ever known or thought about sex before. I look forward to the journey of discovering with you God’s design for holy and healthy sex in marriage.

See Holy and Healthy Sex in Marriage Part 2

For additional help, we encourage you and your wife to join one of our marriage groups our next New Life Weekend