One of the various subjects this blog is devoted to is analyzing and addressing the differences in communication styles and methods between men and women. No easy task, given both the difficulty of the subject matter as well as social conditions. However, it is a critical one as failures to understand how men and women communicate are a major cause of family troubles in the present age- especially among Christians.
For a recent example of a failure to communicate, see this post and its follow-up by Sunshine Mary. They stem from a post by Dalrock, Unhinged. All three posts showcase a serious ignorance of how how men and women communicate. I encourage my readers to look at all three posts, as this post won’t make sense without that- especially Sunshine’s most recent post. In my post I want to focus in particular on that second one, “Is the problem a lack of listening or a lack of submitting?”
The Good Pastor that Sunshine discusses is a man concerned about his wife’s well-being. Perfect? Of course not. No man is. Yet it is clear that he tried to, in his mind, find out what was wrong. To discover what was bothering his wife. Unfortunately, his ignorance of his wife’s nature got in the way of his honorable efforts. Instead of making things better, his efforts to find out what was troubling his wife only made matters worse.
No doubt Pastor Wangerin believed that he was listening to his wife, or at least, willing to listen. Sadly, he wasn’t. Oh, he was listening to what words she said. But he utterly failed to listen to the real message that she was trying to convey. A message conveyed without words. This is a common error that men make- we pay attention to the verbal message and miss all of the other cues that women are sending our way. In many instances, especially when the matter is important, and emotions are involved, the verbal message is less important than non-verbal communication. Sometimes it doesn’t matter at all.
Wangerin’s wife was sending a barrage of messages his way, but he kept on missing them. His wife, of course, couldn’t help but notice that he missed them. To her they were plain as day. If he was listening to her then he would, of course, understand what she was trying to tell him. So she interpreted this (mostly at an unconscious level) to mean he wasn’t listening!
Remember, women expect men to Just. Get. It. A real man would just understand what is going on. He wouldn’t need it explained to him. Pastor Wangerin’s continued inquiries only served to remind his wife, again and again, that he didn’t get it. This conveyed to her, at an unconscious level, that he wasn’t a real man. That is the message he conveyed to his wife.
His wife later told him that she felt that he wasn’t prioritizing her enough, among other things. Said other way, she didn’t feel like he was present enough in her life. Fascinatingly enough, this was probably a true charge on her part. She likely did miss his masculine presence in her life. Unfortunately, his inability to understand his wife meant that he acted in such a way as to heighten this absence in her life.
If there is a lesson to be learned here (and I think there is more than one), it is that husbands need to listen to all that their wife says. That means what she says verbally, and what she says non-verbally. Pay more attention to your wife’s behavior and mannerisms so you can pick up those subtle cues. Is this a lot of work? Sure is. But it is part of the duty of headship.
Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.
(1 Peter 3:7)
At the same time, wives need to understand that men do not communicate as they do. They need to keep this in mind, and to alter their own communication style so they can sync up with their husbands. Don’t simply assume that they will “get you.” This means less non-verbal communication, and more straightforward explanation to one’s husband of what is wrong. Both of you will benefit from clear communication between you.
My soul takes pleasure in three things,
and they are beautiful in the sight of the Lord and of men;
agreement between brothers, friendship between neighbors,
and a wife and a husband who live in harmony.