Episode 1. The Lesson of Attentiveness
Men have you ever noticed how your wife wants to describe her day in minute detail? And women have you ever noticed how men talk in dot points and executive summaries? Let’s see how that one profound difference can be a blessing and not a curse. The other night my beautiful wife Jacqui was out […]
Men have you ever noticed how your wife wants to describe her day in minute detail? And women have you ever noticed how men talk in dot points and executive summaries? Let’s see how that one profound difference can be a blessing and not a curse.
The other night my beautiful wife Jacqui was out with some girlfriends of hers from Church, some time for the girls to have fellowship over a good meal of Indian food. It’s not something they do that often but it’s an important thing for them to get together. And so when my daughter Melissa who’s twenty-one came home from work, she works as a beauty therapist. It was around 8 o’clock in the evening and mum wasn’t there to talk to in detail about her day, but I was.
Now usually I get the executive summary of Mel’s day, real high points and low points and then Jacqui will sit with her and share the blow by blow description of this client and that situation, and we ran out of this product, and we had to improvise over there. That made me feel like this, and I was so happy when this happened, and I was really disappointed when that happened.
It’s about a daily forty-five minute debrief routinely. Now I was listening to her prattling away and it just emphasised for me again how different men and women are. It’s so important for women to be able to pour out everything when they get home. It’s like taking out the garbage or the trash if you will. By spilling it all out there, by talking about it and talking it through, it somehow gets the stress out of their system.
One of the things I love doing when I get home from work is getting changed out of my work clothes into something comfortable that I wear around the house. It’s just not a comfort issue; it represents a transition for me. Taking off work clothes, putting on home clothes is a little ritual that helps me switch off from work and onto home. Well that’s how it is for women I’ve come to realise only their process is spending forty-five minutes or an hour spilling out the detail of their day with someone. With their dad, with their mother, with a husband, someone and when they share a problem the last thing they want us men to do is to fix it for them.
See, we love fixing things we guys. If it’s broken then obviously the best thing to do is to fix it and we’re full of advice but that’s the last thing she wants. She doesn’t want her man imposing his masculine interpretation on the whole thing and breaking her process of unwinding, she wants, wait for this, she just wants his focused attention.
She wants him to listen, to look her in the eyes, to travel through the detail with her and when she asks him, “so honey what did you think about that?” Let’s say it was some disagreement she had with someone at the office, she doesn’t want a solution, she wants engaged empathy, she wants understanding, she wants to know how her man feels about this and that’s the bit we guys so often just don’t get.
We’re talking this week again about how to have a fantastic marriage, the wisdom, the insight we need to really have the marriage we were meant to have. And if you’ve been able to join me over these past few weeks you’ll know that we’ve been looking at some of the wisdom and insight that Dr David Clarke shares in his brilliant book ‘Kiss Me Like You Mean It’. About having a passionate, madly in love kind of marriage.
And getting this balance right between a woman’s natural need and desire to talk about the detail and to talk about how she feels about the detail versus a mans need and we’ll talk more about his need tomorrow, a mans need to talk about the big picture and keep things short is a really important thing if a man and a woman are going to have the sort of marriage they were always meant to have.
This is how, rather humorously, Dr Clarke describes this phenomenon in his book:
She wants you to know absolutely everything that happens to her every day. No event is too small to share and you’ll hear not only what happened, though she’ll cover that in incredible minute detail, you’ll also have to hear her feelings, her thoughts.
Feelings and thoughts of the other people who were there, the feelings and thoughts of people who weren’t there but to whom she has spoken and found out their feelings and thoughts, the past events in her life that this current event triggered and what the event means about her, you and your relationship.
But that’s not all she also wants your feedback and she’s going to ask you for it repeatedly. She’ll pepper you with all kinds of questions. She wants to know your thoughts, responses, reactions and feelings. It’s like living with a private investigator who’s always probing you for information.
She wants to know how her experience of this event impacts you, resonates with you and in your relationship with her and all you can say is, ‘well I wasn’t even there, I don’t know, who cares?
It’s true isn’t it? Any man who’s married will recognise this scenario: she is heavily into the detail, he is not. Well to all the men who are listening out there here is my bit of advice to you today. If you want to have a deeply intimate passionate relationship with your wife then you’re going to have to make some time to focus intently, exclusively on her each and every day and listen and engage emotionally.
Did you get that? Engage emotionally with her. Because when you do you are telling her that you love her on her own terms. Now speaking as a man it’s not something that I always find that easy to do. Actually I’ve had to learn and to discipline myself and I’m still learning. I have to stop playing with my iPad or my phone, turn the television off, get rid of all the distractions and focus just on Jacqui my wife.
See she loves the detail, she needs to process the detail in order to let go of her day. That’s what most women need to do and when we do start listening, as husbands should, here’s what we discover. Okay the detail takes some getting used to but when we tell her what we feel about this or that instead of grunting occasionally or imposing a male solution on someone who’s not looking for a solution, all of a sudden husband and wife feel much, much more emotionally connected.
If we men could learn to honour our wives in just this one way, just this, nothing else, so many more marriages on planet earth today would become instantly much more exciting and intimate. So to all the men out there take a tip from me give it a try, make it a daily habit and watch your marriage blossom. And not only does she want you to hear about her day in detail, she wants you to tell her how and why you love her over and over again in detail.
Guys we need to learn about emotional detail and this isn’t just something the psychologists and marriage counsellors will tell us, it’s something that the Bible shows us in practice in that beautiful old Book about passionate love, the Song of Songs in the Old Testament.
Have a listen to how Solomon talks about his woman; listen to the detail, the Song of Songs chapter 4 beginning at verse 1:
How beautiful you are my love, how very beautiful. Your eyes are doves behind your veil, your hair is like a flock of goats moving down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing all of which bear twins and not one of them is bereaved.
Your lips are like a crimson thread and your mouth is so lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil. Your neck is like the tower of David, built in courses and on it hang a thousand bucklers, all of them shields of warriors.
And so he goes on. When we husbands engage emotionally with our wives, first and foremost as listeners but also as lovers and speakers, it brings our wives alive. I guarantee you if you’re a typical male who’s prone to just grunt and not engage I absolutely guarantee you that if you begin to listen, engage and enjoy the detail of your wife’s emotional world your marriage will just rocket on from strength to strength and get this, it’s all in the Bible, the Song of Songs, read it, you’ll be glad you did.