7 Steps for Encouraging Openness

Open Door of HeartI’m excited about today’s post because I get to focus on the positive communication techniques that wives (or husbands) can do to improve times of sharing and disclosure with their spouses.

I’d like to reference the top three responses to the second question on the Men and Openness Survey that I conducted recently.

I asked: “What encourages you to open up about your feelings with your spouse?” (I allowed the men to choose all answers that applied.)

  1. 52.46% – When I consistently get the sense that she is interested and is “for” me.
  2. 50.82% – When she truly listens instead of analyzing or diagnosing me.
  3. 47.54% – When she doesn’t pressure me to share or share more than I’m comfortable with.

In reference to response #1 …

So how does a wife communicate that she is interested and “for” her husband?

1. Say that to him at the outset!
This may sound simplistic, but I cannot tell you how many people don’t think to reassure their mates before they begin a complex and difficult conversation. You need to “say the words”… Say “I love you” and “I am for you!” Never take it for granted that your hubby will just know.

2. Show interest in your husband’s disclosures in between times.
If you have a habit of mindlessly nodding your head as your hubby talks to you—all the while you’re more interested in the TV or what your children are doing in the next room—then commit to a new and more intentional focus anytime he speaks.

That means stopping what you are doing, turning towards him and giving him good eye-contact. If you can’t do that in that moment, then ask for another time to talk—emphasizing how you want to really listen and absorb what he is saying. This will set the stage for the next time you or he wants to share something important.

3. Affirm your mate on a regular basis—in particular about what and when he shares with you.
If your husband doesn’t typically let you know how he feels about situations at work, but does on one occasion—then thank him for opening up about it. If he says something that is funny, interesting or wise, then point that out to him. Make it your mission to affirm him in the area of communication every single day. #graceattracts

4. Commit to a no-defense mode when you have a “heart-to-heart.”
In essence, you agree to listen to your husband without defending yourself or becoming angry—even if he is flat-out wrong! You can always discuss how “you” feel another time. For now, …

[Tweet “Make your only goal in communication to help your husband feel heard and validated.”]

5. Stretch your empathy muscles.
This deserves a whole post dedicated to unpacking this fine art! But for now, simply practice looking at things from your husband’s perspective. Put yourself in his shoes and view things from behind his eyes. Reflective listening aids in this tremendously!

In reference to response #2 …

How does a wife listen without an agenda?

6. Recognize that trying to control, analyze, or have an agenda doesn’t work.
You may think it does, but it really serves to squash your husband’s sense of being accepted by you, as well as any ownership he might gain through sharing freely. When you make it all about you and what you want, you exclude your husband’s feelings and wants. And I don’t think that’s what you really want either!

7. Commit to learning and understanding your husband’s feelings.

[Tweet “We need to listen to understand rather than talking to be understood. “]

If that’s your priority, then you’ll lower your husband’s inhibitions and draw him toward you.

In reference to response #3 …

How does a wife come with realistic expectations and boundaries to a “heart-to-heart”?

Woah! That’s a loaded step, so I’m going to unpack that more thoroughly next week. I want to do it justice!  

[Tweet “Christian bloggers, join us for the Wedded Wednesday Linkup! #messymarriage”]

Which of these positive steps is hardest for you in your marriage or other relationships, and why?

 

Which of them do you hope to focus on more in the days ahead?

 

If you’d like to read any of the posts in this series on Men and Openness, click here.


Joining with my friends at Giving Up on Perfect, Wifey Wednesday, A Little R & R Wednesdays, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Coffee and Conversation, Coffee for Your Heart, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday.

Join our Wedded Wednesday Linkup!
Add any links that are uplifting, helpful and encouraging to our spiritual lives, marriages and families! Be sure to add a link on your blog back to Wedded Wednesday or Messy Marriage as well. For more about Wedded Wednesday, click here.

Messy Marriage

  • Hi Beth, although it took a while, I finally opened your page!

    I was looking forward to this post last week and gal, you made my reading and expectation worth it!
    No kidding!
    One take home for me “Commit to understanding and listening to my hubby”. Yes it is a commitment and it definitely will encourage openness.

    Thanks for the tips, I do appreciate it, Beth.
    Blessings to you

    • I’m so glad you were persistent, Ifeoma. Hopefully next week won’t be a problem for folks.

      I’m so glad that this encouraged you, my friend. Your words encourage me. And yes! It’s so important to commit to understanding rather than being totally focused on being understood. Very often that’s how we approach it and it’s like getting the cart before the horse. Thanks for linking up and joining the conversation!

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  • Fantastic advice for solid communication in a loving marriage!

    • Thank you, Sarah. It’s nice to meet you and to have you join the conversation. I appreciate the encouragement, my friend!

  • Mary

    I love that these tips are ones that are important for any conversation. When I talk with my sons, I practice being fully present for the conversation. The other one I work on is making sure I am not pushing for more information than they are ready to share. This is hard as a mom because I know I want to know everything and feel it’s my right because I’m the mom.

    When you remind us that we need to affirm the other person, I agree wholeheartedly. Men need it as much as women and letting the other person know we are on their side, goes a long way. Thank you for these tips and for being proactive in building into relationships and marriages.

    • Yes, Mary, that’s what I hope people realize. These tips are good for anyone–not just for wives in a marriage relationship. Although they are especially challenging areas I think for many wives.

      I am like you that it is hard not to push for more than my hubby is ready to share. We all want to gain clarity but sometimes that comes across as intrusive or pushy. Thanks for letting me know that’s an area you’ve been challenged to work on. I love it when someone shares how a post is impacting them personally. Thanks for your encouragement and friendship. And I can’t wait to visit with you face-to-face in May! 🙂

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Didn’t think I was going to make it here for today’s post.

    Two thoughts – may have been covered before by you, Beth – first, showing interest has to have continuity. Both spouses have to be interested in what’s going on in their partner’s lives on a day-to-day basis. If your husband’s a writer, read what he writes; if your wife is a rabid football fan, learn the game and learn about the team or teams she likes. Avocations come from the heart, and represent basic longings and needs.

    Second, on diagnosing…when one’s spouse is dealing with a chronic or fatal illness, heart-to-heart talks are often motivated by getting at what’s happening. Being on the receiving end can feel a bit demeaning, making one feel like a patient, but this attitude is a bit unfair, because the situation is real enough, and it’s vital for a caregiving spouse to really understand the morale of his or her partner, and the needs that may come with the fell circumstance. That’s the only way that effective emotional, spiritual, and indeed physical support can be offered (a spouse who seems to ill to endure sex, for example, may find that, paradoxically, the need for both physical closeness and affirmation of ‘desirability’ can become far more important than they may have seemed – to both individuals – in the previous course and structure of the relationship).

    Hope this is coherent. I don’t have the energy to re-read and edit.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2015/12/your-dying-spouse-90-season-of-death-fmf.html

    • I would wholeheartedly agree with your observations. These changes we make in being safe and receptive to our husband’s have to be made into the fabric of our relating, otherwise they come across as controlling at best and manipulative at worst.

      I also agree that your situation requires some different approaches to these kinds of considerations in a relationship. I am glad that you are not pushing for more when more is not helpful at this time in your marriage. Thanks for joining in with your wisdom, Andrew. It’s always welcome and appreciated.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Another thought – from what I’ve read and observed, there’s a gender difference in outlook that should perhaps be considered.

    Men tend to accept things as OK, while women often see areas where there might be improvement…and men can take this (wrongly) as criticism. Without this understanding of this difference, it would seem that there’s more potential for hurt and conflict?

    I’m not a professional here, so I offer the above only as a question…Beth, do you find this to be the case in your experience?

    • I like this thought, Andrew. It’s what I’ve observed in the men I’ve worked with. Although I’d have to say it’s not really the case for my own hubby. He’s a “mover and shaker” and seems to have an opinion about how to improve our relationship a LOT! 😉 It took many years to adjust to his boldness in that way, but now I welcome it and value it immensely. But yes, it is more characteristic of men to have that kind of approach and I think women need to take that into consideration. Thanks for sharing!

  • That feeling of being “for” someone, and knowing someone is “for” you is SO important! I’m realizing that more and more. And especially when I DON’T get that feeling. ha. Thanks for making it clearer for us, Beth, on how we can give that gift to our spouses.

    • Yes, you are right, Lisa. And I love that you bring up how you notice it especially when someone is not giving that to you. It really matters and we feel it so deeply when we’re the one needing it. That’s why it’s equally important to give that to our mates. I do hope we can overcome this deficit in marriage relationships. Thanks so much for joining the conversation, sweet friend! Blessings to you!

  • Hi Beth! So good to visit again this week! My husband is not much of a talker. I always call him a man of few words. Whereas I like to process and dialog. It was very difficult at first and still poses its problems at times. However, I had to come to an acceptance of his 5 words for my 500. I would try to pull things out of him and want to talk more and more, when he had already worked through it, said his peace, and had moved on. Now I listen carefully to the 5 words and ask only the most important questions. When I do, it takes the pressure off of him and results in less conflict.
    Thanks, as always, for another great post!
    Blessings, my friend!
    Lori

    • Yes, you bring up a good point, Lori. Men are typically wired to be less verbal–using so much less words in any given day than we do, as women. And if our hubbies have jobs that require them to talk a lot during the day, they feel spent when they come home to us who still want to chat them up! 😉 I’m glad that you’ve recognized the need to have realistic expectations in conversations with your guy. I’m going to be touching on that next week as I deal with the expectations and boundaries women need to keep in mind in these times. Thanks so much for encouraging me and joining the conversation, my friend!

  • Beth … I like #1. Too often we think our spouses should just KNOW something about us intuitively, like they have a crystal ball or something. Maybe this is another instance where ‘speaking the truth in love’ can come into play. Last time I checked, nobody’s a mind reader!

    ;-}

    • I like that one a lot too, Linda, because I see it NOT being done so much–myself included at times! We forget to come to these conversations with affirmation and a sense of togetherness. No wonder our men walk away feeling discouraged! Thanks for your kind words to me, my friend. Always a joy to have you around!

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  • Mary Flaherty

    Oh, you had me at “agenda.” That’s all I remember. Another “Ouch! Hallelujah!” Stop it, Beth! Get out of my head! But seriously, that really spoke to me. I have an agenda for EVERYTHING! I think I even come to God with an agenda. He just shakes His head at me and then messes with my agenda because He has such a sense of humor. So, that’s what I need to work on.

    • “Ouch! Hallelujah!” I’m going to add that to my arsenal of inspiring sayings, Mary! Love it! And I’m really not in “your” head as much as I am in the heads of so many women that I work with. And yes, it’s a reflection of where I need to work too. It’s really frustrating to be inside my brain since I know the right things to do but don’t always do them! Ugh! No wait … “Ouch! Hallelujah!” 😉 Love ya, girlfriend!

  • Pam Ecrement

    Hi Beth! Visiting as your neighbor from Holley Garth! These are all really excellent! I enjoyed reading your post and can “Amen” it all and identify with having been a bit of a mess at the outset of our marriage as well. My husband and i will be married 51 years in about 10 days and both of us are now retired from being clinical counselors and marriage and family therapists.

    • Wow! 51 years, Pam? What a milestone and accomplishment! I feel pretty pumped that someone of your caliber liked this post, my friend! Thanks for joining the conversation, encouraging me and linking up! I hope you keep coming back around. 🙂

  • No. 2 caught me Beth. My husband wants me to stop whatever, turn around and face him as he talks to me… I am thinking, “go ahead and my ears are open…”
    He wants my complete attention, have been working on it though, this is like an encouragement…
    Many thanks Beth, have a super blessed day!
    Love

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  • “Commit to a new and more intentional focus anytime he speaks.” Beth, I know I’ve wounded my husband by continuing whatever I’m working on when he’s talking. I actually feel I listen better when my hands are busy. But he feels I’m not listening. I now ask if it will bother him if I fold clothes while we talk. He can even tell over the phone when I’m washing dishes. Funny how we can be wired so differently! Thanks for the reminder. I needed it, again!

  • Jessica

    Thank you Beth for such a helpful post! I struggle with all of them but #1 sticks out because I often think he doesn’t feel that I am “for” him in many situations. Your blog continues to bless, humble and help me so much!

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