8 Things to Avoid When Your Husband Opens Up And Linkup

Listen MoreToday we’re continuing to focus on the answers that I gleaned from my “Men and Openness” survey, in an effort to address some of the hindrances that are present in attempts to communicate between a husband and wife, as well as to point out what encourages better communication. Today I want to focus on the first of those two directions—discerning “what to avoid.”

In my survey, the second question I asked was: “What encourages you to open up about your feelings with your spouse?” I allowed the men to choose all answers that applied.

Here’s a breakdown of their choices from highest to lowest …

52.46% – When I consistently get the sense that she is interested and is “for” me.
50.82% – When she truly listens instead of analyzing or diagnosing me.
47.54% – When she doesn’t pressure me to share or share more than I’m comfortable with.
39.34% – When she shares her feelings with me in a respectful and relaxed way.
31.15% – When she asks me questions that help me to identify how I feel.

So let’s unpack the top three of these answers.

Top Answer: “When I consistently get the sense that she is interested and is ‘for’ me.” With that in mind, I’d say that wives need to …

1. Avoid acting like your feelings matter more than your husbands.

2. Avoid trying to talk to more than listening to his feelings and concerns.

3. Avoid coming at him with a competitive attitudeproving him wrong or one-upping him.

2nd Highest: “When she truly listens instead of analyzing or diagnosing me.” So wives need to …

4. Avoid analyzing your husband’s answers or feelings.

Don’t push back about what “you think” his feelings truly are. That’s “mind-reading” and a boundary violation!

5. Avoid coming to the table with a closed-mind.

Pray for God to open your heart and eyes to what your “husband feels” is his problem—then believe him!

6. Avoid (again) talking more than listening.

I suppose it bears repeating! 😉 Remember the Irish Proverb …

[Tweet “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak!”]

That’s sound (pardon the pun) advice!

3rd Highest: “When she doesn’t pressure me to share or share more than I’m comfortable with.” So wives need to …

7. Avoid pushing your husband to have the talk.

That doesn’t mean you can’t request it. Just don’t make the issue into a “tug-of-war”—where you’re always on his case to sit down and talk. Keep in mind that if you’ve asked for this and you begin to (over time) pester him about it, then you are moving into boundary violation territory again. Let him step up to the plate instead of forcing him to come to it.*

8. Avoid pushing your husband to open up more than he’s willing at any given time.

It’s hard enough for men to open up about how they feel without women trying to control how much they share about how they feel. Ladies, …

[Tweet “Remember male-female communication is a “work-in-progress!” #bepatient”]

Bottom line, the more you give him grace in this process, the more he’ll come toward you and open up!

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” ~James 1:19 (NIV)

FYI – I’ll be unpacking what wives can “do” to improve communication efforts next week!

Which of these “actions to avoid” do you struggle to cut out of your communication efforts?

 

What would you add to my list of what to avoid?

 

*Anytime you have a spouse who is resistant to a reasonable request you’ve made over a long period of time (say 6 months to a year or longer), then consider enlisting the support of a counselor to process your feelings with and to find guidance on how to cope with your resistant spouse.

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  • One of the best conversations I’ve had with my hubby was when I asked with what about me bothers him…or something to that effect. It was SCARY to ask him that question. I had to prepared for his response. If I wasn’t going to listen to what he had to say, then I had better not ask it! He was also hesitant to answer – especially since I had been sad the last few days. But his response was so gentle – still hard to hear – but very gentle and loving. I did not feel attacked – maybe partly because I had prepared for some hugely horrible answer – or a long list of everything he thought was wrong with me. It was simply – “I would feel appreciated if you made sure you put your garbage in the trash instead of leaving it on the counter. It really bothers me.” I can do that!! I did not get defensive or make excuses. I didn’t retaliate by telling him what he could work on for me. It was just me telling him that I would really work on his request.

    • What a brave woman you are, Aimee! My husband and I have done that but not very often and not without a whole lot of trepidation! 😉 I’m also impressed by your ability to receive his thoughts without defending yourself and with enthusiasm to please him. What a sweet spirit you must have! Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    It may be implicit, but I’d add “do not have an agenda”.

    Something interesting – being terminally ill actually steers one away from being open and ‘vulnerable’. The situation is such that it’s more important to my wife for me to be predictable, and open-ness that diminishes predictability is not really welcome.

    It’s a bit isolating, but it’s understandable.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2015/12/your-dying-spouse-89-last-christmas.html

    • I hope it is implicit, Andrew. I think that’s so crucial–to not have a hidden agenda that pulls the conversation in the direction that the wife desires. In my opinion, if communication is to be effective, it must be other-centered. Selfishness needs to be kicked to the curb! 😉

      I’m sure that your situation brings a whole new set of challenges and angles that make vulnerability undesirable and perhaps even off-putting. I can understand Barbara’s need for sameness–especially as she probably fears the changes she sees physically in you. To introduce change would threaten her fragile existence with you. Your marriage and life are being held together by a tenuous thread–who I believe is found in the person of Christ.

      Thanks so much for always coming by and commenting, my friend. I know it is not easy for you, but it is a comfort to me as well to know that things are “the same.” When I don’t see or hear from you, I worry. But that’s not your concern, Andrew. Just do what you can with each day! We are all praying for you!

  • Marie S

    I appreciate the advice and boy do I need to be reminded regularly. I am guilty of thinking my feelings are more important than my husband’s and it’s difficult for me to genuinely give him the opportunity to express his. I am trying to do better and James 1: 19-20 is my mantra. Thank you Beth for reminding us that it’s important to be gracious.

    • Thanks so much for joining the conversation, Marie. I know coming here is out of your comfort zone, but I so appreciate your encouragement, dear friend!

      You and I both are guilty of doing this to our hubbies. It’s so EASY to do. We get caught up in the moment and forget that couple communication should be about giving and not receiving. Yes, James 1:19-20 should be our constant thought and focus! Here’s to our lovely accountability and friendship, girlfriend! Love ya!

  • Thanks for this Beth. I always wait until he is ready to open up! Sometimes asking about his feelings is not the problem but knowing the appropriate time is tricky. But I do the more silence more listening and less talking when he shares his feelings…
    God Bless Beth

    • What a patient and good wife you are, Ifeoma. I’m not sure that I always do, even though I know that’s the best approach and often tell others to do it here! 😉 Guess, I should practice what I preach, right?! And keeping our mouths shut when our husbands decide to open up is so very important to encouraging the deeper conversations. Thanks for joining the conversation, dear friend!

  • Nan

    I think those are great and don’t really need anything added. But since you ASKED (haha!) I suppose I would add that we don’t hijack the conversation and start telling him our problems when we’ve just asked him about his. But that goes with the “really listen” part that you already talked about.

    My hubby is not someone that has to talk about every little thing he’s feeling. So I accept at face value what he says. I don’t say “Are you SURE you’re o.k?” or “Really? Because you look like you’re feeling discouraged” or whatever when he says he’s fine. Sometimes he frowns or sighs for no real reason, and that doesn’t mean that he’s upset. It just means he frowned or sighed, lol!

    I posted something that is silly and so it may not fit with your criteria, so go ahead and delete it if you want!

    • Great insight, Nan! That’s so often what we do–make the conversation about us, instead of listening and giving to our husbands in those critical and intimacy-building moments. It’s so hard to do, but so worth it!

      And I’m glad you don’t question your husband’s frankness. I have done it on many occasions, so it’s something I’m trying to change and be aware of each time we sit to talk.

      Thanks for your encouragement, Nan! It’s always great to see your around the linkup!

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  • #2. Yep. That’s me. Analyzing, figuring him all out before he gets a chance to share…no wonder they are reluctant! Thanks for these great points. I have an overwhelming tendency to dominate the conversation…imagine that??? ♥

    • Oh yes, that’s a challenge for me as well–since I’m a counselor and life-coach, Nannette. I can do that all day long with my clients–although I usually try to refrain even there–but I cannot bring my counselor hat to the conversation table with my hubby. It does NOT go well when I do! 😉 And I cannot conceive of you dominating Doug! You two seem like a perfectly imperfect couple in my book!

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  • No. 8…. I always want him to “bear all his heart.”… That can be hard on him.
    Many thanks Beth, for this expose on our men. Knowing them better sure does help us relate better with them,
    Do have a super blessed day!
    Love

    • Yes, it can, Ugochi. We women tend to expect so much from our men because we are wired that way. It’s so hard to adjust our perspectives on this, but it is so needed. Thanks for you kind words and support here, my friend. It means a lot!

  • Such wisdom here, Beth. I think not putting our own feelings before our husband’s is so important. So many times I have found as I honored his feelings, my own were also met. In honoring him, he honored me. Have a great day!

    • Yes, that’s a great point, Joanne. When we give, very often we are given back equal or greater measure! Hmm, sounds like a biblical principle, doesn’t it?? ha! Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend. Always great to see your smiling face in the comments!

  • Deborah Will

    Thanks Beth for these reminders and truths. Sometimes it is hard to sit there and not butt in with my opinions, but I’m learning.

    • Oh yes, it is hard, Deborah. Especially when it’s something we don’t agree with, but it must be done that way or we miss the opportunity to encourage our husbands. And boy, do they need encouragement in this area of married life! Hugs to you.

  • Danielle DeVane Wells

    I’m new to your party – just found your blog last night so I added you to my link party list so I wouldn’t forget to link up each week! I love this post about men’s opening up based on how wives treat their husbands!

    • Great! I’m so glad you found me, Danielle! I hope you do continue to join us. I love adding new godly bloggers to the linkup. Thanks for your kind words, my friend! I’m really enjoying unpacking the results from the men’s perspective.

  • Mary Flaherty

    Hmmm, I always wonder which of these answers my husband chose (because I know he did the survey). Feels Newlywed Game-ish. I’d have to go with #2, and the thing I need to avoid most is…can you tell, since I’m analyzing the question? Yes, analyzing and diagnosing. As I read this, Beth, I realized that I don’t think I really ask my husband to share. I just share and complain that he doesn’t. Oy vey.

    • JosephPote

      Hah! I actually think that’s fairly common, Mary. We tend to fall into assumed roles based on learned expectations…inadvertently forcing the other person into the role we expected them to play, without having actually taken the time to listen and understand.

      I think this is one of the reasons most couples find marriage to be so much harder than dating…each brings their own expectations into the marriage…then views the other’s behavior through the lens of their own expectations…

      Good you can see it…now you can prayerfully improve. 🙂

    • He could have chosen more than one of the options, but it may be likely that he chose #2 above some of the others, Mary–especially since that’s what you tend to do in conversations with him. I’m guilty of it as well with my hubby. I love analyzing all areas of my life, so why should he be exempt from that unfortunate tendency? 😉 And yes, you bring up a good point. Many wives don’t ask their hubbies to share, even though they freely offer their opinions and feelings to their hubbies. I think most men want to be invited–not pushed or manipulated–but gently and respectfully encouraged to share. Thanks for being so authentic about your struggles, Mary! I love your humble heart!

  • Beth, thanks for sharing more of your thoughts on communication. I know I discouraged my husband for many years with the way I listened or failed to listen. It took me a long time to really “get it” and I still have a long way to go! I thank God and my husband for their grace!

    Thanks, too, for hosting each week. Blessings!

    • I wish that listening was taught more often in schools and churches, Donna. I know some churches teach on it, but it’s not taught often enough and the Bible says SO much about the need for it! And I believe that listening properly does not come naturally. It must be learned or in many cases relearned in a healthier way! Thanks for sharing so honestly, my friend. I always love it when people admit their challenges here in the comment conversations. It’s a sign to me of a healthier heart!

  • Mary

    Women are wired to feel and when faced with any situation it seems we lead with our feelings. When you talk about not acting like your feelings matter more than your husband’s, I can see how this could get women in trouble. I used to be very good at keeping my emotions under control but as I get older, I am learning that it is harder for me but it is also a release because I spent so many years stuffing them.

    You are wise friend! I appreciate you and how you are laying this out. Hope your Advent has begun well.

    • Great insight, Mary! I think you are spot on! Emotions do tend to derail women in these kinds of conversations. And since men typically operate more in the logical realm, they get “hog-tied” by our “spaghetti-like feelings!” I’m glad you’re learning to open up and share what you feel. I think your blog is bringing that healing to your heart. I can see it in your writing and it inspires and challenges the rest of us too!

  • Anastasia Safee

    So insightful! It is so interesting to hear what husband’s think. I am definitely looking forward to next week! Great series, seriously!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Ana! It’s been a lot of fun for me to unpack the survey results and draw some conclusions–conclusions that I’m learning from as well!

  • JosephPote

    Excellent insights! I think most of these go both ways…husbands should keep the same things in mind when listening to their wife.

    It really is hard to open up when the other person doesn’t seem to really want to know how I feel, or is rushing me to express emotions that I’m still processing and/or still searching for the right words to express.

    Patient listening goes a long ways in improving communication.

    Thank you, Beth!

    • Yes, you are right, Joe. These do go both ways, but I wanted it to be something directed to wives, since these mistakes seem to be more prevalent among them. I know this series has challenged me. It hasn’t really surprised me but it has been a helpful reinforcement that I need to work on constantly in my own marriage.

      And you are right about it discouraging deeper sharing–when we don’t communicate that we are truly interested in hearing the feelings of our spouse. It’s a challenging process but so worth the effort! Thanks for your kind words and continual support, my friend!

  • Lexie Robinson

    Those a really great tips, especially listening more than we speak. Thanks for sharing and hosting!

    • Thanks for encouraging me, Lexie! Can’t wait to read your blog when you get it going!

      • Lexie Robinson

        Thanks for your encouragement as well!

  • Great reminders! So often when we’ve been in marriage counseling, our counselor has to remind me to acknowledge and appreciate the moments when my husband opens up. And not, you know, railroad him with ALL MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS the second he stops talking. 🙂

    • Yes, that’s so important, Mary. We take it for granted that our husbands know when we are appreciative of their efforts, but it needs to be stated over and over! Aren’t you funny! Yes, I’m right there with you on those railroad tracks often running my husband down with my own feelings. This has been a good series for me as well! Thanks for coming by and joining the conversation, my friend!

  • Beth, this is a great series and good guides for us all. Thanks for sharing your insights with us.

    • Thanks, Debbie! Your kind words mean a lot to me, my friend!

  • Marriage is a complicated relationship. Most others, we can walk away when things don’t work. We don’t have so many real expectations in other relationships. I’ve been married 35 years and it’s taken all those years to create the loops of miscommunication and wrong expectations. So when I know #2 is my biggest hurdle to overcome, I also realize that it has created some of the problems my husband has in truthful communication. All my analysis has caused him much insecurity which only messes up current communication. Such a tangled web we weave! But as we trust and obey God, He can and will bless our marriages!

    • You bring up an interesting point, Terry. We do tend to create unhealthy communication patterns the longer we’ve been married. That’s why it’s so important to evaluate our patterns with a willingness to recognize our faults and weaknesses. I’m glad that you are willing to do that. That tells me you have a humble and proactive heart–something that is so needed for a healthy marriage. Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend!

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  • What an excellent post!! So much to take away and hide in my heart. It is too easy to slip into bad habits in marriage even after making so much progress and being married a long while. Marriage is something to treasure. I am trying to get back into all my routines and linkups are the last to fall into place since being away. Thanks so much for the linkup, Beth.

  • Just passed this along. Great info, Beth.

  • #3 and #4 are big challenges in this neck of the woods, Beth … love this post and this ‘Men and Openness’ series. I always glean much-needed insight and wisdom that hits home personally … and professionally, too. Thanks, my friend …

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