Today I’m continuing in the series that was born out of the results from my Men and Openness survey by unpacking a bit more what a wife (or any spouse for that matter) needs to keep in mind in a heart-to-heart.
Since healthy expectations are what precede healthy boundaries, I’ll start there.
1. Expect him to be uncomfortable and guarded.
Generally speaking, any time men and women sit down to talk about feelings, men will probably feel greater anxiety and apprehension than women. I think that’s because women tend to be more emotionally-attuned and verbally-adept than men for various reasons. This isn’t always the case, but even when it’s not, I think there’s a perception among most men that they are at a disadvantage and this is uncomfortable for them.
2. Expect it to be a work-in-progress.
Each time you sit to talk about vulnerable matters in marriage, you are laying a brick down in the foundation of your intimacy. It takes many conversations (bricks) to build a foundation that you can stand on. FYI – I’m talking years of talks. Don’t get discouraged by the amount of work ahead of you, be motivated by the investment you are making all along the way. 😉
3. Expect it to feel awkward for you as well—especially if you use “reflective listening” as a tool.
I highly encourage reflective listening in any difficult conversation, because it helps to keep the conversation going in the right direction and deescalates anger and misunderstandings. But it will feel like walking around in a newly formed cast on a broken leg. It will take lots of repetition before the benefits of this begin to add enough ease to this style of conversing. But it is so worth it! (Snag a Reflective Listening Guide) 🙂
1. Deal with one topic/emotion at a time.
This goes back to #2 above. If you try to address or absorb too much in one sitting, you will overwhelm each other. You’ll want to avoid future conversations if you bite off more than you two can chew at one time.
2. Listen and absorb more than you talk and express.
This is especially true if you are the designated “listener.” This is a much bigger job than many realize. You are receiving very vulnerable emotions from your mate. Which means …
3. Don’t pressure your mate for more than they offer.
Asking for clarification is one thing, but pushing your husband for more than he offers is stepping over a line and a boundary violation.
4. Ask open-ended questions.
That simply means asking a question that has more than a “yes” or “no” to it. Invite your husband to share more with these kinds of questions, but never pressure for more. It’s a fine line, but if your spouse reacts with irritation or withdrawal, you know you’ve probably gone too far. So back off!
5. Play by the same rules.
When it is your turn to listen, be sure to follow the reflective listening protocol. When it’s your turn to disclose, then model vulnerability and openness—both during the conversation and between times. Be the model for openness and active listening that you want your mate to be. And …
Your job is to be the best communicator you can be! Never let what you want grow into what your spouse must do! Given time, I think making this your approach will coax a hesitant hubby out of his shell. If not, consider seeking the help of a good counselor or life-coach.
What realistic expectations would you add to my list?
What healthy boundaries would you add and/or have been especially helpful for you?
If you’d like to read any of the posts in this series on Men and Openness, click here.
Btw, I will be taking a two week blogging break for the Christmas holidays so next Wednesday I will not have the Wedded Wednesday linkup. I hope you all have a very Blessed Christmas!
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 Wedded Wednesday guidelines and buttons, click here.