What Men Fear about Opening Up And Linkup

Sharing and Receiving

Today I want to continue to unpack the results of the “Men and Openness” survey by looking at question #5 …

What do you feel you need to overcome in order to be better able to identify and share your feelings? (I allowed the men to choose all that applied)

70.49% – My fear of rejection, intimacy or conflict.
39.34% – My inability to communicate my feelings effectively or clearly.
26.23% – My belief that it doesn’t actually help to talk about my feelings.
26.23% – Feeling intimidated in comparison to my wife’s superior ability to share clearly and openly.
18.03% – My lack of self-awareness
9.84% – Write-in responses, click here if you’d like to read them.

The results of this question were strikingly obvious to me. The biggest factor that most of the men felt/feel is the fear of rejection, intimacy or conflict—by a long shot!

In other words, the survey results indicated for men … 

[Tweet “It’s not fear of how to communicate but the repercussions of opening up! #menandopenness”]

That gives me the sense that …

[Tweet “We, as women and wives, have not been so great at our communication skills after all. #wakeupcall”]

I mean, we “talk a good game” but apparently we are not listening or receiving our husbands’ words with skill and compassion.

So today I will be talking about two things …

1. How husbands can deal with this fear in communication that is based in “reality.”

As well as …

2. How wives can learn to be better listeners and receivers of their husbands’ feelings.

How men can deal proactively with fear of rejection, intimacy and conflict …

  1. Prepare your heart with prayer – If you are a believer, this is an amazing way to allow God’s power and courage flow into your heart as you step into the “unknown.”
  2. Prepare your wife for the conversation – Don’t just drop an emotional bomb on her. Make sure to give her a heads up on the fact that you’d like to talk about an issue with her later. Then schedule it at a time that is free of distraction and stress.
  3. Begin and end with reaffirming your love – Every difficult conversation we bring to our mates needs to be wrapped in love and grace by reaffirming our love for our mates, as well as reminding them of that before we walk away from the conversation. Giving a hug at the end is also a great way to leave your spouse feeling secure in your love.
  4. Ask your wife to listen “reflectively” – It may seem like I bring Reflective Listening up a lot, but it’s precious gold in my view. It is truly a crucial process that will help you to feel listened to and heard, as well as potentially avoiding defensiveness and arguing. And isn’t that what you’ve been longing for, after all? 😉

How women can become better listeners and receivers …

  1. Understand the power of listening – If you use the Reflective Listening guide, you’ll begin to understand this power that comes directly through receiving. You’ll begin to see what it feels like to truly enter his world and understand his feelings—with no agenda or thoughts of your own to pollute the process.
  2. Expect difficult conversations to be … difficult, but enriching
    Anything of any worth in life almost always comes with pain and perseverance. That’s especially true when breaking down barriers in marriage with vulnerable disclosures.
  3. Determine to be humble – This is extremely important to this process. In order to truly receive, we must empty ourselves of our pride, our need to control, and our self-sufficiency. Humility is the perfect way to empty your heart of selfishness and will make room to receive the “sharpening” that is necessary for any good partnership (Prov. 27:17).

 

What are some suggestions you would add to the lists above?

 

If you’ve tried using the Reflective Listening Guide, how did it feel? Was it helpful?

 

[Tweet “Christian bloggers, I’d love to have you join us at Wedded Wednesday Linkup! #Messymarriage”]


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, Sitting Among Friends, DanceWithJesusFriday and Wholehearted Wednesday.

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  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    This is a great topic, Beth. You’ll help a lot of marriages with it.

    A couple of thoughts…first, men can hide depression pretty well, and the reluctance to open up might be a function of not feeling that it’s WORTH opening up…”why bother?”

    The other, especially important when depression is an issue, is to be careful not to use Scripture as a band-aid. A man who feels like a failure does not need to hear, “but you are fearfully and wonderfully made!”

    He is, but he doesn’t FEEL that way, and it can not only drive a wedge between husband and wife…it can drive a husband a bit further from God, because the Scripture can, at the time, seem irrelevant.

    I’m all for listening and talking with a full Christian heart, but some situations need a really thorough knowledge of the Bible to offer stories, not just tags (which is a not so subtle hint to couples…read it!).

    Beth, what do you think? I hope these have added something, and both come from my own experience…but do they fall within the bell-shaped curve easily enough to be generally useful?

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/02/your-dying-spouse-114-service-dog-blues.html

    • I think you bring up good points as always, Andrew. It makes me wonder what the research on depression bears out–if men are much more likely than women to suffer from it. I can see that there are reasons for men being much more prone to depression due to their desire to hold things in, to appear manly, feeling a responsibility to keep things calm as well as women tending to reject the things they might want to open up about. Makes sense to me.

      And yes, using Scripture in a way to instruct or exhort our mates, especially when our mate is opening up about something vulnerable and painful is the worst use of Scripture possible! I can totally understand just how offensive that would feel, even though the spouse sharing it might feel it is well-intentioned. It would not be something I would ever recommend here, Andrew. Though I suggested praying, I am not saying a spouse should suggest praying with a spouse who might feel it is a way to intimidate or pressure for more spirituality. I intended that suggestion to simply be for the believing man who prays on his own before approaching his wife–unless she would like to pray with him about it. Then I’m all for it. I know you weren’t addressing my statement on prayer specifically, but I wanted to clarify for anyone who might have misinterpreted that statement. Again, it’s always good to have you join the conversation, my friend! Praying for you!

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

        The research I’ve seen says that women tend to be more prone to depression, but I think that the results are skewed, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. When most men lose hold of ‘manliness’, for reasons ranging from serious illness to something as trivial as impotence, they can be kicked into a spiral from which recovery is difficult….and may not be fully possible.

        Lack of willingness to open up, even to a therapist, is a big factor, but I think there are some others…including, in some circles, a societal contempt for men. Most TV comedies, for instance, place men (and especially fathers) in the role of a buffoon, and the current political climate makes it perfectly acceptable to push for the election of female candidates simply because they ARE female.

        This is not an ‘angry Asian male’ rant; I personally don’t care about media images, and find the whole political thing a bore. I also don’t do ‘manly’, because it is to me a form of posturing and interferes with operational competence and readiness.

        My issue is a bit different, and perhaps a subcategory of ‘not asking for help’. I speak carefully (most of the time), and ask myself what kind of ulterior motive I may have for making a statement…i.e., is it a request for sympathy disguised as something else, or a cry for help?

        If it is – idiotically – I won’t say it. How counterproductive can you get?

        It’s good to weigh one’s words, and to make sure that one isn’t sneakily trying to manipulate one’s spouse, but I have taken it to an extreme that’s stupid. And it is a very hard habit to break.

  • bluecottonmemory

    I think sometimes that men don’t want to talk because “conflict” is a mine field they get beat up about. I see it on t.v. and in the movies all the time. Unless there are “ground rules” to not take offense – and use it as a weapon to beat them over the head with, then I don’t think men would want to open up.I can understand why it’s the biggest reason men wouldn’t want to communicate! As always, Beth! You’ve given us good information to help us enrich our marriages! Shalom, friend!
    ~Maryleigh

    • That’s a great point, Maryleigh. I think it’s always helpful for couples to think through and talk through those “ground rules” even committing them to paper and referring to them over and over again as needed. Thanks for joining the conversation, Maryleigh! Always great to see you in the linkups as well, my friend!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Beth,
    Wow…how telling! You’ve given me a lot to think about with my listening skills…I definitely need to check out the reflective listening guide!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • Yes, you should, Bev. My husband and I have used it with many difficult conversations and it truly is essential to building empathy like nothing else. I hope you find it as useful as we have, my friend! Thanks for coming by and encouraging me!

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  • These are very helpful information and tips Beth. For me, I know that I must make up my mind to listen through a difficult conversation and persevere in reflective listening rather than blanking out in anger or pain.
    It’s good to be here after a while, many thanks for sharing and hosting.
    Have a super blessed day!
    Love

    • Yes, it is a matter of “making up our minds,” Ugochi. Good point to make because it’s so easy to fall back into our own perspectives and listen only to our own thoughts instead of emptying ourselves with our mates. Thanks for your encouragement, my friend and so good to have you back in the linkup! I’ve missed ya!

  • These are such good points. Thanks so much for sharing them because I could always do better. Thanks so much for the linkup today. Your posts are always such a blessing. I love the way you offset segments with boxes and shades of color.

    • You’re welcome, Judith. I’m so glad you found them helpful! I appreciate your kind words and friendship. Means a lot to me!

  • Beth, great points. I smiled at, “Expect difficult conversations to be … difficult, but enriching –” So true. No pain, no gain. Blessing, my friend!

    • Yes, it’s kind of funny how often we think that those kinds of things should be easy. There’s no “easy button” for working through the entanglements of relationships and marriage, Debbie! Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend! Hugs to you!

  • Mary

    Great points as always! I agree that reflective listening is gold. I also know that centering a conversation by beginning with prayer or seeking God to lead the way is needed. I found the majority answer of fear of rejection, intimacy or conflict to be interesting. My experience with men would not hint at them choosing that as the main reason for not opening up to woman. This just proves there is so much to be learned about the relationships between men and women. Hope you are doing well! Have a blessed week!

    • Yes, I wonder if I would have gotten a majority answer on that one, Mary, if i had asked these men face-to-face. I’m sure the anonymity provided a safe place to disclose that harsh reality. Yes, indeed! Much to learn, not just in research but in the day-to-day of life with our husbands, fathers, brothers and sons. Thanks for coming by and encouraging me, Mary!

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  • Susan

    Beth, thank you for the linkup opportunity each week. Difficult is difficult but I find the best way through? IN… (said with a smile)…

    • You’re welcome, Susan. So glad to have you in the linkups too! I will pray that you and I and everyone here will persevere through in these difficult conversations. They are part of doing life in the way God intended–with His grace and insight to help us!

  • I love these weekly posts, Beth! Always a good reminder to me to keep open, humble, and aware of our communication health!!! Thank you, as always, for hosting this wonderful community link up!!
    Hugs,
    Lori

    • Thank you, Lori. 🙂 Yes, humility is really where God has been dealing with me lately. And when I humble myself I see the power that God has packed that posture with. Helps my communication every single time! Thanks for your encouragement, dear friend and hope that you are feeling better!

  • a humble heart. if God won’t despise it {Psalm 51:17}, I’m thinking that maybe that would be true for our spouses …

    maybe that’s been the missing link in our communication challenges …

    • Great point, Linda! You are so wise, my friend! Yes, if God won’t despise it, then certainly we should not either! Great thought to add to our discussion. You’re the best, girlfriend!

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  • Anastasia Safee

    My pastor has been doing a series on being more humble-that it is the first step at becoming more gracious and kind towards others. Been an eye opener for me for sure. We often pray that we can show grace to others and I think we first need to pray for more humility so that we can extend grace. I so agree that if we went into discussions with humility that the outcome would be better.

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