We often hear and talk about men who don't listen to their women, but how often do we talk about men opening up to their women and those who struggle with it? This actually came up in a discussion between my husband (Eric) and myself the other night. He told me, “Babe, you really helped me open up more and you make me feel comfortable talking to you."
I thought for a second…really? I helped Eric open up more? Don't get me wrong, my husband loves to talk because of his background and what he does for a living, but in that moment I remembered there was a time when he didn't openly communicate about certain things as much as he does now.
Whether they'll admit or not, men want and need to express themselves, and believe it or not, they are vulnerable (not to be confused with weak), especially when it comes to their wife or their girlfriend. But what is a girl to do if her man doesn't open up as much? Here's what I have found has worked for us as well as some observations and my personal experiences. Although specifically related to men, much of it applies to women as well – both sides.
Lack of respect can easily lead to lack of communication. You want to get your man to open up more? Show him how much you respect him. Eric told me the other night that one of the reasons why it's easy for him to open up to me is because he knows I respect him. Not only do we show respect in what we say, but it's also about creating an atmosphere of adoration whether at home or in public. So, if that means I have to be quiet at times or wait to discuss an issue even though I want to go off at the moment, then I will do it. If that means going above and beyond to handle a certain situation or removing certain people from my life who don't respect me or my husband as they should (and that has happened), then so be it.
[Tweet " When it comes to respect there are three key components: adoration, appreciation and affection."]
When it comes to respect, I think of three key components: adoration, appreciation and affection. I understand how important it is to my man, so I make it my business to respect him as much as I can and even apologize when I slip up. Besides, the last thing I want is to have someone outside of our marriage giving him more respect than I do within our marriage.
Be open to different methods of communication.
There's a saying that perfectly describes communication: “It's not always what you say, but how you say it." I would go even further to say it's also the medium in which it's delivered (i.e., face to face, hand-written, text messages, greeting card, email, etc.). I remember the days when men and women wrote love letters or even apology letters to each other, and we talked more than we texted. I can also admit at times technology can ruin the intent of what's being said and can cause one to revert back to the “ol' skool" ways of communicating. Because Eric has moments when he can communicate more effectively in writing, he will do that instead. There have been plenty of days when I woke up with a love letter, poem or even an apology letter sitting next to my computer. Then, there are days when it's easier for him to communicate with me via text and I'm fine with that. It all just depends on the timing and what's being said. Either way, it's okay to change it up. I'm open to whatever makes him feel the most comfortable at the time. I encourage it and I welcome it.
Don't be judgmental.
When it comes to what Eric and I talk about, there's really nothing off limits. We already know so much about each other's past as well as our current struggles. Hence, we don't have room to judge each other because we know both of us have done some “not so great" things in our past. I have learned to accept my husband for who he is, and he definitely accepts me for who I am, which in turn makes him comfortable and more willing to share things with me. Besides divine intervention and the “opposites attract" idea, how else could a “type A" personality and a creative person fit so well together if we didn't accept each other – flaws and all? It's kind of like when we talk to our girlfriends and we start the conversation off with, “Okay don't judge me but…" and then we proceed to tell our stories. Although we may not agree, we can still listen intently and not force our opinions or judgment on them. The same is true when it comes to our men when they come and talk to us. I want to be my husband's number one fan, not his number one critic.
Be supportive and ask questions.
A quick and easy way to gauge how supportive and encouraging I am towards my man is to ask myself: “What are the first few words or sentences I say to him when he comes home after work," or “What do I say to him when I first see or talk to him after a long's day of work?" I can admit…there have been days when Eric has walked through the door, or even received a text on the way home, and was greeted with, “Why did you…" instead of “How are you?" Whether he's an entrepreneur, works a blue collar or white collar job, no one wants to come home to somebody who starts off the conversation with demands, complaints, let alone a dismal greeting. I'm much more mindful of this and now he can usually expect: “Hey, babe. How was your day?" It's a simple phrase that can tell you a lot and help him open up.
[Tweet "No one wants to come home to somebody who starts off the conversation with demands or complaints."]
I feel it's important for me as his wife to create an atmosphere of love and kindness; a place where he looks forward coming home to each and everyday. There's a wonderful verse in Proverbs 21:9 that says: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." With all that our men have to deal with or have to be cautious of on a regular basis, we can't afford to stir up disorder and confusion in our household (and same for him). That's not to say that we won't have arguments and disagreements because that definitely happens. That's life. However, my goal is to make it so that if and when he does run into issues and certain situations, he can run home to me knowing I'll be there to help and listen to him.
As a woman, I rarely find it difficult to express what I'm feeling whether it's through my words, facial expressions or even body language. Eric and I have been together for so long now that it only takes but a minute or so for him to determine what I'm feeling at the moment even if I try my best to deny it. With him, however, that's not always the case. Together, as a couple, we learned a long time ago that while I like to express my feelings at the very moment, Eric on the other hand is the type of person who will sometimes hold things in and let it fester until he reaches a point where it all blows up. So we have had situations where he'll bring up something totally out of the blue and I'll ask, “Well, why didn't you say anything then?" I have to remind him that holding things in isn't healthy for anyone – whether male or female.
Other times, I may think something is bothering Eric or I think something is wrong and a lot of times it's the complete opposite. One thing he's taught me, and I know this to be true for a lot of other guys, is that sometimes he actually is thinking about absolutely nothing. He ventures off to this place I like to call his “upper room," not to be confused with the movie Life and the upper room they refer to as Heaven. Instead, it's where he goes to escape mentally to calm his mind, think about sports, news or his fantasy sports…or even just to ignore me (LOL). Real talk. He doesn't go anywhere physically, but mentally he takes a few moments off to go and relax in the upper room. So, I have learned to let him go there when he needs to and let him have his moment but also listen more and talk less when necessary. I have to be patient knowing that his ability to express his emotions will not always come easy, but they will come with time. Being patient may mean continuing to listen to him despite how long he wants to drag out an argument, or can also be as simple as waiting for the game to go off before starting a deep and involved discussion; realizing that he probably won't be fully engaged anyway while the game is on. This isn't always the case but it definitely helps in our household.
All in all, being patient is understanding their nature as men but still being committed to encourage them to still open up more.