Mistakes I Made in My Marriage – Failing to Appreciate the Way She Communicated

In the next several posts I will share some painful and difficult words.    They deal with mistakes I made in my relationship with Paula and some ways I have wronged her.    They aren’t in a specific order, but random as I wrote them several years ago.

I had been asked to talk to a group of men on how to improve their marriage.  I grabbed a legal pad and a pen and began to write some things I wish I hadn’t done.

Obviously these will be directed to men, but I think women may benefit, too.   Ladies, as you read, please have mercy on your husband….and pray for him.

One regret I have in my marriage is that I tried to change my wife to think and communicate the way that I did.  Before Paula and I were married we couldn’t talk enough.   Often our calls would last for hours and even after our wedding I enjoyed these long talks.

I didn’t mind the many details she offered and didn’t care if the topic weren’t practical.   But that began to change several months after our wedding.

I didn’t understand or appreciate the way she would sometimes not get to the point quickly.   Especially when we were trying to work through a problem.  I saw her verbosity as wasting time.   (It’s hard for me to even write that last sentence).

I would interrupt her when I felt we weren’t making progress in our talks.   I wanted to quickly get to steps of action and fix the problem rather than just talk about it.    There was no intention on my part to hurt Paula; I thought I was doing the right thing to help solve the problem.

But it was very wrong for me to do that.   Even though I had good will (I thought) in helping us to move forward on the issue at hand, I was hurting our relationship.

After my continued “encouragements” for her to quickly get to the bottom line I noticed she began to accommodate me.   We had been married less then two years when this happened.   I still remember the time when the Spirit of God convicted me about it.  My heart was broken.

At the time I didn’t know how disrespectful this was to Paula.   I stupidly saw it as not getting bogged down in insignificant matters and saving time.   In reality, it was selfish and immature.    I was impatient and didn’t understand what genuine love was. 

Paula and I at Robert E. Lee's home in Arlington, Virginia overlooking D.C.

Paula and I at Robert E. Lee’s home in Arlington, Virginia overlooking D.C.

I was robbing my wife of one of the things that she wanted most from me – intimate and focused conversation.  Most men struggle with this and they try to get their wife to converse like them.   It was a good day when I finally discovered how different we were in our approach to solving problems and in even general conversing.   I was a slow learner, though. 

One day I walked into the kitchen and I could tell Paula was troubled about something.   I inquired about it and she told me about a problem she was having.   While she was talking I was thinking of ways we could take care of the issue.

Finally she finished and by that time I had come up with a strategy that was perfect to solve everything.   So I started to communicate my brilliant plan, but before I could develop the second point she put her hands on her hips and looked and said, “Rick, I just want you to hold me”.

So, I did.   I stood there and hugged her and quit talking.   (I do remember thinking, this is not solving anything, but I like it).

That was an important day for me.   I discovered that she doesn’t always want my answers, she just wants to know that I understand and care.   

God designed the sexes to be unique, not just physically but emotionally.   Women and men see things differently and communicate differently.

For example, men tend to think on a linear level and they also converse that way.    Dave Simmons likens it to a long rope with knots tied after some space between each knot   Each knot represents a new topic or at least something very similar to it.   Men will speak until the subject exhausts itself and then “tie a knot” and initiate a new line of conversation.

Women tend to think and converse on a more expansive level.    Again, Dave Simmons compares their approach to a spider web.  Each strand of the web is ultimately tied back to the core, but can also be at some distance from it.   One thought can quickly branch off to another and then another and so on.   From a woman’s mind the threads can be traced back to the anchor point of the web.   It makes perfect sense.

While other women can track perfectly what another lady is saying in this fashion, it may frustrate a man.   He is struggling to see how each piece relates to the whole.

One author, Bill Farrel, writes about this in his book, “Men are Like Waffles and Women are Like Spaghetti; Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences”.    He uses a simple word picture to show the unique paradigm and perspective of each.

Neither is wrong, it’s just different.   However, I was wrong when I tried to get Paula to think and communicate the way I did.   I wasn’t trying to understand her, but wanting her to understand me.   Now, one of the pieces of counsel I give in premarital counseling is to seek first to understand and then to be understood.    I learned this the hard way.

Most women (there are exceptions) are much more verbal than men, especially in the finer details.   I read that the average woman speaks between 25-30,000 words a day; men speak between 7-12,000 words each day.   Again, this is not wrong, but important to understand in a woman’s need to communicate verbally at a deeper and more personal level.

Most men want their wife to have the body of a woman and the mind of a man (in terms of the way she communicates).     That was my problem.   I was trying to change the way Paula thought and communicated.    I believe if I had continued to correct her at best we would have had a mediocre marriage and at worst may not be married today. 

This is a huge issue!   One of the most important Bible truths for men deals with understanding your wife.   Failing to do so has a severe consequence – your prayer life is hindered.

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”   (I Peter 3:7)

Sometimes a man will jokingly (or seriously) say about his wife, “No man can understand a woman”.    Well, there’s some truth in that statement, but God has commanded us to “dwell with (her) according to knowledge”.   It is my responsibility to learn about my wife as best I can, or experience the consequence – God will not hear my prayers.

The good news is that I have learned to do better in this matter.  I’m not perfect in it, but I don’t lecture near as much and listen a lot more.   The sad thing is that I hurt my wife in the early years, even though I didn’t mean to do so.   It was out of ignorance, but it still was wrong.

I’m so thankful for the patience of my wife in those times.    And I’m so thankful for the grace of God to help me grow and change.    He can help you to do the same.

About familyencouragement

Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Married for 41 years with seven children and nine grandchildren.
This entry was posted in advice, Change, close family, closeness, communication, conflict, conversation, Criticism, differences in men and women, disagreements, familiy issues, family, Husband, impatience, listening, Love, Marriage, Men, Patience, Wife, wisdom and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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