One of the funniest reactions in humans is the “double-take,” that exaggerated delayed reaction when we look in one direction, look away while our brains notice something that catches us off guard, then snap our eyes back in that direction out of surprise (good or bad). For me, it usually happens when I don’t immediately recognize the importance, the danger, or the significance in an otherwise unremarkable moment. But when my brain catches up, my ears and eyes start focusing fast!
The same can happen in our marriages. Sometimes, when our wives say something important to them, we think “I’ve heard that all before!” or “Here we go again!” and our brains go on autopilot. But we are at our healthiest when we actually catch our wives’ words and do a mental double-take, carefully considering what they said. Here are 9 times to listen to your wife—when what she says should stop you in your tracks and cause you to think before you act.
When She Says, “Are you doing that again?”
You might be tempted to ask, “Are you nagging me again?” But the better response is to take notice of an issue that is clearly growing into a sore spot. Sore spots that we leave unattended in a relationship can become deeper wounds.
When She Says, “I need you to…”
You might be tempted to misinterpret this as a demand, but it’s often a commentary on your availability and your attentiveness to what’s going on. The better response is to offer your help with something you may have failed to notice.
When She Says, “Where are you?”
You might be tempted to react defensively, but listen to your wife. She’s helping you realize when you’re physically present but mentally elsewhere. Or perhaps your location is truly unknown because she’s not in the loop. The better response is to give her your undivided attention or keep her posted about your schedule.
When She Says, “What’s going on with you lately?”
You might be tempted to clam up, especially if you’re feeling accused or you’re having trouble with a problem or some emotions that you’re sorting through. The better response is to be vulnerable, accept her invitation to share what’s brewing inside. She’ll most likely be more grateful than you can imagine.
When She Says, “Are you listening?”
You might be tempted to take this as a literal question and just repeat back to her what she’s said. It can also sound accusatory, and sometimes it is. But the better response is to see this question as being about whether you understand her, not just whether you’re listening to her. Help her know you want to “get her,” not just hear her. If you listen to your wife on this, you’ll become a better listener.
When She Says, “You’re missing this.”
You might be tempted to dismiss this as an overreaction, usually said when you seem distracted to her. Sometimes, for me, this happens when I’ve got some screen consuming my concentration. The better response is to stop what you’re doing and ask her to restate something she needs to share, offering full attention.
When She Says, “You’re not hearing me.”
You might be tempted to hear this as her take on how well your ears are working. It’s not. She’s measuring how well you’re picking up what she’s putting down. She may be sensing that you’re minimizing, dismissing, or denying her experiences. The better response is to ask clarifying questions and honor her feelings and experiences, even if you don’t always agree.
When She Says, “I feel like you don’t appreciate me.”
You might be tempted to consider this an emotional indictment in the heat of a moment. The better response is to set aside any assumptions of what you think she means and ask her some questions to learn what specifically is leading her to that conclusion (e.g. lack of affirmation, lack of gratitude, lack of time together).
When She Says, “I’m unhappy.”
As with so many of these comments, don’t accept the temptation to dismiss it. Is this a long-term or short-term unhappiness? Is this something you can help with or something you just need to understand better? The best response is to help her feel safe in sharing her heart, gently ask her questions to help you understand, and listen before speaking.
All of these double-take, head-turning comments are actually gifts. It may not feel like it in the moment, but when your wife is saying these things, she’s helping you to move beyond the status quo in your relationship and to build trust and intimacy. So listen to your wife. It may be uncomfortable at times, but the investment is worth it.
What makes it easy and what makes it hard for you to listen to your wife? Share in a comment.