I had another impromptu interview with my husband this week. I’m so thankful he is usually game for answering my questions! I learn so much from him every time we talk! My husband may not be speaking for all men as he answers these questions. But I think it is possible that other men may look at things the way my husband does – and this may be something to prayerfully consider for us as women. Here, I am talking about a Christian couple in a committed relationship, presumably leading to marriage – although – a lot of these principles apply in our relationships with all of our Christian brothers. I am assuming you would only be with a godly man who loves Jesus more than anything else in life and has the fruit of God’s Spirit in his life (Galatians 5:22-23) and I assume you love Jesus more than anything else in life and you have the fruit of God’s Spirit in your life, too.
**** (If you have SERIOUS issues in your relationship – your man has uncontrolled mental health problems, major addictions, major unrepentant sin, physical abuse, infidelity, etc… this post may not apply to your man. Please seek godly, wise counsel ASAP!)
I was talking with my husband about a situation that – I would guess – probably happens in almost every relationship at some point:
The woman feels disconnected emotionally. She feels like she is not a priority. She feels like work, the TV, hobbies or friends are bigger priorities for her man than she is. She is feeling unloved. So she begins to say things like:
- Why don’t you ever sit with me?
- I want us to sit together/cuddle. We never spend time together.
- I’m not a priority to you.
- If you really loved me, you would make time for me.
- I want to be with you, but you never want to be with me. You wouldn’t care if we never spent time together.
- You need to sit with me right now!
- You need to take me out.
- We haven’t been on a date in so long. Do you not love me anymore?
- Oh, no! Where do you think YOU’RE going????? You can’t go out with your friends. You’re spending time with ME!
- Why can’t you turn off the TV and talk to me????!?!!
- You obviously love the TV more than you love me.
- I have felt disconnected from you for weeks! We need to talk!
- You care more about football/hunting/sports than you do about me. You need to spend some time with me right now!
- You don’t love me at all. Why don’t you ever just talk with me?
The woman just thinks she is “sharing her heart” and saying what she needs.
She thinks she is being totally reasonable – because any woman would feel the same way she does in her situation. She fully expects him to drop whatever he is doing RIGHT THEN and come lavish attention and affection on her. In all likelihood, she probably believes that her man has the same emotional need to verbally connect that she does. If we assume our men think just like we do – we can get ourselves into HUGE trouble because it is VERY EASY to assume that our men have evil motives toward us based on their behavior and our assumptions that their motives must be the same as our motives would be if we were behaving the way they are behaving. I hope you were able to follow me on that last sentence!
EXAMPLE – If I didn’t send an email back to my husband after he sent me a long, loving, mushy email. It would be because I didn’t love him (or didn’t get the email). But if I send my husband a long, loving email – and he doesn’t send me one – it might just be that he doesn’t feel like he is very good with words and that long, emotional emails are not really his thing. Or, he may be intimidated to try to send me a long, loving email because I have been critical of his attempts in the past and he felt like a failure and like he could never “be good enough” for me. For a post about the email issue, click here.
ASSUMING THE WORST OR THE BEST?
Unfortunately, our assuming the worst about our men does not promote a healthy relationship. It brings out the worst in our men – and in ourselves – when we make these kinds of assumptions.
We end up sabotaging ourselves and preventing ourselves from getting the very emotional intimacy we really long for!
If we can take the time to realize that our men and men in general often have VERY different ways of thinking, feeling and processing life than we do – that their masculine perspectives are often totally different from our feminine perspectives – we can offer grace, understanding and empathy – assuming the BEST about our men instead of the worst. This is the kind of environment healthy relationships need in order to flourish.
Another issue is that in each of the examples above – the woman was approaching her man disrespectfully. She was either
- giving him a directive (telling/ordering him what to do)
- making a demand
- unfairly assuming that her husband is being unloving.
This is NOT the way to motivate a man to do what we want! Men do not like to be told what to do or to be labeled “the bad guy” without cause.
I would suggest something like:
- “Honey, I’m feeling lonely today. Would you please hold me/ listen to me/visit with me sometime when you have time? Thanks!”
- “I miss you!”
- “I can’t wait to spend some time with you!”
I would say this with a smile and a pleasant tone of voice. And then – be gracious no matter how he responds. This is a respectful way to share our feelings and needs WITHOUT pressuring our men making them the bad guy or making demands. If he feels pressured, he will not feel like he has the freedom to delight you. He may feel like he has to wait a day or several days.
HERE ARE SOME OF MY HUSBAND’S THOUGHTS
“If a woman demands attention/affection/discussion immediately, her man is in a terrible predicament.
- If he immediately does what she says she wants, he and she both know that his actions are not genuine. He feels he has no choice but NOT to do what she demanded right then.
- If he does not do what she says she wants, she will think he is a total jerk and that he is being extremely unloving. He knows this. He doesn’t like it. But he MUST know that he is acting because he wants to, not because she is ordering him to do something.
And – really – it is better for US if our men do these things because they want to – not because we forced them into doing something. If they do what we want right away – after we demanded something of them – we will question their love and motives and we won’t be satisfied anyway. No one wins when we make demands!
He has to wait a certain amount of time so that he can act in his time, not her time.
It may be that later that week, if his lady asked respectfully and doesn’t blast him with criticism/contempt/disrespect – he will try to make some extra special time to talk with her and show her affection. But it will only be when it is HIS idea and he knows that she knows that it is not because she is forcing or coercing him – but that he wants to give her his attention on his own.”
A FEW OF MY HUSBAND’S THOUGHTS ABOUT “EMOTIONAL CONNECTION”
Greg says that – from his perspective – when I feel emotionally disconnected from him, it is MY emotional disconnection, not his. He says that a husband “is feeling very connected to his wife until she says she feels disconnected, then he feels like she is saying he has failed her.”
Most men are not motivated by feeling like failures.
I know that women don’t intend to communicate, “I feel disconnected from you, so you are a failure in my eyes.” But, maybe that could be what our men HEAR? I don’t know if this is how every man feels. Maybe some feel this way?
Greg says, “When a woman wants emotional connection, if he thought things were fine, it is a slap in the face to him. If he was gone on a trip or very busy with work, then he can understand her feeling disconnected. If he is unaware of her disconnection, it is like she has a hole in her bucket, he can’t fill it fast enough. He feels he can never do enough to satisfy her.”
“Women need emotional connection, men don’t need nearly what a woman would need. Most men have very few emotional connections outside of their girlfriends/fiance’s/wives.”
“If the family has a very hectic schedule, a husband would be fine without talking all week, and would understand that this is what we have to do to get this done. It’s not that I don’t love her or am not connected. My love doesn’t change because of that.”
I asked Greg, “What makes a husband feel connected or not?”
He said, “Disrespect can make a husband feel disconnected and for some men – But
usually, a guy is going to be connected, and will not lose his connection unless she disconnects from him.”
MY THOUGHTS AFTER OUR DISCUSSION:
My feeling is that as a woman, many times our “neutral status” is feeling disconnected. We feel we have to do something actively to feel connected (talking, cuddling, affection, time together, praying together).
Greg said he believes that “A man’s ‘neutral status’ in a very committed relationship is feeling connected and they have to do something actively to feel disconnected.”
WHAT AN IMPORTANT CONCEPT!
When I learned that my husband thinks of his love for me as unchanging and constant, regardless of what he says to me or our time to talk in a given week, that was a HUGE burden lifted from my shoulders. Now, I am able to rest in his love and know that he feels connected to me, even if we don’t get to have the time together I would really like. That helps me feel very connected to him – even when we can’t talk as much as I would like. Of course, I am also resting in my Jesus’ love that is unending and never failing, knowing that nothing can separate me from His love.
Thankfully, women are able to learn to understand how different men can be and we can adapt quite a bit once we realize that this is how they are.
“For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn talks about this – that most Christian husbands see their love as unchanging and solid. Many of them have no idea why their wives constantly want reassurance of something that, to them, is steady and constant. One man said (this is my paraphrase), “my wife needing constant reassurance of my love seems as unnecessary as if she were to ask every day ‘Do we still own the house?’ Of course we still own the house! We bought it! And, of course I still love you, I’m with you, aren’t I?!”
Men do not always express love verbally. For a lot of men – words aren’t worth much. But that DOES NOT mean they don’t love us. They tend to show their love in action. And when they do these things, they do them out of love, not because someone tried to force them to do them.
A NEW APPROACH
I think if we approach our men as if they live in this mysterious (new to us) world of masculinity that we know nothing about and that we would like to explore his world with him – and ask questions with eyes of wonder and amazement and friendly, genuine curiosity – continuing to see the best in them – our men will be able to eventually open up to us more and more.
I would like to see us as women assume that if we don’t understand why our men are doing something, that they have good motives towards us. Here – I am talking about godly men who are living for Christ in a committed relationship with a woman. Unless they have definitely proven to be evil and untrustworthy, let’s assume the best about them, instead of the worst. Let’s assume they love us unless we see serious fact-based evidence (not just our own feelings and assumptions) to the contrary. And let’s assume that they don’t have evil motives towards us. Let’s assume maybe we don’t understand how they think and maybe their priorities are different from ours. But let’s not assume they are ill-willed towards us and that they are our enemies.
This is what God’s agape love does.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. I Corinthians 13:4-8a
I like to put myself in these verses. If you are not married – you don’t have to have agape love for your man. You can leave. But once you are married – this is the love God commands us to have for our husbands. And, really – this is the kind of love believers are to have for everyone!
- I am patient with my husband
- I am kind to him even if he is not kind to me
- I do not envy or get jealous of his time
- I do not boast about how spiritual I am and how I’m so much closer to God than he is
- I am not prideful, thinking I am always right and he is always wrong
- I am not rude to my husband even if I feel hurt
- I am not self-seeking, but I look out for my husband’s needs and best interests
- I am not easily angered when he doesn’t do what I want him to do or he is mean to me
- I keep no record of wrongs and never bring up “the list” of all the things he has done to hurt me since we have been together when we have a disagreement
- I do not delight when bad things happen to my husband
- I rejoice when my husband lives an honest life
- I always protect my husband from my friends, family and coworkers – I don’t bash him or drag out his faults or humiliate him in front of others
- I always trust that my husband has wisdom and that he is not my enemy and not out to get me, even when I don’t understand why he is doing what he is doing at the moment
- I always hope in my husband and in his love for me
- I always persevere in my agape love for my husband because of God’s power working in me no matter how dark and dismal things may appear
- My love never fails because it is God’s love and His Spirit empowering me
An Interview with My Husband (Understanding a passive husband’s mindset)