Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Tuning In to Your Husband’s Needs

Written by Kenneth Sanderfer
from HomeLife
source: LifeWay
David grabs a quick lunch. Although he's off the clock, his mind is still working. What if I don't finish that project on time? I know the boss is edgy.

I really need to talk to Suzanne, but I don't have time. It bugs her when I cut the conversation short or she senses I'm distracted.

The weatherman's predicting rain tonight. The kids' soccer game will be cancelled. I need to call Suzanne and see how that changes our evening.

I promised to help with the new outreach program at the church tomorrow night. How am I going to do that and get everything else done?

Work. Marriage. Family. Ministry. David fears he'll never get any of it right.

The Heart of the MatterIs it possible for you to understand what your husband is feeling and to support him as he fights to balance work, marriage, family, and ministry? The answer is yes, and it may not be as complicated as you think. Look no further than your own heart.

Sure, men and women are different, but after many years of counseling married couples, I believe husbands and wives are more alike than not. This is especially true when it comes to relational needs.

Scripture sheds light on this. Jesus never let culture, gender, or race get in the way of meeting the needs of those He encountered. He never allowed outside stuff to distract Him from the divine reality that, at the center of our being, we all are alike. Jesus always spoke directly to the common place, the heart. And He always spoke to the heart in love.

Jesus exemplifies a term used in counseling called empathic attunement. It's the act of leaving the comfort of one's existence with the purpose of entering the experience of another. Envision someone's hand turning a radio knob so it moves from its resting place through the static to another station. To be empathically attuned to your husband, you must momentarily leave the music of your choice to tune in to the music of his choice.

The sole purpose is to understand what life is like for him. It's not about what you would be experiencing if you were juggling work, marriage, family, and ministry. It's about what your husband is experiencing at work, in your marriage, in your family, and in ministry. When Suzanne turns to David and lets him know she's tuned in to the music of his day and validates his struggle, he will feel understood and authenticated. This is speaking directly to the heart of the matter.

Medicine for His SoulWords of validation and affirmation aren't really hard to come up with: "I was thinking today about how difficult it must be for you to balance all you do. I really appreciate the sacrifices you make for me and the children." This statement likely will reach your husband's heart. The clear message of understanding translates into "I care." Marriage is all about being emotionally available to each other.

Words of affirmation not only calm the static in his life, they connect you to each other. Are these words really all that different from what you, as a wife, would like to hear?

A Bond of StrengthLong-term studies about why marriages succeed or fail indicate what successful marriages share: a strong emotional bond. Emotional bonds develop in relationships that provide a safe haven — a place where a husband and a wife know they are a priority, where there is contact and connection, and where both partners can turn to each other in a vulnerable way. Sounds surprisingly similar to the relational model Jesus exemplified, doesn't it?

If it's true that, at the heart level, husbands and wives need the same things, then how do you cross through layers of outside differences that can impede the journey to your husband's heart? How do you meet his needs? Consider the following.

Acquire 20/20 vision. Many times spouses develop an eye for the negative. You can see negatives clearly from 20 feet away. The challenge is to acquire an eye for the positive. You might have to strain at first, but with practice, you may be surprised by how fast positive 20/20 vision can change your view of your husband — and, in turn, how he views you.

Improve your hearing. Acquire an ear for information that will lead directly to your husband's heart. Think about it. What are some subtle messages you receive from him on a routine basis? What requests has he made in the past but now has given up on?

Tuning in to your husband's spoken (and unspoken) needs — and then meeting them — is living your love out loud.

Amplify your voice. This may sound contradictory, but if you want to meet your husband's needs, it's imperative that you clearly and loudly express your needs — and shoot straight. There's nothing more satisfying than when both spouses actively meet each other's needs.

Are you tuned in to your husband's needs? If not, today is a great day to turn the knob and listen to the music of his heart.

Kenneth Sanderfer is a marriage and family therapist in Nashville, Tenn.



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