Several years ago, marriage therapist John Gray wrote a book titled, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. He tried to explain the difficulties and challenges of marriage by pointing out that men and women come from different planets. Women are from the planet Venus which is named after the goddess of love, and men are from Mars which is named after the god of war. According to Gray, if you understand this basic difference, you have a fighting chance of making your marriage work.
My problem with Gray’s thesis is this: he assumes men and women are from the same universe. Mars and Venus, after all, are in the same galaxy and in the same universe. Physics on Mars works the same way as it does on Venus. This hasn’t been my experience at all. What works in Jeannie’s world doesn’t work in my world at all. We’re not only on different planets, we’re not even in the same universe!
Jeannie is very different than me. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love all of her differences! I will say, however, it took me a long time to understand just HOW different she is from me. She looks at the world differently than I do. She uses words differently than I do. She uses silences differently than I do. I finally understood Jeannie has her own language and if I was going to be a good husband, I had to learn to speak her language. I had to learn to speak “Jeannie-ese.”
Most couples will tell you the number one problem in their marriage is communication. A wife will say her husband never talks to her. When I confront the husband about being non-verbal, he’s usually shocked. He’ll tell me he talks to his wife all of the time. She just doesn’t hear him.
That’s because we talk different languages. Let me give you an example.
Guys don’t talk “eye to eye.” For us, any conversation that begins “eye to eye” is combat. Guys talk to each other while they’re doing something else. They’ll talk while they work out, play golf, repair the car engine or watch a game together. A typical guy conversation goes something like this:
Guy 1: “These are great seats. How did you manage them?”
Guy 2: “They belong to my boss and I picked them up for this weekend.”
Guy 1: “Should be a great game. How are you?”
Guy 2: “I hope we’re wearing the blue jerseys. I’m good. I’m a little worried about my son.”
Guy 1: “No, I hate the blue jerseys. What’s going on with your son?”
Guys don’t want the intensity of face to face conversations. They talk to each other while they’re doing something else. So, wives if you want to talk to your husband and if your husband to talk to you, do something with him. Play tennis, hike, learn to play golf, take up woodworking or whatever his hobby is. Remember, guys talk sideways.
Husbands, if you love your wife, you’ll learn to speak her language. Sure, she needs to learn your language, but understand that anytime she wants to say something deeply important, they always go to their heart language. So, if you really want to know what matters to her, you’ll need to speak her language – her heart language.
Every language has subtle changes in emphasis and accents, gestures that change the context of the words and words that mean different things when they’re used in different ways. Wives are no different. Their language is subtle and complex and it takes years to master.
What wives want most from their husbands is their husband’s attention – his full attention. She wants to know her husband is listening to her at every level—spiritual, emotional and physical. Every conversation has multiple levels and multiple meanings. Effective listening requires a lot of energy and a lot of focus. Guys, you can’t listen to your wives and watch ESPN or read the paper. She’s important enough to receive your full attention. Nothing hurts our wives more than realizing we weren’t listening or didn’t pay attention when they were sharing something important.
As crazy as our lives are, moments that allow for deep and meaningful conversation don’t just happen. We have to be intentional about making them happen. Yes, I know. We all live for those spontaneous moments of romance and intimacy, but the complicated our lives become (children, careers, etc.) the more intentional we have to be.
That means we have to plan dates or at least evenings at home where we turn off all of the media in our house and create the moment to listen and be heard. Where you can talk and not be hurried. Ask questions and wait patiently for the answer. That’s right, guys. I said, “wait patiently” for the answer. Sometimes, answers are deep and take a little while to float to the surface. Sometimes, it takes a few minutes for honest feelings to find honest words. Truth can’t be hurried.
The unexpected blessing of all of this effort in communication is it improves every area of your marriage – intimacy, finances, parenting, even chores. It all gets better because trust has deepened. Confidence in the relationship increases because she knows where he is and he knows where she is. Husband and wife understand each other.
And it all happens because each spouse too the time to learn the other’s language. Wives, learn his language. Husbands, learn her language. Every marriage is multi-lingual.