Want to Fix Your Wife’s Problem? Step 1: Listen. Step 2: Repeat.

Want to Fix Your Wife’s Problem? Step 1: Listen. Step 2: Repeat. January 28, 2014
It's not about the nail (Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg)
It’s not about the nail (Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg)

Dear Shaunti,

My girlfriend tells me all the time that “I don’t want you to fix it; I just want you to listen!” But that’s after I’ve been listening for 10 minutes! Seriously?


Dear Confused,

That’s what my husband thought too! Jeff thought “listening” meant to just let me talk about whatever was on my mind, sit there and not interrupt. And when I was done, then he would fix it.

Nope! That doesn’t make a woman feel “heard”.

Have you seen the amusing viral video,  “It’s Not About the Nail”? It is easy for a guy to think, The solution to her complaint is right there!  If she would just solve the problem (get the nail out of her head), she wouldn’t be upset!

As strange as it seems to you, though, what a woman wants her man to listen to isn’t really the problem itself: it’s her feelings about the problem! The vast majority of women on our surveys for For Men Only (our book about how women think), showed that a woman is first looking for someone to help her process all her feelings, and then to deal with the technical problem.  But it has to happen in that order.

So the next time your girlfriend is upset, ignore the problem for a minute, and dig out her feelings about it.  (“I’m sorry, honey, did you feel like your friend misunderstood you when you said that?”) And only after you see her jangling emotions relax a bit, should you even mention a solution.  (“Do you want to talk about what you might do now…?”)

I realize it may feel really odd and wimpy to just listen and acknowledge feelings—but trust me. You’ll have made her feel heard, which is exactly the solution she most needs from you.

Do you want Shaunti to share these life-changing truths at your church or event? Inquire about Shaunti speaking, here.

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.

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  • I believe the perspective shared in this article is completely missing the point of the video.

    You’ll note that the video was produced by a MAN, so it’s truly trying to convey HIS perspective, not to reinforce hers, which by the way is ludicrous. The problem which has lead to all the feelings she’s obliviously going on and on about is plainly obvious to the man and her talking about it resolves absolutely NOTHING.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, if she would shut up for 1 minute so he could actually FIX the problem for her, she would FEEL BETTER, and he would feel accomplished and triumphant enough to endure her inevitable post-incident feelings review.

    Men merely (barely) tolerate this behavior for one simple reason which is the prospect of continued sex. Many women who find themselves divorced either forgot about the typical economics of marriage or never even understood them in the first place… They talk in circles until he’s tired of listening to her mind-numbingly pointless rambling with no resolution in sight, usually as the first thing after he gets home from a long hard day of work to provide income, which causes her to get upset after he’s tuned her out or dozed off, which she retaliates to by disrespecting him and withholding sex, both of which are entirely self defeating because she needs him A LOT more than he needs her.

    My wife used to do that and it did push me away, from her and from God who I reasoned provided me a defective woman, which was somewhat true due to terrible abuses she suffered before we met that I didn’t know about until years into our marriage; of course, I wasn’t anywhere near perfect either. I was literally less than 24 hours from dropping the bombshell that I planned to divorce her after more than 10 years of marriage. But because I really did still love her, I resolved to give her a fantastic birthday and focused on her and on trying to fix our issues. That evening, while we were laying in bed after the busy birthday, I admitted to affairs over the prior 6 months and that I had been planning to divorce her because I thought the situation was beyond repair. However, after the day’s events, I had changed my mind because I did still love her and wanted to try to repair our lives, if she was willing. I repented before her and God, weeping and wailing at the excruciating guilt and shame, due to both what I had done and what I was planning to do. It was hard, for both of us, but she forgave me and I eventually forgave myself. The next 3 years of counseling, both together and separately, helped us heal the rifts that had formed based on misunderstandings of how and why we were the ways we had been and how to change and move forward, together. Seven years later and our relationship is better than ever!

    Some of the many things that did change for the better are: she now respects me enough to heed my advice and help her actually FIX problems, and we have amazing & frequent sexual intimacy, both of which then strengthen our bond and encourage me to sacrificially listen to her talk about her feelings.

  • Thank you for your reply Paul. It’s all a delicate balance. A lot of it comes with maturity also.