On Solving Problems in a Relationship: Wait Until Asked

On Solving Problems in a Relationship: Wait Until Asked August 11, 2019

When I called my Dad, he was honest: “That was silly. I thought you knew better than that.”

What had I done? When we got married, I had the strange delusion that the dialectic that worked so well in philosophy would be most helpful in all things relational. We would sketch out our problems on a chalkboard (this was thirty-three years ago) and discuss. Having considered all our options, a decision could be reached mutually beneficial to all!

What larks!

The first time that the Fairest Flower in All Christendom shared a problem, I thought: “Solutions! What are they? Together we shall reach them.”  Really my thoughts were not so well organized as that, but this is the essential bit. Note my folly and the wrongheadedness which was deepened by my pride that WE would solve the problem.

I knew better, enlightened me, than to think that I would be the “savior.”


Yet this went . . .badly, despite my enlightened response.


When the dearly Beloved shared with me a problem she did not wish me to be involved in a solution unless she asked for a solution. God help us, but sometimes people need a friend, a listener, and not a savior.

Jesus saves, the rest of us should mostly listen.

I had missed the communication lesson that pointed out that full grown Jane-Eyre-type-Christian women could ask for exactly what they wished. There need be no guessing. When she shares a problem, this is for sharing! No chalkboard, solution set, or saving is required.

Now of course at times both of us have faced the need for help. I suffer from depression and Hope, thankfully, is often there to help get me going. I need but ask for aid and she is there with comfort. Note, however, that Hope understands that a necessary (if not sufficient) basis of true love is consent. If I don’t ask, she waits.

The principle is basic: True love waits for consent.*

If Hope wishes for a solution, she will ask, until then I can listen, hug, and support her efforts. If things seem particularly grim, I can even ask (wild thought!) if she needs help. If she does not, I can be still.

This is intellectually obvious, hard to do if you love someone: spouse, family, friend, or colleague. The older I get the less confident I become in solutions and the more I believe in listening and love. Of course, this seems slow, impractical, and stodgy: how shall we make progress? We shall make progress when the beloved asks me to help her make progress. That is simple, easy to do, and if it does not lead to fast “growth” then it also is liberating in Christ.

So far so good, but not good enough. This year I am trying (so far failing) to treat business meetings as listening and learning and not problem solving. Sometimes it is my job to solve problems: eliminate debt in college education.  Mostly my role is to listen: my competent colleagues would ask for help if they needed it. What they do not need is one more story from my past and a solution that cuts off their creativity.


So it goes.


*Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

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