Stop me if you’ve heard (or lived) this one. A wife comes to her husband to tell him about her rough day. Let’s assume she is a teacher who has a student that is giving her fits. She describes him as a young hellion who hisses at correction and his eyes roll back in his head when punishment is suggested.
The husband replies (I’ll let you project the tone), “The boy sounds possessed. You oughta strike him on the forehead with the palm of your hand and exclaim, ‘Demons out!’ I’m sure it’ll either cure him or get his attention. Either way, that would be a story worth listening to.”
Our wife gives some indication of being less than enthused about his response: a sigh, shaking her head, a response of, “be serious,” or, “I’ve should have known better than to talk to you.”
On a good day our husband blows her off with, “I was just joking. My goodness, I didn’t know listening came with a scoring system.” On a bad day he retorts, “Well, if you didn’t want to know what I thought, why’d you ask me? I get tired of being set up by your bad days.”
While the scenario is a bit comically infused (at least attempted), the tendency of men to offer solutions when talking with their wives is prevalent. It’s common enough to be a stereo-type. The strange thing is that even though it’s predictable it is still not corrected (some men just avoid conversation, but that’s not a solution).
Let me offer a solution. Husbands, let’s regularly ask our wives, “How can I pray you? What stresses or burdens are you facing?”
You might be thinking, “That’s nice and spiritual, but how would it help?” I’m glad you asked. When you ask someone how you can pray for them, it takes you out of fix-it-mode. You are gathering information that you want to be able to communicate effectively to Another.
If we, as husbands, are a conduit of our wives’ burdens to the Father, then it becomes more natural to ask follow up questions like, “What is most challenging or disheartening about that situation? What fears are you bracing against? What outcome are you hoping to see? Who else is affected by that situation?”
That’s the kind of thing guys say in romance novels. (Guys, pay attention. “Romance” is a word that has its benefits.) But I believe there is a good reason those things show up in romance novels (I’m purely guessing on that, unless you count The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis a “romance novel”).
This kind of interaction is an example of how Jesus relates to the church. Our Savior says, “Cast your burdens upon me, because I care for you (I Pet. 5:7)” and keeps our tears in a bottle while counting how many times we toss in bed (Ps. 56:8). Christ cares for his bride. Men, we need to “Jesus-Up!”
I believe there are other benefits. These kinds of questions will help us fulfill the command to pray without ceasing (I Thes. 5:17). It will also keep our wife on our mind more regularly. We will see her as someone to be known and cared for tenderly (I Pet 3:7). This God-centered, wife-awareness should serve to protect us from temptation and help us grow in being servant-leaders as “better listening skills” becomes a side benefit.