When women are upset, we talk — a lot. We often rehash issues numerous times as we attempt to make sense of them. When wives vent or bring up grievances, many husbands shift into “fix it” mode.
This usually makes the woman feel unheard and pushed aside. But we rarely ignore the issue or simply let it go; instead, we attempt to come at it from a different angle, again and again until we feel heard.
Though women may not always express themselves effectively, wise husbands can help bridge the communication gap by recognizing the following signs that their wife desperately needs them to listen.
1. She’s Grown Uninterested in Sex
Jenna wasn’t withholding sex as a way to punish or ignore her husband. But whenever they became physically intimate, she found herself fighting tears. Each act was a painful reminder of how far apart they’d grown emotionally and how deeply her heart ached to be loved and heard.
So she began to stay up late so she could avoid sex altogether.
To her husband, this felt like continual rejection; so he began to pull away from her, widening the wedge between them.
Men and women are incredibly different sexually. Men receive love through the act, while women become aroused through love; therefore, when one spouse’s needs aren’t met, a destructive cycle of isolation occurs. By taking the time to listen and respond to their wives, men can begin to reverse this trend.
2. She’s Mentioned Counseling
Women often detect marital issues long before men, but may feel as if their concerns have gone unheard. If this is the case, years of hurt may have accumulated by the time a woman mentions the need for counseling. This can make relational healing and intimacy more difficult. In Christ, however, it’s never too late for restoration. The sooner the husband responds positively, the better. By actively listening to her concerns, he communicates his love for her and how much he values their relationship.
3. She’s Easily Irritated
Though a myriad of things can cause a woman’s frustration, if your wife appears more critical than normal, this could be a sign of a wounded or neglected heart.
Listening to your wife, whether she’s sharing deep concerns or the highlights of her day, is one of the best ways to communicate love. I can become more critical of my husband when I feel disconnected. My heart softens considerably after we spend some quality time together.
4. Her Conversation Has Turned into Nagging
Proverbs 27:15 describes the teeth-grinding irritation that comes from listening to repeated complaints: “An endless dripping on a rainy day and a nagging wife are alike.” If you’ve ever had a faucet that won’t quite turn off, you understand. The more it drips, the more you cringe or begin to ignore it, closing the bathroom door; or in the case of your wife’s complaints, turning up the television.
But what if there’s a better solution, one that leads to increased intimacy rather than emotional distance?
When his roof leaks, the smart man fixes it. When a faucet won’t turn off, the wise homeowner calls the plumber. And when one’s wife begins to nag, as ineffective as that behavior is, the husband bent on intimacy stops to listen.
5. She Yells More Often
When my husband and I were first married and I would discuss a relational problem, he’d withdraw or claim I was overly sensitive. This made me feel unheard and alone. A strong desire to rectify, reunite, and restore is often tied up in a woman’s nurturing heart. In other words, we might feel reluctant to simply drop a matter; instead, when there’s an issue and our concerns are ignored, we can grow louder and more incessant. As ineffectual as this behavior is, a wife starting to yell might indicate that she feels this is the only way she’ll truly be heard.
6. She’s Begun to Withdraw Emotionally
Women are emotional beings. Love us well, and we’ll unveil our hearts to reveal our deepest needs, hurts, and fears. Withdraw from us, and we may begin to do the same. Usually, this isn’t a manipulation tactic; rather, it’s a defense mechanism that occurs when one begins to feel rejected and unvalued. The best way to avoid and reverse this behavior is to demonstrate the kind of love and attentiveness that says, “I care. I hear you. And though I may not understand, I want to.”
7. She’s Spending More Time with Friends
We all have emotional and relational needs, but these can be vastly different for men and women. Men often need to feel respected, while women need to feel cherished (which involves feeling heard).
God designed the marriage relationship to be one of incredible intimacy—the closest human relationship possible. But sadly, this isn’t always the case. When one’s core emotional needs aren’t met through their spouse, wives may turn to their friends. Although all women need close female relationships, if your wife seems to be spending increasingly large amounts of time with others, this could indicate that she feels unheard, unvalued, and unloved.
8. She Complains about Your Television Watching
While dating, your wife seemed so relaxed. She didn’t care if you and your friends watched ESPN for hours. She encouraged you to spend time with the boys, but now she complains about those very things. Has marriage turned her into the “ball and chain” your friends warned you about, or could something else be going on?
Your wife’s complaints might come from an empty well. If she feels unheard, she can turn “clingy” or “controlling” in an effort to get her emotional needs met. But when she feels heard, which often translates into feeling loved, she’s often much more relaxed regarding her man’s television watching and occasional night out with the guys.
9. Her Negativity Has Snowballed
Does a simple argument soon turn into a war where she brings up your every failure? This could have one of two potential causes: her behavior could indicate an emotionally immature and unforgiving heart, or one that feels neglected and unheard.
Though snowballing complaints are never effective, a wise husband can help his wife communicate more effectively by learning to listen. He should not listen only for the voiced complaints, but for the emotions that likely lay beneath them. Once he’s demonstrated a desire to listen, his wife will be much more receptive to any necessary redirections, such as “We’ve already dealt with that issue. Let’s focus on the problem at hand.”
10. She Questions Your Love for Her
Watch a newly-in-love couple, and you’ll notice a few things. They gaze into one another’s eyes often and without distraction. They discuss everything from minor preferences to long-held dreams. And they listen intently, enthralled not merely with the conversation, but the opportunity for intimacy each sentence provides.
Listening shows love. Is it any wonder, then, that a woman perceives distractions during conversations that hinder communication as an indication that maybe her spouse doesn’t love her anymore, or at least as deeply as he once did? The best way to reverse this is to turn off the television, set your phone aside, look her in the eyes, and listen.