Posts in category Communication

Say again? Men talk as much as women?



The news couldn’t be more shocking if it had been declared that the sky was green. A recent article by the BBC pointed out that the myth that women talk more than men is just that … a myth.

In Prattle of the sexes: Do women talk more than men?, BBC writer Claudia Hammond challenged the assertion repeated by a number of media outlets in connection with another story. Last year, neuroscientists revealed that they had discovered hormonal differences in the language centers of four-year-olds, which could explain why girls pick up language more easily. Mainstream media outlets ran from there, tying it to a much-quoted statistic rooted in mystery.

husband-wife-talking
Men talk about as much as women

The BBC article also cites dozens of other studies that indicate no real difference between the number of words used by males and females. The most important and extensive was done a few years ago at the University of Texas. Researchers led by Psychiatry Department Chairman James Pennebaker learned that men and women use the same number of words during a given day. All these findings are vastly different from the widely-accepted rule of thumb that a woman uses 20,000 words daily compared to just 7,000 for her male counterpart?

So, aside from the obvious anecdotal evidence that women seem to spend more time interacting socially, how did this rumor start about women being three times more talkative than men? It seems the 20:7 figure is attributed to a dust jacket note from the 2006 book, The Female Brain by LouAnn Brizendine, a pioneering neuropsychiatrist who founded the University of California, San Francisco’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic. Since then, she’s backed off the numbers and agreed to remove them from subsequent printings.

Back to the University of Texas study. While there is little difference in the number of words men and women use, Pennebaker indicates that there seems to be a difference in the content of their speech.

He does point out that women tend to jaw more about other people, whereas men are apt to hold forth on more concrete objects — so the stereotypes of ladies as gossips and guys engaging in car talk can live on.

Just as Brizendine’s book prompted the University of Texas study, Pennebaker’s work has spurred new research to settle the score about men and women and conversation. Here are some questions I’d like to see answered.

  • Do men spend more of their communication oriented on tasks (like at work) than in social settings?
  • Is the word count higher among women-only conversations than men-only, and do women dominate mixed gender conversations?
  • Are verbal interactions between husband and wife divided equally?

Maybe you could even ask yourself a question: How is your communication with your wife, or if you’re single, with your girlfriend or fiancée? It’s likely that you have very different communication styles, and are likely to talk about completely different things when you’re apart. Generally speaking, men tend to focus attention on ideas and activity, and women on relationships (report-talk vs. rapport-talk). But when you’re together, can you find enough common ground to communicate well and on the same plane? Are your communications the kind that build each other up and build toward a greater connectedness?

Communication is such an important aspect of the marriage union. Good communication almost always goes hand-in-hand with a good relationship.

One really helpful article I’ve found is by our friends at Power to Change (formerly FamilyLife Canada). You Make No Sense lays out the importance of listening and clarifying, recognizing communication differences, recognizing clichés, and learning to go deeper as you dialogue.

Advice for stepdads … from stepdads



“Take my instruction instead of silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is better than jewels,
and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”
(Prov. 8:10-11 ESV)

God’s Word offers profound and timeless life wisdom — and it should be sought after throughout our lives. There is another wisdom to be desired (albeit not nearly as perfect): the life wisdom shared by godly people who have walked before us and learned important lessons, sometimes from their mistakes.

When I was writing my book The Smart StepdadI assembled a focus group of stepfathers and asked them to share their best advice for stepdads. From stepdads, young and old, new and veteran, here are a few of their gems.

  1. Know your place. A smart stepdad understands that there is an inherent bind to his task: how can you be dad when you’re not dad? Obviously, you can’t. Instead, strive to be a calming, godly presence in the home, an added parent-figure for the children.
  2. It’s not your responsibility to undo the past. For example, years of poor parenting from your wife or her ex-husband, the negative consequences of divorce, or the pain children experience when a father dies is not yours to resolve. Come alongside these situations and try to offer a positive influence over time, but don’t try to be the knight in shining armor. Just love them.
  3. Move in with tact. Don’t be a bull in a china closet; respect children’s loyalties. “I became a stepfather when my stepdaughter was eight,” said Anthony. “Her father was very involved in her life and a good Dad. There just wasn’t room for me in her heart; therefore, we had a very strained relationship.” Anthony’s stepdad journey was challenging; had he forced his way in to the family, it would have been worse.
  4. Round off your rough edges. If your personality is naturally angry, critical, aggressive, controlling, or stubborn, don’t expect your stepchildren to warm up to you — and don’t expect your wife to entrust her children to you. You must manage these negative traits or you’ll find it nearly impossible to become a leader in your family.
  5. Partner with your wife. A mom needs to believe that you are committed to and care about her, her children, and her past experiences before you will receive her trust. Therefore, do a lot of listening before injecting your opinion; demonstrate an authentic appreciation for all she has done to provide for her children before trying to make suggestions. When you do suggestions, especially early on, be sure to reveal your heart’s intentions first. Consider the contrast between harshly saying, “Your son is a lazy boy. When are you going to make him get up in the morning and get to school on time?” and saying, “I have come to really care about your son David. I’m hoping to offer some guidance to him and better prepare him for life. I’ve noticed he’s struggling to manage his time and responsibilities with school. Can we talk about how we might encourage more responsibility in him?”
  6. Be equitable in parenting. Wade observed, “I’ve always felt that my wife has supported my authority with her kids as long as it was fair and equal to what I’d use to punish my kids.” If you ever want to turn your wife into an angry mother bear protecting her cubs, just show favoritism to your kids and treat hers unfairly. Believe me, you’ll awaken the bear.”
  7. Unless proven otherwise, assume your stepchildren would pick their dad over you. A huge step toward gaining your stepchildren’s respect comes by respecting their relationship with their father (even if deceased) and not positioning yourself in competition to him. Tim, a dad of two and stepdad to two understands this well. “I have always tried to keep in mind what I want my child to hear from my ex or her new husband about me. I then apply the Golden Rule to my stepkid’s dad.”
  8. Trust God to lead. Probably the one universal negative experience of stepdads is the feeling of uncertainty. If you find yourself wondering what to do and how to go about it, you’re in good company. From a spiritual standpoint, uncertainty is an invitation to faith. God always uses our “I don’t know what to do’s” to invite us to trust Him more — and we should. Don’t anguish because you don’t know what to do. Ask God to show you. Don’t panic in your uncertainty and give up on your family. Seek a word from the Spirit. Don’t assume you are alone. Find comfort and direction in His Word and press on.

If you’re a stepfather, we invite you to share your advice for stepdads below.

If you’d like more encouragement and equipping as a stepfather, visit FamilyLife Blended.

We’re just talking



One of the unique opportunities I have had in attending seminary, after ten years of marriage, is discipling young men who are single or dating. One of the disadvantages, however, is not being current on the lingo.

This struck me in a recent conversation with a friend who told me he had gone out several times with a young lady and was uncertain about the status of the relationship. Curious, I asked him if he was planning on continuing to date this girl.

“You misunderstand,” he said, “we aren’t dating — we’re just talking.”

“Talking?” I replied, a little confused, “you mean like we’re talking right now.”

“No,” he explained, “we’re at the stage of a relationship just before dating. It’s called talking.”

Dumbfounded and feeling a little old and disconnected, I decided to investigate this new pre-dating phenomenon. “Talking,” I discovered, is a widely accepted stage in current guy/girl relationships wherein a young man and a young woman get to know each other without better defining the relationship. This isn’t even a real stage of the relationship; it’s a pre-stage. They’re not just friends; they’re not really dating or pursuing marriage; they’re “talking.”

After these conversations, I was left with the question: Do we really need another stage in relationships that are directed toward marriage?

Shirking Responsibility

Our culture suffers from a large number of males wallowing around in quasi-manhood for many years. Boys used to grow up, get a job, and move out of the house. But we have inserted this chain of life stages from adolescence, to the college years, to early career, and so on — all of which permit young men to put off growing up, taking responsibility, and generally acting like a man.

This new phase of pre-dating called “talking” is like adolescence for relationships: an unnecessary stage in the relationship allowing young men to avoid taking responsibility and acting like men. It prevents the man from having to be clear about his intentions to pursue or end the relationship. If he wants to stop “talking,” he simply walks away, leaving behind a confused, and potentially wounded, young lady.

John Piper[1] defines biblical masculinity as, “a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.” It is the responsibility of the man to take a leadership role in relationships, to be forthright, honest, and clear about his intentions. This “talking” phase normalizes relationship without responsibility; closeness without clarity; cultural manhood, not biblical manhood.

The young ladies I’ve spoken to share this frustration. They are left in a state of relational limbo, where they are unsure of the young man’s intentions and the purpose of the relationship. They are stuck going on non-dates with guys who are scared to date.

In their defense, guys tell me they are afraid to ask a lady out because she might immediately assume he wants to marry her. I understand the concern, but that does not change the need for character — it makes it all the more necessary.

Intentionality Is a Way to Serve Sisters in Christ

First, you should ask girls out that you see as potential wives. Second, when you don’t see her as a potential wife any longer, explain yourself and then stop asking her out. Third, throughout the relationship be clear, upfront, and honest about your intentions. If you just want to get to know her better, tell her so. If you see this relationship turning into something more serious, tell her that too. If you think she’s a great girl but don’t want to pursue the relationship further, tell her! That’s the kind of “talking” that should characterize the relationship.

If things don’t work out, and if you’ve acted like a true man, you’ve gotten to know a sister in Christ better and helped prepare her to meet her future husband. If things do work out, congratulations, you’re married. Those are the only two options for a man of God.

If you are a young man intimidated by the prospect of intentionally pursuing a young woman as a wife, seek the Lord in fervent prayer. Search your heart and your intentions to ensure they are grounded in the gospel and informed by Scripture. With your conscience clear before the Lord and your heart and mind shaped by His word, stand confident in the care of your heavenly Father (and hers) and speak boldly to your sister in Christ. Our God is a God of truth, and your sister in Christ deserves to know the truth from you.

If you are a young lady stuck with a guy who isn’t interested in pursuing you but expects your prolonged time and attention as he “talks” to you, ask yourself if this is the type of indecisive boy-man you want to follow for the rest of your life. It is impossible to follow someone who will not lead. Find a man who will treat you as a sister in the Lord deserves to be treated: with honesty, integrity, and clarity.

It’s time to kiss “talking” goodbye. Our brothers and sisters in Christ deserve better than this.

 

[1] Piper, John. What’s the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Books), 23.

JD Gunter is a student and staff member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming to seminary, he served in various church leadership positions in addition to spending fifteen years in the automotive and finance industries. He and his wife Tiffany have been married ten years, have two children, and are active members at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

The irresistible man (part 2)



(The first post on The irresistible man covered the first of a wife’s three major needs: security. This post will handle the other two: acceptance and emotional connection.)

Acceptance
irresistible man

Photo by Tina Vanderlaan

When it comes to acceptance, every man should take a page from the Song of Solomon and apply it to his marriage. You see, Solomon knew the importance of elevating his wife’s beauty, her appearance, her dignity, her worth, and her value as a woman. As you’ll see in a moment, he carefully chose his words to communicate how beautiful she was to him. Such praise and affirmation are essential for a woman to hear. Acceptance begins with an understanding of what your wife is feeling about herself.

Does she feel good about the way she looks? Her hair? Her clothes and shoes? Her weight? Her skin tone? Her body image? Her teeth? Her overall attractiveness? Chances are good that she compares herself to the airbrushed models of perfection she sees every day. From the covers of the magazines in the checkout line to the advertisements she watches on television, your wife is constantly made to feel inferior, unworthy, and unacceptable.

Solomon recognized his bride’s need for affirmation and didn’t hesitate to go beyond mere acceptance. He lavished praise on her. He said, “I liken you, my darling, to a mare harnessed to one of the chariots of Pharaoh” (Song of Solomon 1:9). Now, before you try that line on your wife, keep in mind the context. The picture was of Solomon’s finest mare, most likely an Arabian beauty, a dark creature of unquestioned magnificence. It was the finest horse that money could buy. This exotic creature would have turned heads—maybe even caused a stampede because of her exquisite beauty. In other words, Solomon used poetic language to tell his wife that she was magnificent.

But that’s not all.

Solomon quickly added, “Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels. We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver” (Song of Solomon 1:10–11). He not only accepted her and saw her as a woman of great beauty, but he lavished jewelry on her. When was the last time you sprang for a new bracelet? A necklace? A ring? Like Solomon, let your wife know you esteem her greatly by giving her something extraordinary.

When Barbara and I were first married, I realized early on that she needed to be cherished for her beauty. When we started to have children, her body began to change. She wondered if she was still physically attractive to me. I worked at praising her beauty at that stage in our marriage. And now that we’ve moved into the empty nest years, I can’t coast. I understand how important it is for me to continue to praise her. The truth is, I think she’s spectacular!

In the same way, your wife longs for unconditional acceptance. She secretly hopes you’ll notice and commend her various qualities — her receptivity and obedience to God, her personality, her faithfulness in raising children and making a home. Because you are the most important person in her life, your affirmation and acceptance unleash an inner beauty and a confidence that radiate.

Emotional connection

Marriage is a partnership that takes teamwork. Some men fail in their partnership because they don’t make an emotional connection with their wives. Heidi, who attended one of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember getaways, writes, “My husband does nothing to help me around the house. I am just plain tired. I do all the laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, everything after working all day … oh, we’ll stay married, but I just know we could be happier.”

Did you know that when you participate in family life by sharing in some of the daily duties, you connect with your wife on an emotional level? Men spell romance s-e-x, but women spell romance r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p. Working together around the house or in the yard (Barbara’s other domain) is a great way to communicate your love for your wife.

Another way to connect emotionally is to compliment your wife. Proverbs offers this pointer: “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (16:24 NKJV). How often do you praise your wife for what she does? Consider a few of these compliments to brighten her day:

  • “Dinner was great! Thank you for always making creative meals, even when you’re tired of cooking.”
  • “I love the way you read books to our kids. That’s so much better for them than watching TV.”
  • “I’m grateful that you carefully budget our paycheck each month.”
  • “I admire the way you handled yourself with that rude salesman — you have such a winsome approach.”
  • “The flowers you planted make our home so much more inviting. I appreciate your hard work.”

As you work to make an emotional connection with your words and actions, go below the surface to the real issues of life. How? Start to talk with her. For some, this involves a conscious choice. Share with her, for example, what goes on at work — what you’re doing well, where you’re struggling, the people you’re working with, the people you encounter. Most women love hearing all of the details. You’ll also discover that she can provide wise counsel on different issues you’re facing.

Finally ask your wife questions about what she is feeling, and then listen to her. One way I do this with Barbara is to ask questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no.” For example, I might ask her, “How did that exchange with our teenage son make you feel?” Making the effort to know specifics about her background, her favorite things, and her dreams all communicate to her, “I want to know you. I want to be your soul mate.”

A favorite question that I asked Barbara was, “What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in your life?” Try that question on a date night with your wife, and give her time to think about her answer. You might consider sharing how you would answer the question. Here are some more questions to help you make the connection:

  1. What is one of your earliest childhood memories?
  2. What is one thing from your past that you struggle with?
  3. What was one of your proudest achievements before we met?
  4. What was your relationship with your dad like? How about your mom?
  5. At what time did you place your faith in Christ as your Savior; what were the circumstances?
  6. What would you say was our best family vacation, and why?
  7. What is your favorite book in the Bible? Hymn? Why?
  8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you like to live?
  9. What dreams do you have for our children?
  10. What do you long to experience with me in our marriage?
  11. What do you want to accomplish after the kids are grown?

As you study your wife and learn how and when to build security, acceptance, and emotional connection into your relationship, you will become an irresistible man. And let me make one last practical suggestion: When you come home from work, here are four of the most romantic words to say to your wife: How can I help? You’ll never go wrong asking this question any time of the day or night. Those words are music to her ears because they demonstrate that you desire to connect to her world. Why not try it — and mean it — tonight?

 

You just finished reading the Stepping STEPSeek - 10-point checklistUp blog post, “The irresistible man” (part 1 & part 2) by Dennis Rainey

What aspect of relationship do you need to work on: security, acceptance, or emotional connection?

STEPembrace

Plan a date with your wife and ask her one or more of the questions listed immediately above. Listen like you mean it.

STEPpassIf these personal exercises are helpful, tell a friend what you did. Share this article with him so he can connect with his wife.

Adapted by permission. Rekindling the Romance by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, ©copyright 2004. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Copying or using this material without written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited and in direct violation of the copyright law.

Watch your words: they shape the kids



watch your wordsThe nation’s longest-running study on child mental health offers a nugget of wisdom for parents: watch your words, because your arguments will affect your children well into their adult years.

The Simmons Longitudinal Study has followed 300 one-time kindergartners from Quincy, Massachusetts, well into their adult years. The study, detailed in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found, among other things, that:

… 15-year-olds exposed to their parents’ verbal battles, or involved in family arguments, were more likely to be functioning poorly at age 30 than other people in the study who did not live in increasingly fight-filled homes.

The children exposed to family fighting were two to three times more likely to be unemployed, suffer from major depression, or abuse alcohol or other drugs by age 30. They also were more likely to struggle in personal relationships, but that was evident to a somewhat lesser degree.

Many child advocates may see this as a reason to champion immediate divorce rather than face a bad home environment. But a Boston Globe article that detailed the study, highlighted something entirely different: redirecting communication in a positive way.

“You almost have to give a prescription to parents who are fighting not to fight in front of their kids,” said Joseph Powers, a family therapist at McLean Hospital.

Arguments don’t have to descend into verbal abuse, experts say. The solution is to make the arguments constructive, or, failing that, to swiftly repair the damage of heated words. When ruptures do occur, saying sorry right away can heal the harm.

“There are stresses in the life of a family,” Powers said. “But families also have the capacity to repair that, to come to the person and say, ‘I just blew it, I’m very sorry, and can we do this another way?’ “

When people share so much life and space with each other as couples and families do, there will be opportunities to grow through disagreements. Children and teens are often “caught in the crossfire” as the article suggests. Depending on the child, they may withdraw or go on the offensive, or side with one parent or the other. Those arguments may grow into resentment and bitterness, which lead to isolation and deep wounds. This is a prime time for parents to model godly behavior in the way they deal with conflict.

For some ideas on how to deal with disagreements in your marriage and to give your children a healthy model for resolving conflict, check out these articles from FamilyLife.com:

The power of praise — good and bad



Much ado is made these days about the power of praise in the lives of children. With seven children of my own, I understand how much they need affirmation. But I often chafe at how indiscriminate some experts are about their encouragement to praise.

A few years ago, I ran across a book that challenged the popular notion about “the power of praise.” Nurture Shock is a book by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. The duo compiled many of their New York magazine articles through the years on the science of parenting. It’s broken into topical headings with provocative titles that strike at the heart of culturally vogue parenting myths.

Right out of the blocks the book attacks the Golden Calf of  parenting myths — that children should be praised for things like their intelligence, and as often as possible.  Bronson wrote in his original New York article:

“According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart.  In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.”

power of praiseThe problem is that studies suggest this type of praise is having the opposite effect. “Giving kids the label of ‘smart’ does not prevent them from underperforming.  It might actually be causing it.”

The praise fad owes it genesis to Nathaniel Branden’s 1969 book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem. Bronson and Merryman contrast it with the recent research of Carol Dweck which shows quite a different picture.

For more than a decade, Dweck has studied the power of praise on the academic and social well-being of older elementary school children. Consider what she found when she looked at research from other scholars:

  • Children who are praised for their intelligence are more likely to attempt easier tasks, seeking success over growth.
  • Children praised for their efforts are more likely to attempt harder tasks. They attribute their lack of success to their own actions, then redouble their efforts the next time. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” Dweck says. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success.  Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
  • A review of 200 studies done on self-esteem finds that the quality didn’t improve grades or career achievement. Nor did it lower alcoholism or violence.
  • Students who grow up with excessive verbal reward fail to develop perseverance and are prone to quit trying when rewards are withdrawn.
  • Among two control groups, students who were taught study skills alone didn’t perform as well as those who were given study skills and taught about how challenging the brain improves intelligence.

Bottom line: Don’t praise your children simply because you think they need to feel good about themselves and their gifts. Praise them for what they do well, for their efforts to tackle a problem. Bronson and Merryman point out that children are quite adept at sniffing out insincere praise. In fact, they may even dismiss adults who seem too quick to praise when it’s not really due.

There are those parents. And then there’s me.

I’ve always been on the other end of the spectrum. Because I know what insincere praise feels like, I often don’t praise out of concern that a child may feel that I’m pandering to his self-esteem. My seven children have learned that when Dad gives praise, it’s genuine.

Unfortunately, Dad doesn’t invoke the power of praise enough.

While the findings detailed in Nurture Shock do somewhat vindicate me in my low-praise approach, still I know that I need to strive for greater balance. The best place I know to find that balance is in the Scriptures.

I’m immediately reminded of the story of the three servants. Each is given an amount of their master’s money to look after while he is away. When he returns, he asks them to give an accounting. Each had solid explanations for their actions. The master praised the first two while harshly rebuking the third. The bottom line is that whether they received a lot or a little, the servants were judged on what they did with what they had. That is a good ground rule.

Praise — whether it’s for children or adults — shouldn’t look like junk mail, which comes to everyone indiscriminately. It should look more like a hand-written, hand-addressed note. Praise should be the result of a job well done, a situation well handled, or a challenge nobly met. At the same time, praise-stingy people like me need the admonition that the Apostle Paul gave to the believers in the church in the city of Philippi.

“…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Each of us needs to be diligent to look for praiseworthy qualities and behavior. And we need to be just as diligent to make sure that our praise is sincere, and sincerely warranted.

Bronson and Merryman conclude the first chapter of Nurture Shock with a personal story about learning to praise appropriately. The author, undertook a personal three-step program to recovery for praise addicts like himself.

  1. First not praising everything,
  2. Then looking for specific things to praise that would unleash the child’s initiative to achieve.
  3. Finally, learning to delay praise until the child wrestled through a problem himself and had earned the commendation.

Coming from the other end of the praise continuum, I guess I need to have my own three-step program for the praise stingy.

  1. First to consciously hold off on correction unless it’s absolutely needed.
  2. Then to look for very specific incidents where praise is due and offer it freely and sincerely.
  3. Finally, to make honest praise second nature.

Praise is impotent when used indiscriminately, but when sincerely applied has incredible power to unleash undeveloped potential. We would all do well to use it wisely.

How not to treat your spouse



 

How not to treat your spouse

Photo by Noella Choi

In his book Love and RespectEmmerson Eggerichs makes the scriptural argument that a woman’s deepest need is to be loved or made secure. And a man’s deepest need is to be valued or significant. Eggerichs also tells how not to treat your spouse. He calls it “the crazy cycle,” where a woman hears a comment from her husband that makes her feel unloved or threatened. And that makes her more likely to react in a way that communicates a lack of appreciation, which makes him feel disrespected.

Well, as Shakespeare put it, “A rose by any other name smells just as sweet…”

I ran across this article in Psychology Today by author Steven Stosny, “Marriage Problems: 50 Ways to Cause Fear and Shame.” Interesting how closely Stosny’s fear-shame dynamic parallels Eggerichs’ love-respect crazy cycle. To me, this is further proof that all truth is God’s truth. Hear it first from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, where he gives husbands and wives the right way to respond.

Nevertheless let each one of you in particular love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Here are a few of the no-nos in Stosny’s Psychology Today list of 50 ways to cause fear and shame. Each action on the list can undermine that deep need for security and respect and invite a downward spiral toward isolation and worse.

  • Ignore her.

  • Tell her to get over it.

  • Yell or get angry at her.

  • Flirt with other women.

  • Dismiss her ideas.

  • Exclude him from important decisions.

  • Imply his inadequacy.

  • Disrespect his work.

  • Make comparisons to other men.

  • Rob him of the opportunity to help.

Do you find yourself falling into any of these traps with your wife? The worst thing you can do is stay silent about them, because that builds resentment and leads to isolation. The key is communication and action. Ask yourself, “What can I do to reverse the crazy cycle to build her security?”

Better yet, ask your wife. Tell her that you recognize your communication together is not what it should be. Tell her that you want to know whenever you say something hurtful. Ask her what she needs to hear from you to feel loved and secure.

Or maybe there are some things your wife is doing that are causing damage to your relationship and to your need for value and respect. What could she do to help you feel more significant? Once again, the best thing you can do is talk about it. In a respectful and honoring way and at the appropriate time, mention how you feel when she says certain things. Tell her how much her words and her opinion are important to you and your desire to be the best that you can be.

How not to treat your spouse is to speak thoughtless words, return insult for insult, and let resentment and bitterness lead to isolation. Always remember that your mate is not your enemy. God has given you to each other to provide love and respect, significance and security. You were created to be His perfect gift to each other.

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