Sunday, May 23, 2010

I Can't Believe You Said That!

From Nan to Women:                                    

    Prov. 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

            A while back I was sitting in my counseling room, stunned by a woman administering a scathing attack on her normal, reasonably good guy husband. It occurred to me to ask her, “If he said the exact same words to you, what would you do right now?"

            She responded that she would get up and leave him!

Wow! What a self-indictment.Yet she didn’t see it.
The truth is that women are more likely than men to speak encouraging words to their spouse. And, they are much more likely to tear them down with their words when they are displeased.

When I talked further to the gal who cursed her husband, she explained that since he didn’t seem to respond to her ‘normal’ requests, she intensified the attack, so that he would 'do something'. And, of course, the thing he did was to shut down more.

Dr. John Gottman, in his famous ‘Love Lab’ research, noticed an interesting thing when he studied husband and wives in conflict. Both were wired up to monitors to track heart rate, perspiration, breathing rate, etc. What he discovered was that in conflict women were most likely to be emotionally expressive – yet their vital signs remained reasonably stable. However the vital signs of their less expressive husbands were freaking out all over the place forcing them into a fight or flight posture. Rather than risk further escalation, many of these men decided to emotionally shut down instead.

So, what can I do if my partner doesn't respond to a question, or need that I have?  I can ask if this is a bad time to talk and ask for a ‘rain check’, or I can kindly repeat the request, and wait for a response. If I still don’t seem to be getting anywhere and feel myself getting angry, I can back off for a moment and self-soothe until I calm down.  If it’s a perpetual problem, we can seek help.

But, speaking for myself when I was a newlywed, I spoke a lot of hurtful words that accomplished nothing. I found that repair work is a lot more painful than good preparation by studying the wisdom contained in God’s word. 

“For man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:20   

1 comment:

  1. Lloyd Hamner, LMFTMay 28, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    Right on Nan! My wife, Debbie, has learned how to tell me things that I normally don't pay atention to by saying, "Can I tell you something you don't want to hear?" When she asks it is difficult to say no! Then I have a chance to prepare myself for what she wants to say. That approach lets me know that it is important to her and it gets my attention.