How Men Save Women

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Yesterday, I was headed home for lunch when I came upon an unexpected scene. I was the third or fourth person to arrive. A young woman had collapsed at the street corner. A man in running clothes was kneeling beside her, his right arm cradling her head from the concrete. His arm was covered with blood as was her face. He was speaking gently to her, though at first she looked unconscious. He seemed to be pleading with her to wake up, to come back.

I cannot erase the scene from my mind. It was not the blood. It was the tenderness of a stranger.

In my last post, I talked about how women save men. Now I want to talk about how men save women. It goes both ways you know. It has to.

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. (1 Corinthians 11:11–12.)

First, I want to talk about how my wife saves me every day. She doesn’t have to try. All she has to do is be who she is — wise and insightful, caring, thoughtful, compassionate, kind, and patient. Obedient. Nurturing and ministering. Loving. Committed. And funny. Hilarious, really. And beautiful.

We have been married for 35 years and it just keeps getting better and better.

When we see each other after work, we hold each other and kiss each other like we were newlyweds. Our constant displays of affection used to embarrass our children, but not so much now that they are older.

My wife needs me and I need her. Yes, if she suddenly died, I know I could survive and live on. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what that would be like. From a practical, earthly point of view, I could limp along. But I need her, like the day needs the sun. If I lost her, I don’t know if I could remarry.

When we met, I was 17 and she was 15. We were married four years later, after my mission. I knew if I hadn’t gone on a mission and served faithfully there, she never would have been interested in me. That’s certainly not why I went on a mission but it’s one reason I’m glad I did.

My wife is the reason I get up in the morning and try again. We never stop talking, talking, talking. We sit close in church meetings, often holding hands. There is nothing I’d rather do than spend time with her. She is my sunlight.

And this is how I save her. I love and cherish her more than anything in this world, and I prove it to her, imperfectly, every day. I do things for her. Not things that she can’t do but things that she doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t have to be everything and do everything, because we are partners. She can rely on me to be prayerful, honest, forgiving, and kind. I will make the phone calls she doesn’t want to make. She knows she can ask for a priesthood blessing any hour of the day. God’s priesthood is hers for the asking. I love to serve her. I love that she needs me and wants me.

These ideas may seem old fashioned to some readers. They certainly are old fashioned. But they lead to old-fashioned happiness—the kind that lasts. 

Yes, we have the best things life has to offer. We don’t have as much money as we once had or as much as we’d like. We are not sure how we are going to afford to serve a mission together quite yet. We are together, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. We complete each other. We’ll figure it out.

I think this is how the Lord meant things to be for couples. I know it doesn’t always work this way, but does that mean it shouldn’t work out this way? In spite of my failures and sins, I strive for the ideal, for what heaven looks like and what I know it will be.

Even though we have done well in love, it doesn’t mean that life and love aren’t fragile. I am aware everyday that foolish choices, by either of us, could lead to disaster. But what holds us together is the commandments. They kept us safe before we were married and gave us a sturdy foundation. They have never failed us and they never will. We may fail them, but they cannot fail us.

The other day, my wife signed us up for an art class, an evening class at the local high school. Together we will draw and paint and mold and explore. It will be yet another adventure. They never end.

Back to the tender scene at the street corner. An ambulance and a fire truck came. The girl awakened and, when I left, she seemed okay. But what about the man with the blood on his arm? What about him? Did he finish his run? Could he? I don’t know. But what I do know is that for a few minutes early one Monday afternoon, he tenderly held and protected a stranger. He did what came naturally to him.

I wish I could be more like him. I wish all men would be more like him.

Shortly before our last baby was born, we went into see the nurse midwife, Stephanie. I was feeling a little down about how useless I would feel to my wife in the delivery room. I told Stephanie how I felt and she said something that changed my life.

“Imagine how she would feel if you were not there.”

Being there, just really being there, counts for a lot in life. It makes a huge difference in the lives of others. You can save someone just by being you.

P.S. A friend of mine wrote an inspiring and thought-provoking piece on the divine nature of men. I’ve never seen or heard it explained quite like she does. I highly recommend reading it.

Is a Wife a Helpmeet or a Savior?

Courtesy LDS Media Library

I ran a race Saturday morning and as I neared the finish line, I was surprised to see my wife standing just off the course, ready to take a picture. I had shown up alone before six to pick up my race packet and I thought I’d be by myself that morning—getting up early is definitely not my wife’s favorite thing to do—but there she was in living color. When I ran a little further, there was our youngest daughter yelling, “Daddy!”

Do I need to tell you how it made me feel to see them there? I finished my race much stronger than I expected.

My wife has always motivated me to be my best self. I have some wonderful, lifelong male friends whom I love and admire, but nothing can compare to the powerful influence of an authentic woman on a man. Yes, I really believe this. Here’s a case in point.

I recently read a post from And So I Fight entitled “A True Christmas,” a story of reconciliation between the author Cherae and her husband Brandon. They had been alienated for some weeks when Brandon’s struggles with pornography and infidelity came to light. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: 

We opened Christmas presents and ate some lunch and then Brandon and I headed to my parents study to talk. I asked him what his thoughts and hopes were between us. He told me he knew that our family would be together and that things were going to work out. Tears started streaming down my face as I gently nodded my head and silently agreed with him. I then felt impressed to tell him that I will be there waiting for him when he is clean. I’ve never seen him shed so many tears. I told him of my pleadings with my Heavenly Father and what the answers to those pleadings were. He continued to cry. In that moment I was again so greatly reassured by my Father in Heaven that everything would work out and that WE would be okay. I hugged him. I didn’t plan it, and it caught both of us off guard but it was the most full of love hug I had ever experienced with him to that point in our lives. We continued to openly talk about our future together, felt the spirit confirm all that we had discussed, and shed many more tears. The Christmas I had dreaded and feared the most turned out to be the best Christmas I had ever experienced. (Emphasis mine.)

Cherae’s promise—”I will be waiting for him when he is clean”—well, that captures it for me, particularly her vision of and patient belief in her husband’s potential. It’s what makes a man explode with purpose. It gives him a reason to do and a reason to be.

I don’t know of any greater or more motivating force for a man than the tender, against-all-odds love of his wife. There is simply nothing to compare to it. It’s a force that holds couples and families together. I believe in this way a wife is like our Savior and in a sense, she is a savior to her husband.

A bold assertion to be sure but there is some strong evidence to support it. To find that evidence, we have to go a ways back—to Genesis 2:18 to be exact.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

The phrase “help meet for him” is translated from the Hebrew ezer kenegdo (כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃ עֵ֖זֶר) but biblical scholar R. David Freeman claims that this and similar translations of this phrase are incorrect:

I believe the customary translation of these two words, despite its near universal adoption, is wrong. That is not what the words are intended to convey. They should be translated instead to mean approximately “a power equal to man.” That is, when God concluded that he would create another creature so that man would not be alone, he decided to make “a power equal to him,” someone whose strength was equal to man’s. Woman was not intended to be merely man’s helper. She was to be instead his partner. (“Woman, a Power Equal to Man,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 09:01 Jan/Feb 1983, 56–58.)

According to Freedman, the word ezer originally meant “to rescue” and a similar form meant “to be strong.”  Eventually, these two phonemes (sounds) were combined into one grapheme (a unit of written language) that over time was interpreted simply as help. But something got lost in that translation. He goes on to say that the word ezer occurs 21 times in the Hebrew Bible, and of those, it is translated eight times as savior.

The root of the word kenegdo means “equal.” Freedman would prefer that the phrase be translated “a power or strength equal to him.” I love that.

Recently I heard a man explain that he was about to leave the Church and his wife out of frustration with himself and his habits, but when his wife told him, “I can’t imagine my life without you,” those words and the genuine love they conveyed stopped him in his tracks. He relented. That couple is still together, happily married and strengthening each other in the gospel.

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had not thought much about going on a mission until he met Jeanene Watkins. She told him one evening, “When I marry, it will be in the temple to a returned missionary.” That changed his plans. He soon after left on a mission to Uruguay. Jeanene went on a mission too while he was gone and two weeks after Elder Scott returned home, they were married in the Manti Temple.

It’s the light of a righteous woman’s being, a magnetic force that draws a man away from self-doom. It sharpens and transforms him. It saves him.

Maybe you think I’m taking the point too far. I don’t dare take it as far as I’d like.

I’m not trying to say that saving men is a woman’s sole purpose. I am not saying that it’s a woman’s “role.” Heavens no. I can hardly figure out my own role let alone anyone else’s. Actually, I hope pulling a man back from the fire is something women never have to do. But I do believe that they have a power to influence men in miraculous ways, if they choose to or if they need to. And they often do.

If you are a wife whose husband is grappling with addiction or transgression, know this: what he really wants more than anything is your tenderness and your gentle reassurance, especially if he has fallen. He wants you to respect him, even if he doesn’t deserve it. He wants you to see his potential and to believe in him, even though he can’t see it himself. In his heart, he knows you can see what he can’t. Show him what you see and what you hope for. Show him the way. Hang on for dear life. Don’t give up if there is any chance of reconciliation. I am not saying that you should trust him when he still can’t trust himself, but hold up your desire to trust him again. It will motivate him like nothing else.

You are not the cause of his mistakes. Those are his choices. But there is nothing on earth that can influence him more to come back to you than your tenderness. From the depths of his soul, he wants the real, pure you. Let it shine.

He doesn’t have anything else to hold onto except his weakened faith and you. You just might save him. And that, I believe, is one thing God created you for.

You can’t help anyone who doesn’t want help. No one can. But if you will be ready like Cherae to take him back when he is clean, you just might be the miracle he is hoping for. It’s worth a shot. You might just save a man from hell. You might save a generation.

How to Heal Your Marriage

Relationships that work are more give than take.

You must give first, not stingily last. If you give, it will not return to you void.

What does your wife want, above all else? To be cherished and adored. Why don’t you give her that?

What does your husband want, more than anything? To be really needed and tenderly nurtured. Why won’t you give him that?

I had a very tough week. My wife gave me
calla lilies. She knows how to love me.

If you want to heal your marriage, love your wife the way she wants to be loved. Find out how she wants to be loved by talking to her—a lot—then love her that way. She will repay you a thousand times.

If you want to heal your marriage, be strong and independent, but love your husband with gentle, kind, tender, nurturing words. It is an irresistible force. It is the power that holds the universe together. Nothing can compare to it.

Listen to her. Stop judging him. Sacrifice for her. Retire your sharp evening words forever.

Ask as many questions as you have to ask to get to the bottom of what is bothering her. (This takes courage.) Listen with both eyes and both ears. Take notes and write them on your soul. 

Even though he has a tough time talking about what he is feeling, put a hand on his back and let him know that you really appreciate him. Appreciating him will help him understand himself, and if he understands himself, he’ll have more to say.

Your marriage can work, but you have to stop waiting for him to “get it,” or for her to stop begging for your attention with bitter words. You have to act. First.

It’s time to take out the white flag and wave it high. Recreate your love life by not waiting for someone else to do something different.

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men [and women] give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

If you are angry and unhappy, there is something true that you don’t believe. What is it?

Believe the truth and live it. It will never let you down.

But the price is everything. That’s the exchange rate. Nothing less.

(If you are not getting what you really want, you are holding back.)

How to Say I’m Sorry

“I’m sorry”—an “I’m sorry” that you really mean—are two of the sweetest words you can say or hear in marriage. Here is a little lesson on regret and how to say those words and mean it. Thank you, Taylor Swift.

Here are the lyrics:

I’m so glad you made time to see me.
How’s life? Tell me, how’s your family?
I haven’t seen them in a while.

You’ve been good, busier than ever.
We small talk, work and the weather.
Your guard is up, and I know why.

Because the last time you saw me
Is still burned in the back of your mind.
You gave me roses, and I left them there to die.

So this is me swallowing my pride,
Standing in front of you, saying I’m sorry for that night.
And I go back to December all the time.

It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you,
Wishing I’d realized what I had when you were mine.
I go back to December, turn around and make it all right.
I go back to December all the time.

These days, I haven’t been sleeping.
Staying up, playing back myself leaving.
When your birthday passed, and I didn’t call.

Then I think about summer, all the beautiful times,
I watched you laughing from the passenger side.
And realized I loved you in the fall.

And then the cold came, the dark days.
When fear crept into my mind.
You gave me all your love, and all I gave you was goodbye.

So this is me swallowing my pride,
Standing in front of you, saying I’m sorry for that night.
And I go back to December all the time.

It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you,
Wishing I’d realized what I had when you were mine.
I go back to December, turn around and change my own mind.
I go back to December all the time.

I miss your tan skin, your sweet smile.
So good to me, so right.
And how you held me in your arms that September night,
The first time you ever saw me cry.

Maybe this is wishful thinking,
Probably mindless dreaming,
But if we loved again, I swear I’d love you right.

I’d go back in time and change it, but I can’t.
So if the chain is on your door, I understand.

This is me swallowing my pride,
Standing in front of you, saying I’m sorry for that night.
And I go back to December.

It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you,
Wishing I’d realized what I had when you were mine.
I go back to December, turn around and make it all right.
I go back to December, turn around and change my own mind.
I go back to December all the time, all the time.

Does Your Wife Feel Loved?

Last night, after dinner (we had heart-shaped pizza), I said to two of my daughters, “I have a theory. When a woman or girl truly feels loved, that’s when she is happiest.” They both enthusiastically agreed. (One is married, one is in her late teens.)

This is something I learned later in life. At least that’s when it came clear to me. When I was bishop and in a position to counsel with couples on a regular basis, that’s when this realization solidified in my mind. A woman is happiest when she feels loved. And she is really happy when she is loved in the way she wants to be loved.

A man or husband who understands, and does something about it, will be happier himself.

To love your wife, you have to live outside of the moment. You have to see beyond the day. You have to see her with spiritual eyes. You have to see the truth.

I think so many men get caught on the coat hook of their wives’ snarlieness, but the secret to overcoming that is to show your wife the love she deserves in the way she can understand.

A man who understands his wife’s love language will know how to love her in the way she needs to be loved.

Gary Chapman’s five love languages are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch

There are probably more love languages than this, but this list covers most cases.

I know what my wife’s love language is. Do you know what your wife’s is? Finding out and doing something positive about it will bring a lot of peace to your home.

My wife needs quality time. I know that and I know the particular flavors of quality time she needs. She knows my love language—words of affirmation. And she knows how to keep my love bucket full. We have a very happy, successful marriage. 

My advice is simple and it is this: find out what makes your wife tick, how she really feels loved, and then love that way. Serve her. Quit hanging onto your pride and just love her with all your heart. Don’t wait for her to change or for your desires to be requited.

If you do this, it will change everything for the good.

P.S. If your wife has some deeply held emotional or hidden issues, it may not be as simple as this. See my disclaimer.

What Your Husband Really Wants for Valentine’s Day

Last time, I talked about what wives really want for Valentine’s Day. Now, I’ll turn my attention to husbands. I am no world authority, and I don’t know what every man wants, but I have a good idea of what most of men want.

Your husband is often painfully aware of his weaknesses and mistakes, his failures and slip ups, but even though he has not succeeded in overcoming them, he desperately and quietly wants you to believe in him, to respect him and trust him. (Again.)

You are his last, best hope against all he struggles with in this world.

If he feels like you are there for him, that you truly believe in him, even though he has stumbled, that means everything to him, even if he can’t (or won’t) say it out loud.

For you to be truly pleased with him, and, best of all, to look up to him, that is what he hopes for most.

What if your husband is a Darth Vader, brutish and surly? Or a John Wayne, quiet and withdrawn when it comes to words of love? Those things are hard to look up to, I know. But that is his shell, the shell he uses to protect his pain.

But you know or can know who and what he really is, what is in his heart of hearts. You are the one that can see that and draw that out. Very few can see what you can see.

One other thing he would like is for you not to be hard on him, to focus more on the positive than the negative, to see the good in him more than anything else.

Criticism and negativity are force, or attempts at it. Patience, kindness, and positive words are persuasion. He can’t be forced, but he can be persuaded. And no one can persuade him like you can. He wants to be persuaded that you still believe in him.

That’s what he wants most. It will mean so much to him.

What Your Wife Really Wants for Valentine’s Day

I think I know what your wife wants for Valentine’s Day. I offer my opinion and welcome yours as well (in the comments). What I say won’t apply to all women, but it will apply to most.

Very simply, she wants you. That’s it. You.

She would like your undistracted attention. She wants you to be with her in the full sense, meaning that you will lend her your time, your ears, your eyes and your heart. That also means that when you are home on Valentine’s, she would appreciate it if your cell phone, laptop, video games and TV were off.

She wants you to patiently listen to her, without your eyes or attention wandering elsewhere. She doesn’t want you to solve her problems and difficulties for her. All she needs is for you to listen to her explain those problems, and not to jump in with solutions. The solutions will be evident after she has had a chance to express her feelings; and if the solutions are not immediately evident, even so, she will feel a lot better.

She wants you to romance her the way she wants to be romanced. This means you have to ask her a question soon, before the big day is here. You need to give a her a chance to be perfectly honest. Ask “What would make you feel special on Valentine’s Day?” Then be open to the answer. Don’t mold her answer to your own. Listen carefully and then thank her for telling you.

Some like dinner out, others love flowers and chocolates, while yet others want acts of service or a gift card with your encouragement to buy clothes. Some want you to help her solve a puzzle at home, often with the kids. Some will want time alone to just think or read or even sleep.

She would like some real affection from you. Hugs and kisses with real meaning behind them. She would like you to hold her hand, in public, in front of other people. She wants you to not only tell her that you love her, but to show it with an outward display of affection.

She wants you to forgive her for her weaknesses and to see past them to who she really is. 

She wants to know that she is the most special, most important person in the world to you. Nothing takes the grumpies away like knowing that.

Romance is wonderful, but there is something better. I love this quote from President Hinckley that was mentioned in an article in last month’s Ensign, but was originally from a conference talk he gave in 1991:

I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.

If you will give her these things, her trust will grow and trust is the most important foundation for love.

I conclude with this quote, a recent message from Music and the Spoken Word:

Recently, a team of researchers surveyed thousands of married men and women and discovered something that most couples already know: spouses who are emotionally generous with each other are happier. That common-sense finding gets at the heart of marital happiness—what changes hearts and homes and families is generosity of spirit, which the researchers define as “the virtue of giving good things to [one’s spouse] freely and abundantly.” And what does that look like in a marriage? It includes small acts of service, hugs and kisses, forgiveness, patience, and a willingness to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to look past annoyances and into each other’s heart.

If you do these things, you will find that the tension and negativity that has arisen in your relationship will be lessened, maybe even erased, if you patiently listen, try to understand, give affection backed by genuine love, forgive her and willingly give her the time, attention and respect she deserves from you.

Don’t wait for her to change or be perfect to give her fully of yourself. God doesn’t wait for that from you.

What My Mother-in-Law Taught Me about Love

Years ago, my mother-in-law asked me a question about love which I have never forgotten. She asked this:

If a man and woman were placed on a desert island, though they were different ages, looked different, came from different cultures, spoke different languages, and had different interests and personalities, what would eventually happen to them?

 After some thought I said, “They would find a way to fall in love.” Yes, that was her point.

What do you think?

I have thought about that question for many years, and I have come to the conclusion that love is possible in any situation where a couple offers respectful attention to each other.

Have you ever said to yourself, “Wow, how did those two get together?” Or, “What do those two see in each other?” I think it’s because the “desert island” principle can apply to any relationship.

To me, respect is the doorway to love, and respect opens the way to trust which is the foundation of love.

On a desert island, you would be forced to focus and give your attention to just that one person. (Well, you could choose to ignore that person, but you likely would not.) And as you gave attention, if you wanted a desirable response, you would have to offer your positive, respectful attention, and then the thousands of daily, even hourly negotiations you must make with another person in order for your relationship to work.

My point is—and I think my mother-in-law’s point was—in marriage, we are essentially on a desert island together, and if we choose to give this respectful attention to each other, the kind that builds trust, love will grow, no matter how different we are, no matter how different we see the world.

Some of you may feel shipwrecked, marooned on that desert island, and that there is no escape from your bad relationship. But I look at it differently, the result from what I have seen in hundreds of marriages over many years.

First, love is a choice, not an accident.

We talk of “falling of love” and I do believe in that magical part of love that we all experience and that comes from romance. But more than that, I believe that love is the result of how we choose to treat another person. If we treat them with kindness and true respect, if we serve them from our hearts, and give them our earnest attention, we will love them and that love will grow stronger and stronger and stronger.  Even if we are vastly different from that person. Even is we have in the past been disappointed by that person, or even heart broken by their choices, we can love them again.

Second, if love is a choice, we can choose to love the same person again and again.

Even if we have fallen into stinky little patterns of disrespect and distraction in our relationships, even if we have allowed our hearts to grow cold, we can choose again. And again and again. And if we choose to show respect and offer service, love will grow again.

I am not saying you can always trust again. There are some situations where trust is absolutely broken and is impossible to rebuild in this life. But I tend to be optimistic and to believe that trust can be rebuilt in most situations, even where transgression is involved. But again, that is a choice.

If your love has waxed cold, you can love your spouse again, if you choose to, even if that spouse has made mistakes, perhaps big ones. It is your choice, and no one else can choose for you. But I will say that, over the years, the couples I have seen who choose to hold things together, to work things out, to choose love again, tend to be much happier in later years.

There are some situations, I am sad to say, where one or both parties have gone so far off the deep end, that it is impossible to trust the other and to live with them.  As a friend and colleague recently taught me, “Divorce is never the right thing, but sometimes it is the best thing.”

No one can choose that for you. No one can be your conscience for you. Not your bishop or your priest or your minister. But I do know this. We must not judge. We must not burden others with our judgement, for God will render the same judgment on us that we render to others (see Matthew 7:1,2).

More often than not, I believe that love, and the relationships that nurture and protect love and the family, can be rebuilt if they rebuild on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You might have to carve your way through a jungle on your desert island to “find” that person again, but I know this for sure, you can love them again, if you choose to.

The Secret in a Man’s Heart

There is a secret in a man’s heart. I can’t tell you what is in every man’s heart, but I can tell you this: every man I’ve asked this question—”What do you want most from your wife?”—has agreed with me when I told them what I thought it was. And I have asked a lot of men this question.

What is it?

He wants to be your hero. He wants you to think of him as your prince, your knight in shining armor. He wants you to look up to him and to respect him and to trust him. To be completely accepted by you.

He wants this just as bad as you want to be cherished and adored by him and to be the center of his world, to be the most important person in his world. More important than work or sports or any of his interests or hobbies. To be completely accepted by him.

They are kind of similar, these #1 desires, aren’t they? But they are also different. If you know these desires are almost universal, you will understand a lot about men and women.

(If you disagree, man or woman, please comment on this post. I want to hear from you!)

Now from observing your husbands, you might think the thing he wants most is to watch college football, play golf, collect tools, or to be physically intimate with you.

Those things may be what is showing up when what he really wants is something else but he can’t figure out how to get it.

The other thing that shows up when he can’t figure out how to get what he wants is an addiction of some sort, too often these days a roller coaster addiction to pornography. (That was a simplification; a pornography addiction is way more complicated than that, but what I am talking about here will play into it.)

My wife understands the need I have to be her hero, and she encourages me endlessly to be her hero by showing and telling me how I can be.

That is what the honey-do list is about at our house. It is actually the hero list. I know that and my wife knows that.

And what is the hero list composed of? It is a list of things that (1) she doesn’t know how to do; (2) are hard for her to do; (3) are too yucky or dirty or smelly for her to do; (4) are too scary for her to do; and (5) she is overwhelmed and just needs help.

That’s the way it is at my house. How about yours?

If you have a hero list for your husband, and most wives do, explain in a bit of detail why you want him to do the things on your list, why he is better suited to do them than you are. It will help him if you calmly share your feelings about the things on your list.

And when he does do them, thank him genuinely and let him know you admire him for what he can do to make your life better, easier and more convenient, even if he is not perfect at it.

You will get much, much more, over time, from your husband by praising him, intreating him, persuading him, coaxing him, encouraging him, honoring him, and respecting him, than by any other method.

Positive words will inculcate positive behavior. Usually.

If your relationship is way out of balance, though, meaning that you or both of you are using negative words and actions in an attempt to get your needs met, it will take awhile to bring things back into balance again. But err on the positive side of getting things done, remembering that:

That which doth not edify [build up] is not of God and is darkness (D&C 50:23.)

You can’t use darkness to bring forth light. You can bring light out of darkness, but you can’t use darkness as the instrument to produce light. It just will not happen.

In conclusion let me say that my wife is a world expert at this. She really knows how to make me feel like I am her hero. If I could read to you what she wrote in my birthday card this past week, you would know what I am talking about. The little positive, appreciative things she says and does, to support me in my far flung efforts to improve our lot temporally, is what I really want and need. It is wonderful.

I doubt myself, but I don’t doubt that my wife thinks of me as her hero. Knowing that in my core is what keeps me putting out my best effort, and bettering my best. And it makes it easy for me to adore her and to love her the way she wants to be loved.

Have fun with this. It is like a game! The funnest game there is, when you play it right.

How to Get Your Husband to Listen to You

Generally speaking—as if you haven’t already noticed—men and women communicate a little differently. Understanding the differences is important if you want to improve communication with your spouse.

I am not saying that men and women are always miles apart in the ways they talk, but that there are notable differences. I am not saying that men are always right in the way they communicate, or that women are always right. I am going to make a few rather broad generalizations, and hoping that as we gain more understanding, we will take positive action on what we learn.

This is a continuation (sort of) of the series “The Number One Complaint I Heard from Wives.” (Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.)

We like to joke about these differences. And sometimes we might put the opposite sex down, especially in their absence. I don’t do that and I don’t like hearing things like that. I don’t think it’s right or smart to disparage others. I want to understand others, especially my darling wife; I want to be part of the solution, not a liability to everyone around me.

Here’s a story that gives these differences in communication some perspective.

A few years ago, when our second oldest daughter was in college, she invited her roommates and friends over for a Sunday dinner. Our table was full. They are all wonderful girls. And it was a fun evening, if you were a girl.

I sat at the table as the lone male. I could not get a word in edgewise. I could not keep up with the conversation. It went too fast for me. Way too fast. Men out there, have you ever been in that spot?

Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. I just am not fast enough to keep up. I thought at the time that it was actually kind of fun. Eventually, though, I left the table and crawled into my shell someplace else in the house, probably in the basement office, my favorite man cave. 

No doubt there are some males that could keep up with the speed of that conversation, but I am not one of them, and I have yet to meet one who is. If you are male and a supersonic talker, congratulations! How do you do it?

What I have learned from this and other experiences is that I am uncomfortable communicating when all alone in a roomful or car full of females. I am more comfortable talking one-on-one with my wife or daughters, or among couples. I am sure that women often feel the same way, too, that is, they might feel uncomfortable being in a situation where they are outnumbered by men. (But there is probably a reader out there who loves it.)

Here is another example. My wife and I went up to Park City for a few nights in August. We went to the pool while we were there. Actually, we moved back and forth between the hot tub and the pool. You know, the hot and cold thing. Anyway, there were two women in the hot tub. They were talking incredibly fast. No men were involved in the conversation to slow them down, so they were talking at light speed. Inwardly, I smiled, but I still couldn’t keep up.

I thought then, maybe women have to r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w d-o-w-n to communicate with men. Maybe that’s annoying to them. No, that’s too broad of a generalization. Or is it.

I don’t say any of this to deprecate men or women. There is just a difference, generally, between the way men and women think and talk. I haven’t captured all the differences, but one of the reasons why a difference exists, something I have mentioned in an earlier post, is that women have 40 percent more connections between the right and left hemispheres of their brains. That means that they can jump back and forth acrobatically between them. Amazing. Useful, too.

It also means that everything is connected to everything and when she is thinking and talking she is in a limitless ocean. When men think and talk, that ocean is held in individual and varying size buckets.  

This might be one of the reasons why, as a male friend said to me recently, women can “cover a lot of ground” when they get together. I think it is a wonderful quality; I just can’t participate fully. (Okay, maybe I’m just jealous or embarrassed that I can’t.)

So what’s my point? It’s a simple one. Ladies, when you think your man is not listening to you intentionally, he may just not be able to keep up with the fast pace at which you are delivering your message.

We men like to hide out in our boxes. We have a lot of them. The work box, the laptop box, the working-in-the-garage box, the golf box, the fishing box, the horse box (I have one of those), the blog box (I am in that one right now), the fill-in-the-blank box. (Usually, things are in those boxes, not people.) When we are in one of these boxes, we have a hard time backing out of it. It takes us a while. We like to concentrate and give something intense focus. My wife understands this about me. She gives me time to get out my current box to talk to me.

I am not trying to excuse men for not listening. I am just saying there is a difference here, though it might not be universal. He might be in one of his boxes—focusing narrowly on one thing—while you are trying to talk to him, and he may, therefore, have a tough time catching or focusing on everything you say until he has time to back out of his box.

There are things you can do. 

Once when my wife really wanted my attention and she see saw that I was distracted, she held my face between her hands and forced me to make eye contact with her. I remember when she did this. It was when our youngest daughter was small. She had to go away and wanted to make sure I attended to our little girl’s needs while she couldn’t.

It struck me as a tender thing. I didn’t feel put down when she did it. I think it was pretty cute, actually. And I got out of my box and listened.

Just last Friday when I was at work and we were chatting online, my wife asked, “Do I have your face?” We both know what that means, especially since we have been talking about it over the last little while.

Two other things that wake me up and get me into listening mode is when (1) my wife addresses me by name (“Mike?”) and waits until she sees my ears and eyes pointed in her direction before proceeding; and (2) she asks for my attention directly and won’t continue until she has it (but she doesn’t do this in a bossy way).

So, these three things my wife does help me give her my full attention: Hands around face (my favorite), addressing me by name, openly and directly asking for my attention.

In addition to this, let me say that it’s not my wife’s job to get me to listen and pay proper attention to her. I know it is the best and rarest compliment to give someone your full, sustained attention. It is a great gift, especially when it is voluntary. The need for attention from others, and all that it implies, is among the deepest human needs.Without it, we shrivel and die, first inwardly and then outwardly.

That is why I try to give others this kind of attention. I try to give my wife this kind of attention every day. Nothing says “I love you” like giving someone your intense interest and attention.

I have a lot to learn about how to communicate better with my wife. But it is fun game, and now that I know a few of the rules, it’s even more fun.

I am not saying women are better communicators than men. But I will say that I think women are often but not always better at communicating their feelings than men, and that it is frustrating to wives when their husbands clam up and won’t talk about what is going on inside of them. That was the number one complaint I heard as bishop: men not talking, especially about their feelings.

Wives can’t force their husbands to talk, but they can draw them out. They can persuade them and encourage them. They are not powerless to change their situations. They may be frustrated—and I don’t blame them—but they are not powerless. My wife has ways of getting my attention and drawing me out. She does it gently, so I trust her. She is safe to talk to, and she hears more about my feelings than she used to because of it.

I still have a long way to go, but I am making progress.