Are You Letting Your Feelings Determine the Facts?
Over the years I have encountered a specific tendency that repeatedly reveals itself in many of the emails I receive from wives. Instead of allowing the facts in a situation to influence her feelings on the matter, she allows her feelings to determine what she deems to be the facts. However, she is not seeking to be deceptive, which is why she doesn’t discern what she is doing.
For example, a wife wrote to me, “Sometimes my husband does things that I can't make sense out of. For Thanksgiving, I ate with my family and he with his.”
She was clearly communicating to me that she wanted to be with him on Thanksgiving but he did not want to be with her. She was communicating confusion and hurt. What he did makes no sense to her.
However, earlier in her email to me she had been describing her husband as passive. Assuming this diagnosis to be accurate, I found it odd that a passive husband would actually tell his wife that he did not want to have Thanksgiving with her. After all, that is a pretty aggressive and offensive statement for a passive husband to tell his wife. But such is what she was communicating to me.
So, I asked her, “In relationship to you, your husband has become passive. I doubt if he made this as a proposal, though correct me if I am wrong. In my mind's eye I see you saying something like, ‘Well, this Thanksgiving you may as well eat with your family and I'll eat with mine.’ If you gave any leading information along that line, your husband will probably go along with it. He hears something different than you intend. . . . He didn't say, ‘Hey, I want to be with you. No way. We're going to be together as a family. You and me, babe.’ Nope, instead, he was quiet and did his own thing, thinking that was what you wanted.”
I asked her if I was correct or incorrect. She then admitted, “Not being together on Thanksgiving was my choice. I was invited to his house but didn't really feel like sitting at the table with my disrespectful stepson.”
I wasn’t shocked, but I suppose I should’ve been, considering her original statement to me: "Sometimes my husband does things that I can't make sense out of. For Thanksgiving, I ate with my family and he with his.”
I do not believe she was trying to mislead me. Instead, she was processing this Thanksgiving episode through her feminine grid and feelings.
Her feelings and thoughts went something like this: “I don’t feel my husband wants to be with me on Thanksgiving. I feel this strongly and sadly. If he did want to be with me, I would feel that he desired to be with me. He would be far more sensitive about subjecting me to his son. But, I will test this out. I will tell him I don’t want to have Thanksgiving with him. If he does not object, then I know he doesn’t want to be with me and doesn’t care about me being subjected to his son.”
Of course, when she tells him she doesn’t want to be with him on Thanksgiving and he doesn’t take issue with that, she concludes her feelings are correct. After all, her passive husband never said, “Oh, no, dear wife! Please don’t leave me on this special day. I want to be with you. What must I do to make this a happy time for you? I am so sorry if I appeared like I did not want to be with you. I love you.” Because he doesn’t say anything like this, in her mind this must confirm that he doesn’t want to be with her. Her feelings were right, so she feels! Her feelings, so she feels, reveal the facts.
So, when emailing me she states her feelings as fact. She truly believes that what she feels is the truth and “the facts.” Thus she writes to me, "Sometimes my husband does things that I can't make sense out of. For Thanksgiving, I ate with my family and he with his.”
Well, Did Your Respect Card Help or Not?
Another wife wrote to me to share the response she got from her husband after she wrote him what I call a “respect card.” In short, men rarely keep the love cards their wives give them with all the Xs and Os and lovey-dovey stuff. But if you write him a note telling him about some of the things you respect and admire about him, he’ll soak that up and most likely store the card away forever.
This wife who wrote me had just tried it and wanted to tell me that it didn’t work:
I wrote a respect letter as you suggested. I included three reasons why I respect him, signed it "respectfully yours," and added, "from the one who still admires you." His response? "I'm a lawyer. I sign letters to judges 'respectfully yours.' I saw nothing about love in that letter." Seems like I can't win for losing. How am I supposed to respond to that?
I wrote back saying I found that strange. I asked, “Is that all he said in response to the note? That's it? Or, did you give me a snapshot of the negative? Was there nothing positive?”
She replied, “Well he did say, ‘Initially I was touched.’” She then went on to say, “On a more positive note, he came over to see me yesterday, and I think, for the first time, he may have really heard me. He did seem to be trying more to understand.”
I was again in disbelief. But I shouldn’t be. I have been through this enough. You see, though he had said and done some very positive things, she did not feel any of it counted. Ignore the fact that he was touched, and ignore the fact of his positive actions. The former comment was wiped out by his negative comments, and in her mind the subsequent positive actions had to be accidental.
You see, his lone negative comment flooded the whole situation with negative feelings for her. So, her feelings went in that direction, and that led her to conclude the respect card didn’t help. By the time she gave me the report, well, it was a total loss. She “can’t win for losing.” The respect card did not work because that’s what her feelings were telling her. But it did work, and furthermore, his one negative comment was probably made because the way she signed off sounded insincere and without heart-felt affection like when he signs off to a judge. He was testing to see if it was heart-felt. Has she never done the same?
So What Is One to Do?
A zebra cannot change its stripes, and a woman should not try becoming something God did not design her to be. A woman desires to feel loved and cherished, and that is why the first half of my book Love & Respect is about the six ways a husband must learn to spell love to his wife. This is how God designed her and who she can’t help but be. And I instruct husbands how to best meet their wife’s deepest felt need, in her mother-tongue.
But she must learn to recognize how her natural female desire to feel loved can sometimes determine for her what the facts are. And facts determined merely by feelings cannot be considered as facts.
More than anything the first wife desired to feel so loved and cherished by her husband that he would completely balk at any suggestion of spending a holiday apart. But as he was not only passive but also not a mind reader, he did not outrightly reject her notion, which led to her feeling unloved.
The wife who wrote the respect card loves her husband so much she read my book and put into practice my respect card idea. Wonderful for her! And it did have a positive effect, though her imperfect husband still made an ill-advised comment regarding her signing it “respectfully yours,” leading her to feel once again unloved.
But were these assessments true? Further investigation proved no.
And “further investigation” is simply what a woman must do before she determines the facts. Both Jesus and Paul warned us, “Every fact must be confirmed” (Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1). They knew of the human tendency to frame the facts of a situation to best match our desires. And for a woman specifically, she must be self-aware of her desire to feel loved by her husband, and then look at the broader picture. Complete the investigation and let the facts determine her feelings, not the other way around.
Questions to Consider
- When was a time you allowed your feelings to dictate what you deemed to be the facts in a situation? How did you discover you had been wrong? Did your assessment cause any unnecessary damage?
- Emerson said the wife allowing her feelings to dictate the facts is not seeking to be deceptive. Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Why is it dangerous for anyone to trust fully their feelings in a situation?
- Going back to question #1, how could you have investigated further before allowing your feelings to incorrectly determine for you the facts?