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Marriage
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Communicating for a Better Marriage: Part 1 - Wives and Respect Talk

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Have you ever met a wife who complains that her husband talks too much? That he seems to always want to share what’s on his heart and talk face-to-face with her in the evening, even when the game is on? Or have you ever heard a wife say, “My husband just gets me. We are so much on the same page when it comes to communication of the heart. I couldn’t be happier with the way he always seems to know just the right words to say, and when to say them. We just seem to be two peas in a pod, when it comes to communication!”?

Me neither.

More than likely, ladies, you have noticed how communication with your husband is far different than communication with your female friends. Can I please let you know that this is completely normal and to be expected? You’ve heard me say it before, but I’ll say it again here. Your husband’s communication style is not wrong, just different!

Problems arise, however, when a wife makes the judgment that her female friend’s style of listening and communicating is right and her husband’s method is wrong. Or when she doesn’t get why her husband doesn’t want to just gab about their respective days when he gets home. Doesn’t he care about catching up on everything from what the kid’s teacher emailed her about to how his recently demoted coworker is handling the unexpected financial setback?

Most men do have topics they like to discuss, but unfortunately, many women have deemed these to be second-tier because they don’t see them as matters of the heart. In general, men communicate to exchange information, while women communicate in order to feel empathy and connect emotionally.  

When Jesus reminded us in Matthew 19:4, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” He was not simply speaking of biological differences. The unique ways men and women have been “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by our Creator go well beyond the physical, but include the emotional, spiritual, and psychological as well. And yes, these differences affect the ways men and women communicate to others and interpret others’ communication.

I truly believe that no wife is mean-spirited. She loves her husband, but as a woman, her husband's core concerns are somewhat marginal when they do not relate to the "mending and attending" that captures her female caring. In her view, if her husband gives a report, it must build rapport between them. If she feels no rapport after he shares, she notes this topic is a peripheral subject. 

She does not hold this attitude of indifference because she is self-centered, but because voices in the culture have promoted the woman’s feelings so much that she automatically concludes that what is important to her as a female is important—the relationships that weigh on her heart—and what does not sound important to her coming from her husband isn’t all that important. 

For instance, what he conquered or didn’t conquer that day at work is not all that important to her. What he’s overseeing or not overseeing is no real concern of hers. What he has the authority to do and doesn’t have the power to do isn’t all that relevant to her. What solutions he’s bringing to a situation or what answers he struggles to find isn’t pertinent to her concerns. How he’s relating to a guy at work by just hanging out with him at lunch without talking is nothing short of superficial, though she appreciates that he thinks of the guy. And, hearing how he’s resisting sexual temptations isn’t a welcome topic at all, because he shouldn’t even be tempted in the first place unless he is looking around where he shouldn’t be looking. 

I refer to these concepts as C.H.A.I.R.S.: Conquests, Hierarchy, Authority, Insight, Relationship (shoulder-to-shoulder), and Sexuality. When a wife learns to incorporate these concepts into her communication with her husband, she is speaking his language—a language that I call Respect Talk. 

If a wife intentionally attempts Respect Talk in her conversations with her husband, he will be far more engaged and energized. This stuff works! Communication between them that is mutual improves when a wife connects on these topics over the year (not in one night!). 

Let’s look at some different ways a wife can use C.H.A.I.R.S. to incorporate Respect Talk into her communication with her husband, touching him at the core of who he is as a man.  

Conquest  

  • You tell him verbally or in writing that you value his work efforts.  
  • You express your faith in him related to his chosen field.  
  • You listen to his work stories as much as you want him to listen to family issues.  
  • You see yourself as his helpmate and discuss this with him whenever possible.  
  • You allow him to dream as you did when you were courting.  
  • You avoid subtly criticizing his work to get him to show more love at home.  
  • You support and encourage him when he is struggling with issues at work.  
  • You recognize that, as with Adam, God calls your husband to cultivate and maintain a field.   

Hierarchy  

  • You verbalize your admiration of his protection and being willing to die for you.  
  • You praise his commitment to provide for you and the family.  
  • You empathize with his mindset about position or status, particularly at work.  
  • You avoid mocking the idea of “looking up to him” as your protector.  
  • You avoid, in word or body language, putting down his job or how much he earns.  
  • You quietly and respectfully voice concerns about finances and offer solutions.  
  • You avoid pushing the panic button or blaming your husband during rough times.  

Authority  

  • You tell him you are thankful for his strength and enjoy being able to lean on him.  
  • You support his self-image as a leader.  
  • You praise his good decisions.  
  • You are gracious if he makes a bad decision.  
  • You disagree with him only in private and honor his authority in front of the kids.  
  • You explain why you disagree reasonably, without attacking his right to lead.  
  • You defer to his leadership on family matters without undermining your equality.  

Insight  

  • You thank him for his advice without acting insulted or like he doesn’t care.  
  • You recognize his problem-solving approach as his male brand of empathy.  
  • You sometimes let him “fix things” and applaud his solutions.  
  • You tell him upfront when you just need his ear, not a solution.  
  • You counsel him respectfully when you differ with his ideas.  
  • You assure him you believe God made us different and that you need each other.  
  • You admit that you can sin and thank him for his perception and godly counsel.   

Relationship  

  • You tell him you like him and show it.  
  • You join him in recreational activities or come along to watch him.  
  • You enable him to open up and talk to you as you do things shoulder to shoulder.  
  • You encourage him to spend time alone, energizing him to reconnect with you.  
  • You respect his friendships and support his activities with his male friends.  
  • You show him you value his companionship even without having conversation.  
  • You let him know that you care about his interests as much as your own.  

Sexuality  

  • You respond to him sexually more often and initiate sex periodically.  
  • You understand he needs sexual release just as you need emotional release.  
  • You let him acknowledge his sexual temptations without fearing unfaithfulness.  
  • You avoid depriving him of sex as a means of manipulating him to open up to you.  
  • You pay attention to your appearance and make yourself desirable to him.  
  • You respect his sexual struggles, his desire for you, and his maleness.  
  • You let him know you find him attractive and enjoy being sexually intimate.  

Again, this is not all to be dealt with in one night, or even one week. Please do not print out this list and sit down with him, checking things off as you go through it. Not even the best foreign language program can teach someone German over a span of a few days. It takes many months to become even semi-competent with a new language, which is what is going on here. Respect Talk is, indeed, a foreign language to all women, who have been programmed by culture that Love Talk is the only language necessary for a husband and wife. 

But Love Talk is equally important too! In part 2, we’ll transition toward sharing how the husband, who because his wife has immersed herself in his language is now more willing to learn her language, can touch his wife at the core of who she is as a woman.

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. When was a time when you felt the most connected to your spouse? How did communication play a role in that connection? Would your spouse agree? How do you know?
  2. Have you noticed the communication differences between your spouse and your same-sex friends? Have you ever imposed judgment on your spouse for his or her differences? How so?
  3. Emerson wrote, “voices in the culture have promoted the woman’s feelings so much that she automatically concludes that what is important to her as a female is important—the relationships that weigh on her heart—and what does not sound important to her coming from her husband isn’t all that important.” Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
  4. Wives, what is one suggestion from each of the six concepts above that you can begin trying this week?How to Communicate in Ways That Will Fulfill Your Wife’s Desire for Love Talk