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Chapter Reading

Table of contents


Research reveals that males feel less comfortable talking about feelings face to face, especially when asked to do this on the spot. Deborah Tannen studied the different conversation style of children ages eight to sixteen. She paired best friends of the same gender and asked them to talk about something intimate or serious. 

The male friends sat shoulder to shoulder rather than face to face, they avoided eye contact, and they felt awkward about the assignment. The female friends willingly discussed the topics and supported one another while looking each other in the eyes. 

What Tannen found, though, is that the sixteen-year-old boys did open up and actually shared more transparently than the girls, but they did so shoulder to shoulder without eye contact. Best male friends open up, but not when feeling coerced and definitely not when a sour-faced person spews venomous words of contempt while mouthing, “I just need to know you love me!” This contradiction falls outside the scope of normalcy for him. 


Picture a bar. Two male friends sit side by side and stare straight ahead in the dim light. After a while they open up, not because of the booze, but because men feel more comfortable talking shoulder to shoulder. Contrast this bar scene with a wife who disdainfully shouts at her husband seated at the kitchen table, “We need to talk! Look at me when I am talking to you! We need to connect more. We have no fun in this marriage.” 

I tell wives, “Men find it tough to hear what you say because of how you say it. When you really need to talk, recommend a walk around the block at night or propose a drive in the car in the evening, and watch what happens.” The side-to-side approach relaxes him more than the head-on finger-pointing confrontation. Men lock up emotionally. 

Put it this way: When having sex, do most wives prefer the lights on or off? Most women feel self-conscious with the light shining on her body when she does not feel good about her body image. Her intensely staring husband with high expectations makes her self-conscious, and she locks up and cannot open up. A husband feels self-conscious as well with all the lights on but for different reasons. With his wife intensely staring at him with high expectations, he locks up and cannot open up. 


What is the solution? Men need their wives to be side-by-side friends on a more regular basis. This friendship must be approached in the way men approach friendship. If a wife expects a husband to connect with her face to face because this is meaningful and life-giving to her, she needs to connect with him shoulder to shoulder because this is worthwhile and vitalizing to him. Fair is fair. 

TITUS 2:4 

Perhaps that is why we read in Titus 2:4 that the older women are to encourage the younger women to love their husbands. The Greek for “love” here is phileo. Phileo is seen in the word Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love or friendship love. Simply stated, wives are to be friendlier toward their husbands, and older women need to encourage them to be friendlier. Many young wives readily admit they grow discouraged, negative, and unfriendly in the home. Stressed out by young children and needing to connect emotionally every day with their husbands, a negative pattern sets in, especially when she feels her husband drifting away from her emotionally. 


A list of negatives about him surfaces in her mind and she rehearses these negatives. Because she cares and is kind, she bottles these negatives but inevitably she cannot hold them in. Realizing he will not pursue her to talk about her feelings, she moves toward him to talk face to face about these negatives. It seems once a month she spews out her hurt, frustration, and anger. During these “talks,” which have compiled once a month for seven years, and with “talk” number eighty-four coming at him currently, he now feels something he never thought he’d feel: 

“She loves me with agape-love but she does not like me. I can never be good enough. I am not her best friend, and to be honest I don’t see her as my best friend anymore. I just wish we could be friends again like we were when we first met. I just want to hang out with her and do things together like we used to do. She used to watch football with me all cuddled up, but not anymore. She always has something else to do and cannot waste her time watching the game with me.” 


A wife tells me, 

“Shoulder-to-shoulder! Wow that was one of the horrible places that I spouted off to John. I told him that I didn’t like to go to the movies with him or just sit and watch TV with him . . . but I wanted to have face-to-face time to interact, not side-by-side! I had told him that I wanted to connect and he kept telling me that we were connecting. Talk about speaking two different languages. On our 20th anniversary I was so hoping for a ‘connection,’ but of course I was thinking in my female way, so at dinner that night I told him . . . ‘I wish you desired me as much as you desire that steak.’ Oh my goodness! That was so completely the wrong thing to say and that night he couldn’t even finish his meal. After we got home he told me he was just done and that he just could not go on anymore. I ended up spending the night at a friend’s house. It took a few months before he was finally able to say that he might like to try again. But, he was really tired of all the junk. I think you are so right when you say that the man can’t even put words to what it is that he needs! As I write this I’m just in amazement as to how he has actually put up with me for so long!” 

Please take a moment and view the video titled “Your Husband Wants Your Friendship" in the next step.

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Discussion Questions

  1. How important is how you say something as compared to what you are saying? 
  2. Wives, does your husband lock up emotionally? Why do you think he does? Husbands, what solution might you offer your wife to help you not lock up emotionally so much? 
  3. Is your spouse your friend? Wives, what do you do to show him that he is your friend? Husbands, what would you like your wife to do shoulder to shoulder with you as your friend? 
  4. What distractions prevent you from spending shoulder-to-shoulder time with your spouse? 
  5. Wives, in what ways can you be by your husband’s side this week? Husbands, what would you love to do this week with your wife by your side? Tell her your answer. 
  6. How would you apply Titus 2:4? 
  7. How do you and your spouse “talk”? Is it always face to face, or is there shoulder-to-shoulder time sprinkled in as well? 
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StoS Chapter 3
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Face to Face and Shoulder to Shoulder
StoS Chapter 3
StoS Chapter 3