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ting-bw-231x300In a spat my wife had with me (makes it sound one-sided, doesn’t it?), she challenged me to write about “How to Listen to your wife – without saying a word.” In fact, that would be her definition of listening: me. listening. not saying a word.  You can imagine how the conversation could have gone, can’t you?

You’re so smart Rusty – – why don’t you find out how to listen to me without saying a word!? And then write about that!

… or something along this line – and since I’m writing to an experienced audience, I’m not concerned about you fiegning shock or dismay. Conversations have a way of taking a life of their own. Sometimes I just hold on for the ride!

Meanwhile, all that “active listening” (crap), all that inquisitive proclivity (with which I am particularly blessed), all that interactive training and experience – bogus! Often my wife wants silence… and without being able to articulate it – she wants a non-interferring receiver. If only I can manage the “ability to communicate without using words” part – well – I’d be almost perfect (yes: I am “trying” to be funny).

BUT – if you are going to open your big trap (as I have to my peril) you might want to take Mark Merrill’s advice: “10 things wives want to hear from their husbands.” (For a humorous retort, go to his site and read what men say in the comment section: “10 things Husbands want to hear from their wives”… but I digress).

With some modification to Merrill, “Men, repeat after me:”

1. “Thanks for all you do for our family.” Learn to be able to identify “all she does” (if your list has an end… you’ve failed the test. Go back and keep finding “all” she does for you and your family, and be thankful).

2. “You are a great mom and wife.” Let her know the ways she is truly “great.” This is the beginning to a larger conversation my friend!

3. “Let me do that for you.” Start… anywhere, anytime with anything you normally don’t do! Acts of Service is one of the “love languages.” Learn a new language!

4. “I love you so much.” In case you don’t normally declare this – get used to saying this out loud. On one hand, “when your actions speak for themselves, don’t interrupt” – on the other hand, if you are an inarticulate dolt, speaking up might let your wife know what’s going on in your heart.

5. “You are beautiful.” No matter her age, her size or how long you’ve been married, your wife wants to know you think she’s attractive. She might even give you a chance to prove it (but don’t get ahead of yourself my friend).

6. “Let me watch the kids.” In other words: “take a break – a long break – a regular break – a rewarded rest – a peaceful retreat. Let me care for what you care for.”

7. “Let’s go out tonight.” Take charge of your next date. Show your wife you enjoy spending time with her – and that you give a rip about planning something she might actually enjoy.

8. “I’m sorry you had a hard/frustrating/ disappointing day.” Period. Stop there. DO NOT TRY TO SOLVE ANY PROBLEMS. In case you are so foolish to try – see “It’s not about the Nail.”

9. “I would marry you all over again.” You are declaring that you value your life together. It speaks to the evaluation that all this time, energy, listening, speaking, impatience, and love can’t be quantified very well, other than to say, “you’re the one – and no other. I’m totally committed to you.”

Steve Carall to Tina Fey in Date Night

Steve Carell to Tina Fey in the romantic comedy: Date Night

10. “How can I be a better husband to you?” Hearing these words will either make your wife *burst into tears, *smile like a kid in a candy store, or, if she’s completely shocked, *laugh uncontrollably. Before you ask this question, though, be ready to hear what she has to say without being defensive. Friend – this takes courage – but you got it!

It’s never too late to start fresh. For more help (and you don’t even have to ask for directions), go to “25 Ways to show your wife you love her.”

In case you forgot, my friend, your wife is extraordinary, and marriage is an excellent mystery – that’s why I rejoice to write about it in More Enigma than Dogma.

I can’t say I have actually contributed anything to the topic of “listening without saying a word;” as usual, I’ve said too much. Though listening usually involves active listening/participation – for this post, contemplate the Chinese symbol for Listen (Ting) above, and consider how to listen to your wife without saying a word.

Men – let me know what you learn – cuz we’re all in this together my friend.