Ed Laymance has been a good friend of mine since 1983, but in the past 10 years, he has become a close confidant and invaluable counselor. He has been a great help to my wife and me. Ed has his doctorate in education. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 35 years of ministry experience. So when he speaks, I listen.
About two years ago, Ed revolutionized my role as a husband with some amazing counsel that I want to share with you now. As I have focused my articles these past few weeks on marriage, I remembered these words of wisdom. This is a game changer in marriage. Here we go . . .
Whether she instigates the talk or you do, here are some ground rules to begin.
- You do not schedule this time. It happens when it needs to happen.
- It takes however long it needs to take.
- If you sense something is wrong and you ask, “What’s wrong?” the response of “Nothing” typically means something.
- “Nothing” means either she is not sure what’s wrong or she’s not certain you will value the time to help her sort it out.
- Don’t push and don’t walk away. She needs to know that you value her, and how she feels, above anything else on your agenda.
- If she says she needs more time to process, give it to her.
But when a talk begins, then . . .
- Give her focused attention. No phone/TV/computer, etc. Just her.
- Maintain eye contact. Look into her soul.
- This is about feelings and emotions, not about “making sense” to you.
- About every five minutes, mirror back to her what you think you are hearing. Keep going over it until she says you’ve got it.
- Don’t try to “fix it” or tell her what she needs to do. Ask “Is there anything you would like for me to do?” If there is, she will tell you.
- Validate and encourage her.
- When she’s done, pray for or with her.
While touching her hand or arm, you can pray something like, “Holy Father, my wife is really battling (what you heard her say). I ask that you would hold her close to You and help her to know what You would have her do. Help me be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. In Jesus’ name. Amen”
- Hug, smile, and tell her you love her.
- Nothing may be “fixed” and you may even be somewhat confused, but this is not about you.
- Pray for her, and in a day or two, ask her how she’s doing, how she’s feeling about things.
As I have stated in my other marriage articles, it is time for us to stop thinking about what we “can’t do” as a husband or what we “haven’t done” in the past and start to do these things—because we can. You can. Read through this article again and commit to practice this the next time you sense your wife needs to talk. I promise you can greatly improve your marriage with Dr. Laymance’s counsel.
The kind of husband who will practice what we have described above is expressing proactive, self-sacrificing love, not the cultural norm or the sitcom version of marriage. The cultural norm’s marital success rate is obvious. All of us want a happy, healthy marriage, but they don’t come without work. That’s why looking hard at how God wants us to love our wives is so crucial for us today.
The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. —Ephesians 5:22b MSG