It has been quite a while since I have written a post for PreEngaged, but due to yesterday’s post with Heather’s lessons learned in living with a strong man, she asked me to come up with lessons learned while living with a sensitive woman. She was going to take those lessons I generated and discuss them with you all; however, I thought it would be better if I just wrote about them from my perspective. I don’t know if this means I’ll be writing more posts on PreEngaged or not… I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. ~smile~
Heather has written in the past that she and I are complete opposites – this is very true. This has made marriage an exercise in sanctification. At the same time, those differences also help us work with the client couples which the Lord brings to us. So, we not only have male/female differences, but opposite personality types as well – not a marriage for the faint of heart. ~smile~
When she first asked me to come up with these lessons, my mind popped over to 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (ESV). For all of the vitriol this verse has received (especially in American culture), it clearly shows that there are differences between men and women – and, unfortunately, the concept of ‘weaker’ is taken with much offense. Rather, weaker objects are useful for different purposes. One comparison I seem to remember reading at one time was the difference between a sledgehammer and a china teacup – one is strong, the other is weak – but, you can’t drink tea very effectively from a sledgehammer nor can you break down walls with a teacup. They are made for different purposes and are equally valuable in their own right (just not for the same task).
So, below are some lessons which I have learned in living with a sensitive woman:
- It is very easy to wound a sensitive woman. It is amazing to me how a quick slip of the tongue can change the relational ease or tension between Heather and myself. There have been many times where I have spoken truth to her, but not in a loving way. Because she is sensitive, she gets hurt and I can instantly detect a ripping of our marital connection. Most of those times, I wish I could go back in time and re-do the incident; yet, it is too late at that point. Sometimes, I think to myself, “Why can’t she just have a thicker skin?” But, her sensitive nature is also what drew myself to her and what I appreciate about her. Therefore…
- I must be vigilant to not wound her. To be honest, it is tiring to need to be on guard all of the time. It is not that I look for opportunities to wound her; it is just that, through life, I am a swinging sledgehammer and there are times where I unintentionally swing near her (and, unfortunately, sometimes connect). In our last heart-to-heart, we asked each other to do one thing (we are increasingly learning that more than one life-changing request is too much to handle at a time). She asked me to: not be as harsh… as snide… as matter-of-fact. That sounds like such a reasonable request, doesn’t it? Since it is not in my nature to hold back on… being me… I have to focus intentional energy on my responses to, and conversations with, her. So, I have made a much more intentional effort to let my “speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that [I] may know how [I] ought to answer” her (Colossians 4:6, ESV). (Fortunately, she just told me that she has noticed a difference over the last couple weeks and I am getting better.)
- I appreciate the natural warmth and nurture she expresses. Can you imagine two sledgehammers living together? Though they may be good at construction, there would be little warmth in the relationship. As someone who is sensitive, she can often tell when I am disappointed, or sad, or happy, or you-name-it. She can tell when I need a backrub (which is always lol) or when I need a listening ear. Because I am a strong individual, it is not always easy for others to tell these things about me, but she has lived with me for a decade now and has studied me. Her sensitivity has allowed her to understand (and meet) my needs – sometimes even before I am aware of them. My life would be a much colder place to inhabit without her soft, warming presence.
- Her sensitive nature has helped me be more patient with others. Due to living with her and meeting her sensitive personality needs, it has helped me understand how to interact with others (particularly of the female persuasion). She still excels at being the voice of empathy (and I the voice of strength), but her influence has rubbed off on me. I’ll never be as soft as she is (nor would she want me to be), but I have grown to become more empathic in my interactions with others. It is understandable that we often hurt the ones we love the most – and that is because they are the most vulnerable with us (and us with them). Admittedly, I likely do take more care in seasoning my speech with grace to others since I know they won’t be as quick to forgive my verbal foibles. It should not be this way, but it often is. But, as I strive to consciously be tender with Heather, I am closing that gap.
- It is a practical living out of “weaker vessel” theology. I believe the Bible has answers for our relationship issues. Accepting biblical theology (regardless of how un-American it is) produces healthier relationships. In this vein, internalizing this theology means that I need to intentionally treat her more carefully (as one who is sensitive). And what is the problem if I do not? My prayers are hindered. This is serious business. I have no doubt that there have been times where I have been snide with Heather and it caused my connection with the Father to weaken. In those times, I need to apologize (and for the most part, do so). But, perhaps I also need her to forgive me and entreat the Lord to ask Him to release me of any hindering of my prayers which have been caused by my harshness (ref. Job 42:10).
- Over time, being harsh can callous her softness. I remember years ago watching a video by Eric and Leslie Ludy where they said that women spell love: t-e-n-d-e-r-n-e-s-s. I have found this to be true. I have also found that when a soft surface rubs against an abrasive surface, over time, calluses can form. These can be helpful when forming callouses on fingertips when playing the guitar; yet, it’s never helpful when they are callouses forming on her heart toward me. If husbands do not course-correct and continue toward tenderness, even the softest of people can become, and remain, callous toward the other. And hard-heartedness is not good for either person. At the end of my life, I do not want to present a hard-hearted wife to Christ; but, rather, a soft-hearted and loving woman.
- Women, in their nature, are reactive and responsive. In general, God made men to initiate and women to respond. As I have observed husbands who are harsh with their wives, the wives have become embittered toward their husbands (and toward life and others); whereas, husbands who have been tender with their wives, they grow in loveliness and tenderness with others. A person can tell much about a man from observing a woman he has been married to for several or more years. The soft-hearted women know they are protected by their husbands and that they love them (which gives them the confidence to be the woman God created them to be). This also applies to fathers and daughters as well. Like flowers, women need nourishment and daily watering lest they wither. It is up to fathers and husbands to love their daughters and wives well – and to understand them. Are we men going to really get them completely? No, but that is okay. The joy is in the journey.
I am learning to love my wife better and more tenderly than I previously have. With God’s grace, I will be able to continue doing so. Hopefully, this post is an inspiration to other men (and myself) to course-correct, if needed, or to confidently maintain their tender stance toward their wives.
Since our primary audience is dating and engaged couples, I encourage you men to be tender with your ladies and treat her with love and respect. As well, I encourage you ladies to be open to being pursued by those men who are tender and who treat you with love and respect – though, note… we won’t always be perfect, but you should see a general trend in the right direction. (And if he isn’t getting it, direct him to this post. ~smile~ — and/or decide if he really is the right man for you [which he may be, it just may not be the right timing if he is not mature enough yet].)
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What lessons have you learned from the opposite sex? [Comment below!]