When I was engaged to be married, I read a lot of books on relationships, and every single one of them gave some form of this advice to men: “Don’t try to fix her problems when she tells you about them; she just needs you to listen.” You’d be hard pressed to find a book on relationships between men and women that does not offer this classic and somewhat cliché warning. Even though I had heard the advice many times, I still found myself running into the issue once I got married.
It happens to every couple. At some point they are deep in conversation, and the woman tells the man about something that is troubling her heart. The guy listens and immediately goes into “fixer” mode. He offers the simple solution to her problem and ends up confused when the girl responds with frustration and resignation.
The problem she expresses might seem as superficial as a headache or as deep as a failing friendship. Either way, what the woman is looking for in these moments is to be known. She wants her guy to see her, hear her and simply acknowledge what she is going through. A woman’s heart is extremely relational, and feeling connected can be more important to her than solving the problem right then and there.
The dude, when he hears his girlfriend/fiancée/wife express her difficulty, assumes she is coming to him for a solution. And of course she would, right?, he thinks. I’m good at fixing things. So he totally misses the mark and feels confused when the woman gets miffed or even angry, telling him he doesn’t understand and stomps off.
We men can feel like the guy in this video:
We see something that’s wrong, see a solution, and feel frustrated when we’re not free to fix the problem.
For women, the frustration comes in not being heard and having their emotions invalidated. She comes to him and opens her heart, offers him a chance to grow closer to her, and he completely ignores her by focusing on the problem.
As ironic as it might seem in the context of this blog post, I’m going to offer a few solutions I’ve found for this classic source of static between men and women:
1. Guys, when she tells you about her issues, resist the urge to start firing away with your solutions and ask yourself what she is really needing from you. Sometimes it can be hard to know when to just listen and when she actually wants you to fix something. I have actually asked my wife, “Do you want me to offer any advice on this or just listen?”
2. Girls, we men like to fix things. Sometimes you might just have to let the guy love you by trying to help even though that’s not exactly what you were looking for.
3. Guys, the truth is that getting closer to a woman’s heart can scare us. Realize this when you are tempted to use the stereotype of being a “fixer” as an excuse not to be there emotionally for the woman in your life. Ignoring a woman’s heart and focusing on her problem can be a coward’s way out. In Christ, you have the guts it takes to pursue her.
4. Girls, if you feel like the guy should “just know” why you’re frustrated, you may be letting your expectations prevent you from helping him be there for you. Don’t be too proud or stubborn to say, “I don’t want you to fix my problems; I just want you to know me.”
Here’s to better communication and deeper intimacy.