Listening Ears

My husband, Ron, is a tax accountant, and during his busy season-January through April 15-he works from 7 A.M. to 9 P.M. without a single day off. I’ve learned to listen to his hints about what would make his life easier.

He even jokes that, for those months, I seem to turn into a magic genie. When he said, “I wish I could get my feet massaged while I’m sitting at my desk,” I zipped over to the mall and bought a deluxe foot massager (You didn’t think I was going to crawl under his desk and rub his feet did you?). When he said, “These shirts are so old, the cuffs are frayed,” I had new shirts in his closet the next day.

I’m not saying I respond everything he mentions, but I want to help him be as productive as possible. If I can make his life easier and less stressful during his “crunch time,” I benefit too. He’s grateful for my efforts, makes more money, and lives a longer happier life. Then when I have a deadline I need to meet-like for this article-he’s right there to “pay me back” by asking, “How can I help you?”

Sometimes, we women talk too much. Men generally talk less than women do and use up most of their “word quota” during the workday. So when it comes to word output, our husbands can’t keep up with us, and they quit trying. Then we complain: “You never talk to me.”

Try, as James 1:19 says, to “be quick to listen, slow to speak . . .”

Men who have had affairs often list, “My wife just doesn’t understand me” as the reason they went outside their marriage. The best way to understand our husbands is to listen to them when they do talk . . . when they speak about their childhood disappointments and triumphs, or their dreams about the future. It’s helpful to ask questions like, “What did you daydream about when you were a little boy?” or “What countries do you want to visit when we retire?” When we take the time to care about their answers, it shows that we care about them.

Just the other evening I asked Ron, “What was the first movie you ever saw in a theater?”

He thought about it for a minute, laughed aloud, and said, “Well . . . the first time I went to a theater I didn’t see the movie; I just saw the bathroom.”

I was afraid to ask, but I forged on. “What happened?”

“There was a theater a few doors down from our house in St. Louis, and one summer afternoon I went there with my friends Jimmy Joe and Skidmark.”

I laughed, “Skidmark?”

“Trust me, you don’t want to know how he got his nickname. The three of us tried to sneak into the theater because we didn’t have any money, but the manager saw us lurking near the back door and told us to leave. We were mad at him, so we decided to pay him back. So we stood on our tip toes, peeked into the open bathroom window, and threw in a stink bomb!”

Ron was laughing so hard at the memory that he had to stop to catch his breath.

I was horrified, but didn’t let it show. He continued, “The three of us ran around to the front of the theater,” he continued, “and laughed our heads off as we watched the people tumble out of the door, gasping for fresh air.”

I was thrilled to see Ron so happy about reliving his childhood, so I said, “Tell me another story.”

He told me several crazy tales about his unsupervised childhood, and some of the silly-and dangerous-things he did with his cousin Larry. I’ve learned, through the years not to interrupt him or be critical of his youthful tales of reckless antics. I just laugh, smile, nod . . . and listen.

Later that evening when we were lying in bed, he held my hand and said, “You’re a good wife.” But I think he really meant, “You’re a good listener.”