Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Being a Good Listener: Yet Another Key to a Great Relationship and Marriage

Women are social creatures and want to be heard. Being a good listener is highly attractive to a woman, but don’t let yourself become a girlfriend. Learn where to draw the line!

I got a letter that really got under my skin, because it shows just how simple some of women’s needs are and just how little effort it can take for a man to do incredibly attractive things. Meet Angie:

Hi, David! I’m so glad to see somebody addressing our [women’s] needs like this. There does not seem to be too many men who speak “female,” and your services as a translator are truly appreciated.

I bought your book for my husband, and getting through the first part was an education for us both, but we made it. We’ve been together since early grade school, and have always felt that we were right for each other, but after getting through your instructions on how to evaluate our relationship, we now KNOW that we’re not just star-crossed or the product of long-standing habit, we really belong together. But that’s not what I’m writing about.

My husband is going through the second part of your book now, and he’s catching on fairly fast and I can’t thank you enough for that. I always thought he was a bit short on attention span when we’d talk, but it turns out that I am probably worse than the average woman about using non-verbal communication and expecting everyone around me to pick up on everything, and we didn’t have long conversations because Jay (my husband) would get frustrated or bored with not knowing what I was saying most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, we talk all the time, but never for long enough to have a really deep conversation, and this has always bothered both of us, but we kept hoping that sooner or later we’d just grow together and it would work out. Well, we’re growing together as we go through your book, and it’s like being with a new and much better man, because he now knows how important communication is to me as a woman, and is quickly learning how to engage on a level that we are both more comfortable with. I’m also learning to be a little more direct with him than with my girlfriends, and that’s helping him to feel better as well.

We (women) don’t really want that much, do we? We want a man who is a man, not a girlfriend. We want you to listen to us. We want your attention. We want you to focus on us when you are with us, not other things around us. We want you to look at us, preferably at our eyes instead of our breasts, when we or you are talking, and really listen to what we are saying, because we know when you are not paying attention. We want you to be interested enough in us to ask us questions, about us, our day, our feelings, our friends, or whatever – just something to show that you are there because you are still interested in us, not because it’s a habit. And yes, when we’re being a brat, we really do want you to call us on it. You don’t have to be mean about it, but we definitely don’t want you being a wuss about it either. Is that too much to ask?

Anyway, your book is helping a lot, and while we are in our 30’s and have been together for almost 30 years (yes you read that right) we are getting closer, and I’m starting regularly to feel intimate desires for Jay that I haven’t felt for him but sporadically in years. A lot of it is just the lower stress level in our home and being able to have longer, more intimate conversations, but he’s also starting to be really fun again, like when we were teenagers and really started “discovering” each other (which is kind of awkward because our two teenage girls are starting to date), and the passion is really coming back. Thanks so much!

Love ya,

Wow! In their thirties and together for thirty years! The original “childhood sweethearts.” They’ve had thirty years to get bored with each other, and are still young enough to have very healthy libido’s, not to mention another 30-50 years together! Incredible! Well, let’s focus on attraction for a minute.

Angie made it plain that she had needs, and was pretty verbose about what they are. Obviously, she has a lot of other needs, but people take the time to express those that are most important to them, and she expressed wanting a manly man who could be genuinely interested in her and engage her in meaningful conversation, and that the more that need was fulfilled, the more they were rewarded with intimacy and passion. Guys, it doesn’t get any simpler or more basic than that, and this woman is saying that this is what’s most important to her, at least in regard to what she wants from Jay. She could be every woman alive today, too. Those needs and wants are universal amongst women.

Also note what she says she doesn’t want, and because of this, she’s a lot smarter than the average bear: She wants “a man who is a man, not a girlfriend.” I don’t know if she fully realized the wisdom in that statement, or if it’s obvious, so I’m going to explain it. Do not indulge your female partner’s “drama-fests.” If she wants to tell you about a problem, listen, but if she’s in that drama mode where she wants to keep repeating every detail of the problem to you over and over to milk every last drop of emotional energy out of it before becoming bored with it and moving on to the solution-finding stage, don’t go there.

Allowing her to treat you like her girlfriend is an attraction-killer, and often is even a form, possibly a subconscious form, of testing to see what you will tolerate. If you detect that a woman is starting to talk to you as if you were a girlfriend, just tell her that you’re not comfortable in the girlfriend role and that’s where it feels like she’s taking you, and that it would be better for both of you if she continued that part of the conversation with a girlfriend and came back to you to either tell you about the resolution to her problem or to secure your help if she found that she wanted it.

The one place where a little compromise might be in order is in eye contact. Women need it, and are grossly uncomfortable without it. It’s part of how they “connect” when they converse. We men, being results-driven, tend to multi-task and speak while we are doing something else, such as working or scanning the room for threats while in that primal mode of “protector,” which they will often interpret as lack of interest, attention, and respect with regard to both what they are saying and them in general. It’s no longer a realistic possibility that a dinosaur, lion, or bear is going to eat your family, so try to be a little more deliberate and aware of your actions when talking with a woman.

It’s very helpful if you do indeed make an effort to maintain eye contact when both speaking and listening, but if you are in the middle of something that you can’t put down, point that out, saying something like, “Look, I have to finish this. We can either talk while I work (or whatever you’re doing) or you can give me a few minutes to get to a place where I can stop, and then we can talk. Which are you more comfortable with?” Notice that you’re not dumping the choice in her lap, you’re asking for her preference; the difference is subtle, but significant. You will then “decide” to grant her preference. This is both leadership and consideration of her needs, not to mention the kind of diplomacy women tend to engage in, and she will appreciate it without you looking like girlfriend.

Getting back to drama-fests for a moment, when you start hearing the details a second time, you’re getting into girlfriend territory. After making the announcement about not being comfortable in the girlfriend role mentioned above, point out to her, politely and respectfully, that you already understand the problem from her first run through describing it, and if she wants your input or assistance later when she’s ready to do something about fixing the problem you’ll be there for her, but until then she needs to share this problem with her girlfriends until she gets it out of her system and is “over it” and ready to move on. She may pout a bit at having her “emotional inertia” interrupted, but if you handled it right that’s a test, too, so don’t worry about it.

This is one of those areas where you need to define and exercise authority, and you need to gently but firmly make it clear that you’re willing to listen the first time, but the second through “however-many-times-it-takes,” she needs to share with her girlfriends, because they are wired for it and enjoy it and you are wired to fix problems, not relish and explore them. She may not understand this at first (many women really think that we’re all wired the same, just as many men do!), but you must be steadfast if you want to remain her manly man and not evolve into another girlfriend she has to keep up with.

Gentlemen, women seem a little more complicated than we are at times, but their true needs really aren’t. They want the same things we want: self-esteem, productive work (at least the good ones do!), a meaningful relationship with an attractive and interesting partner, and intimacy -- passionate intimacy when the kids aren’t around. And to beat it all, all we have to do to give it to them is act like real men (“manly men who do manly things,” as the saying goes) and pay attention to them enough for them to know we’re interested in them and to know what they’re saying to us.

They find that sexy and attractive, and reward us for it by giving us what we want, which is pretty much the same thing much of the time. It’s just not that hard when you know how, is it? And as Angie points out, it’s easier with my book, “THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage,” so download your copy today at, because life’s too short to spend it any other way than happy.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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