Hear Ye

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailMy wife says I never listen to her.
At least I think that’s what she said.
~Author Unknown

Bill Cosby called it The Weapon, a technique husbands instinctively catch onto early in marriage, and use as needed. The wife says something he’d rather ignore, like “Did you take the trash out?” or “We need to talk about taxes.” His mind is elsewhere, or he’s watching his favorite TV show, or she’s brought up an inconvenient topic. So instead of responding, he just stares straight ahead, pretending not to hear, hoping she’ll give up. Cosby said this is especially effective because, no matter how certain she is that he’s faking deafness, she can’t really prove it.

It might even start before marriage. I certainly noticed, in my family of origin with two brothers, how easily and often we tuned poor Mom out when we were teens. Lost in our own little worlds of radio, comic books, television or plain old zoning out, we resented that familiar female voice breaking in with her directions, complaints or questions. We couldn’t talk back – Dad would never allow it – and, truth to tell, we weren’t much good at arguing with her anyway. So rather than lose an argument or risk Dad’s wrath, we’d choose to pretend we didn’t hear. We even perfected that surprised wide eyed look that said, when she’d finally scream at seismic levels, “Oh, gee Mom, were you saying something?”

Maybe that’s all husbands amount to: aged teenagers using the same tricks on our wives that we perfected in adolescence with our mothers.

Regardless, it’s a complaint I often hear from couples I work with, and from the wife I live with: Distracted husband seems hard of hearing; frustrated wife speaks more loudly to be heard; husband in response to wife’s crescendo goes deaf; things get nuclear. It could be funny on a TV sitcom, but in life, not really. Because the wife who feels unheard is a wife who feels invalidated, unimportant, insignificant. Nothing humorous there.

Which probably accounts for the strong reaction The Weapon gets. To him, it’s just a way of avoiding an unwanted conversation. But to her, his lack of response says, with unbearably loud silence, You Don’t Matter. And as I think about it, I can hardly say that’s just a “woman thing.”

Because men get furious when they’re disrespected. If I say “good morning” to a guy and he ignores me, or if I’m standing at the counter of a store trying to ask a question and the clerk acts like I’m invisible, or if I ask my wife or kids a question and they look up at me like I just interrupted a UN summit, then I get very, very mad. Why, then, would a wife be any less than irate when her man, who’s vowed to love and honor her, among other things, tunes her out?

Honestly, I’m coming to realize that two of the primary ways I say “I Love You” to Renee is by saying “I Love You” (brilliant, Joe) and by listening, eye contact and all, when she’s talking to me. And that means putting down the paper, turning away from the computer, or putting the TV on pause while full attention is given her. It’s not just that she deserves that respect, though Lord knows she does, but she deserves that love as well; that simple consideration that says “You take precedence; what you have to say matters.”

Paul said “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church”, an admonition we spend our married lifetimes trying to obey, always falling short, and trying again. But as a footnote to that, I’d also add, “And don’t let your union die the death of a thousand cuts, because every time you don’t listen to her, you slice off a bit of her confidence, and her security in her importance to you.”

That’s not in the Bible, but it’s true. The good husband loves his wife, the smart husband sees the value of loving her, and the good and smart husband listens up when she says Hear Ye. There’s enough in this hard life to devalue our women’s sense of their beauty and worth. Let’s be sure the daily messages we send them counter those devaluations, so that on even the hardest of days, they can say with confidence, “Yes, I matter to him.”


  1. Awesome post. :) I am not married but have been in a relationship where the guy would just flat ignore me for a whole day…and me having no clue as to why. It was very confusing and very hurtful for sure. And when he finally did talk to me and I would ask him why he did that, he would again act like he couldn’t hear me. :/ I really think in his case he got overwhelmed with life and to deal with it, would just shut down for awhile. He never did it because he was angry at me. At least I figured that out. My mother is married to a man that seems to not hear her very well either…its even more disconcerting because she has a very major hearing problem. I think it starts young too…I had my son’s hearing tested several times when he was a kid…:/

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