Thinking in generalities saves time, since it's usually right.
But not all generalities are true: Most men are taller than most women, but not all men are taller than all women. Likewise, as Emerson Eggerichs has noted, a primary need for women is unconditional love, while for men it is unconditional respect.
But, as he and others point out, however, that does not mean that men don't need love and women don't need respect.
In the book “He Said, She Said,” Jay and Laura Laffoon explain that women, like men, need to feel capable, accomplished and significant and want their skills, talents and accomplishments to make a difference.
Raising children is a major part of many women's lives. This is incredibly important work. But the Laffoons warn this work can become so consuming that some women are “are afraid to let their children grow up because they're afraid they'll lose their significance.”
When you show respect for your wife, you helps her “unlock her gifts and abilities.” Not only does this help her grow as a person, but it also strengthens your marriage. The key to showing respect to your wife is to help her be free to develop her capabilities, accomplishments and significance and to also “help her realize how important she is in your life.”
The Laffoons suggest four primary ways to tell your wife “I respect you.”
•Tell her “You're right.” Some men avoid acknowledging their wife is correct out of the misguided fear that, by saying “You're right,” they will lose status in the marriage. But marriage isn't about status; it's about a man and a woman acting as equal partners moving through life. If you're truly equals, when the inevitable differences arise, sometimes you'll be right and sometimes your spouse will be.
Being honest enough to tell your wife “You're right” sends a powerful message of respect, which encourages her by helping her feel capable. Expert John Gottman agrees, noting that a mark of a healthy marriage is when each spouse allows the other to influence them.
•Talk to her. Your wife wants to be a part of your life and feel connected to your world. This means that she needs to know what's going on in your life. Spending time with your wife talking about the things that happened during the day signals you respect her built-n desire for connection.
Find out what your wife would prefer — some short, “Hi-how-are-you” calls or text messages, a chance to talk quietly for 20 to 30 minutes every day, or both. The main thing is to stay connected, let her know you're thinking of her and that you love her.
•Listen to her. One of men's strengths is our ability to focus. One of our weaknesses is our ability to focus. The Laffoons explain that, when we're watching TV or working on the computer and our wife says something, we need to learn to hit the pause button or turn away so we can focus on what she's saying.
Jay Laffoon puts it simply: “Men, it can feel like an inconvenience — an interruption — to pause the TV or computer to listen.” But we're able to take a break if we need a drink or a snack. We should not show our wife less respect than we do our taste buds. It's important “to realize our wife is not the distraction; she is the main event!”
But what you hear is only for you. Your marriage should be a safe-haven to share your struggles and successes. Sometimes your wife needs to let go of her frustrations and hurts by talking about them with you. Or she wants to talk about her secret dreams, desires and passions, some which may involve intimate details. When she talks to you, guard what she says as a valuable treasure. It is not something to take to work and talk about over coffee with your friends.
•Praise her. Sincere compliments are one of the best ways of showing respect. You'll go a long way in building up your wife and strengthening your marriage by praising her regularly, whether she's standing next to you or a hundred miles away.
Sadly, we live in a world where women are expected to be Supermoms, Superwives and Superhuman. Many women feel a constant sense of guilt because they cannot live up to this impossible standard.
Praising her frees her from this nonsense goal and says to her: “I respect you and honor you as a wife and as a woman.” In other words, praising her “frees her to be completely capable, accomplished and significant,” which are the goals of every woman.
If this sounds similar to what men want to hear, it should. We all need to feel respected. When husbands show respect for their wives and wives show respect for their husbands, they're both better off and their marriage will flourish.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.