I don’t know why, but I was singing Madonna’s “Express Yourself” while making pancakes and bacon on a Saturday morning. In fact, I’m writing this twelve hours since that breakfast, and Olivia just asked me, “Are you still singing that song?” Yup. It happens. I just got “Geronimo” by Shepherd out of my head.
As I belted out the lyrics to “Express Yourself”, sounding nothing like Madonna but having everyone at home saying something that sounded like a prayer, a message for men in marriage materialized.
This song is more than a girl power love song.
…Don’t go for second best baby
Put your love to the test
You know, you know , you’ve got to
Make him express how he feels
And maybe then you’ll know your love is real…
When I shared my TEDxCorpusChristi talk on how we define strength in manhood, the core of my talk was about having the strength as men to express ourselves emotionally. Our wives were raised being able to put their feelings into words. They have long conversations about them. Men have often prided themselves on being able to compartmentalize their feelings when they start to overwhelm us. It’s the way we were raised. It was the example we were given from the adult men in our childhoods. You can click on this direct download link to Strength Revisited (audio) and hear the expanded version of that talk.
We are more complete men when we are able to communicate with our wives on an emotional level. We are stronger men when we are able to open ourselves up to experience emotional joys and hurts with our wives rather than compartmentalize. There are times when we need to compartmentalize like when a bear is attacking us, but there are a lot of times when our wives just want us to show how much we love them by hanging out with them and expressing how we feel with them.
She Wants You to Express Yourself, Open Up
…What you need is a big strong hand
To lift you to your higher ground
Make you feel like a queen on a throne
Make him love you til you can’t come down
(You’ll never come down)
How we express ourselves is also a very important aspect of healthy communication in a marriage. I’ve seen some men take the invitation to share or express themselves as an open invitation to be hurtful in their expression. That totally misses the mark.
Yes, we need to express ourselves, but we also must do it in a way that lifts our spouses up to a higher ground.
My friends often hear me talk about the Proverbs 31 Man from the Bible. He speaks of his wife and to his wife in praise and in turn the children in the family do the same thing. When I lift up my wife, get humble, and vulnerable, I often find that Olivia will respond the same way and give me a platform to express how I feel.
Use Those “I” Statements
Use those “I” statements when you share with your wife how you have been hurt.
The other night, I talked about blogging and podcasting a little too much. It turned out that I have only talked about blogging and podcasting the past few months. To me, everything I have shared with my family has been a milestone or a success or a challenge. To them, it all sounds the same, and I hadn’t taken any time to really hear what they were going through. It was all about me, me, me.
It was too much for Olivia and she blurted out something that hurt my feelings and caused me to shut down. I have heard of couples that won’t speak to each other for weeks after something like this. I do not want to be a couple like that.
It took getting past my own pride, but this is how Olivia and I got to a point of understanding though. I started with an “I” statement rather than a defensive or attacking statement.
“I felt hurt when you said to me last night, ‘Is that all you ever talk about?!’ It took me off guard and made me feel like you didn’t support my dream or goal.”
Instead of something like this:
“You always put down anything I’m interested in. Why can’t you say anything nice about what I am interested in? I am always supportive of you! Why can’t you be more supportive of me?!”
This latter statement is what my emotions were telling me in my head, but it was raw emotion talking. I needed time to think about the “I” statement. Unfortunately, that time I needed to get my words together also hurt Olivia’s feelings. It made her think I was ignoring her, and I needed to take some time to address that, too. Silent treatment is a power and control tactic, and I do not approve of ever doing the silent treatment because the intention is about hurting the other person’s feelings. I am supportive of taking some time to calm down, taking the time to reflect and put those words together before having a conversation with our spouses.
Olivia also used “I” statements to express herself. She shared with me, “I felt hurt when you didn’t come to bed right away. It made me feel like you didn’t love me, or that you were mad at me.”
Express yourself with “I” statements when you feel hurt by your wife. They open the door to deeper conversations that let you grow in your marriage relationship. Your wife doesn’t deserve second best in a marriage relationship, so give her the best by learning to express yourself.
…Long stem roses are the way to your heart
But he needs to start with your head…
(You’ve got to make him)
Buy “Express Yourself” on Amazon
Buy Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs from Amazon