"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church."1
A friend shared with me saying, "My husband is a good man in many ways. He's given me everything a woman would want: a lovely home, a good car, everything to make my life comfortable, plus freedom to do my own thing."
"You must be really happy then," I said.
"You'd think so," she replied, "but I'm not. I feel that Bill has given me everything but himself. I know that he loves me, but when I try to share my feelings with him, he clams up or changes the subject. So how can I tell him how I feel without making him feel threatened? I just wish that we could really talk."
We men need to realize that closeness and intimacy come from being open and honest, not just with our thoughts, but primarily with our inner self; that is, our emotions/feelings, and open in communicating at this level. So how do we learn to do this?
First, we need to learn how to get in touch with and be connected to our feelings—our inner self—and stop hiding our real self behind defenses such as being a workaholic, a talk-aholic, an intellectual-aholic, or even a religious-aholic, or a perfectionist, and so on. To be close, not only to people, but also to God, it is imperative that we are connected to our inner self. As God's Word states, "Behold, You [God] desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom."2
Second, we need to bring back the wonder that we had as a small child—one of life's richest emotions. To do this, take time to smell the roses. Plant a tree. Pick a flower. Take it to your loved one. Write a poem. Listen to music that touches your heart. Draw or paint a picture with your non-dominant hand (it doesn't even have to be good). Climb a mountain. Let your hair down. Do something a little crazy. Get out of your comfort zone. Have fun. Go see a funny movie. Laugh. Go see a sad movie. Cry. The tragedy is that if we are out of touch with our wonder, we are most likely, instead of loving people and using things, to end up unhappily loving things and using people.
Third, take time to be with your spouse and children or close friends. Hug them often. Tell them that you love them. Take time to talk and even more time to listen to them. Encourage them to tell you what they are feeling. Listen with your heart. Give them your presence; that is, your full attention. And please, as another has said, don't be cursed with the affliction to give advice when your spouse (or anyone else) is sharing her/his feelings with you! Giving advice where it is neither asked for nor wanted is being what Webster's Dictionary calls "officious." It's also being obnoxious!
Fourth, join a good therapy, support, or twelve-step recovery group where it is safe to share your struggles and express your feelings without being criticized or put down, or given unsolicited advice. This is an excellent way to learn by others' example and by practicing it yourself.
Fifth, if you feel closed down, you may need to get into counseling. Sharing feelings is something that is learned. If it weren't learned in childhood, it needs to be learned now. We all need teachers for this.
Finally, pray a prayer such as the following: "Dear God, please help me to see and accept the inner-truth about—and be connected to—my true inner self. And please help me to learn how to communicate openly and honestly with my loved ones and to close friends, and always 'speak the truth in love' so that I will become more and more like Christ in every way. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Ephesians 4:15 (NLT).
2. Psalm 51:6 (NKJV).