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Clueless Men and Angry Women

A conversation with Holly Faith Phillips, co-author of What Does She Want from Me, Anyway? (Zondervan)

Holly Faith Phillips is familiar with the questions men are asking about the women in their lives. After addressing thousands of men at Promise Keeper gatherings, she is often asked for advice on how men can relate better to their wives. And she hasn't kept these insights to herself. With the help of writer Gregg Lewis, Holly combined the story of her own marital challenges with her knowledge of what men need to do to successfully communicate with their wives. While her book specifically addresses men, women will also benefit from her helpful observations.

Why are men often ineffective at meeting a woman's need to feel valued and understood?

There's a lack of mentoring from strong men—men who are sensitive to the needs of their women; men who know how to be servant-leaders. The idea of preferring one another in love, whether you're a husband or a wife, is absent today. We tend to think more in terms of "me," so we're not tuned in to our spouse's needs, fears or troubles.

What inspired you to write a book that clues men in?

I've seen firsthand at Promise Keeper gatherings how frustrated some men are. They're isolated. They're trying to do things without the help of older males and without the help of women who are on their side.

You wrote, "But the small hurts and little things done or not done that make a woman feel devalued, discounted or unloved can add up to anger." Obviously, years of minor hurts can create a very angry wife.

I struggled for three years before I finally decided to deal with the anger and frustration that resulted from nearly 11 years of my husband, Randy, not meeting my needs.

And yet, as I read your book, I realized that as a wife, I have a responsibility, too, when it comes to expressing my needs.

When our needs aren't met, women have a tendency to wait until we're so stinking frustrated that we blow up. Instead of taking the time to understand the cause of our frustration or anger, we come at our husbands with both barrels. Until we ask ourselves, "What is it about this situation that's got me so hot?" and then recognize what it is, we won't be able to communicate without all the fire. Until I started getting counseling, I was a woman in a rage—a walking time bomb. And I didn't even know why.

What gives? I thought women were good communicators by nature.

Not necessarily. Women think communication is talking. But there's a big difference between talking and communicating. Communication means getting your message across. Talking doesn't mean you're being understood.

Then assumptions about a woman's verbal skills can actually undermine her efforts to communicate?

Women can talk circles around men, and often that makes men feel insecure. Men know they can't keep up verbally, so they either become very demanding or they retreat, knowing they can't win anyway.

What's the way out of this vicious cycle?

Women and men need to spend more time listening and giving each other permission to vent. Once we get past the venting, we can get down to the real stuff. From there God can move our hearts with compassion; and we can start helping one another instead of being each other's biggest "enemy."

So communication is meant to bring together, as you say, "two halves of the same whole," not to get our own needs met.

Getting our own needs met is certainly the slant in John Gray's bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. And it's that kind of advice that was another driving force behind my desire to write this book.

You wanted to bring Christ back into the relationship equation, right?

The bottom line is the Scripture in Ephesians 5—the verse before "Women submit to your husbands, and husbands love your wives" that says in essence, "Love one another in the fear of Christ." We should be loving one another and serving one another. The strength to be a servant-leader and have a servant's heart comes from the Lord. When the rubber meets the road, if you don't have Christ the chances are slim this will happen in your marriage.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Communication; Marriage; Needs
Today's Christian Woman, Summer, 1997
Posted September 12, 2008

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