pastor’s wives are expected to be patient and good listeners and compassionate. i can be those. i can even be those in large quantities if the situation (as defined by me) calls for it. but fyi, asking questions like, “how’s that working for you?”, “why would you do that?” and “why are you crying?” are not popular. consider that exhibit A for why i made the world’s worst pastor’s wife.
okay, what’s-her-face from westboro baptist church has me beat, but i was still pretty awful.
i even got voted out of a women’s bible study once.
you heard me.
how did i manage that? it was surprisingly easy.
there was a time every week that was open for anyone to share what was going on in her life, good or bad, and the rest of us would offer advice, congratulations, encouragement, Midol, whatever. one girl continually brought the same problem with her mother over and over and over and over…for 6 weeks straight. i had known her for years. this was a pattern of drama.
remember that i said i can be patient? yeah…i tried. i really did.
i looked at her and said, “here’s what i need you to do. you have 3 choices. 1. deal with this issue and give a progress report next week. 2. if it can’t be fixed, get on with your life. or 3. stop bringing it up every week because i can’t hear it again.”
too bad for me i didn’t have the immunity idol because i got voted off the island.
i learned something that day though. sometimes girls don’t want a solution, they just want to be heard.
now, i still stand by what i said to the girl in my bible study. though i admit i could have handled it better. i was clearly harsh like only a Brillo pad and girls in their early 20’s can be. however, there’s a point when venting becomes wallowing and the need to suck other people into an emotional vortex overrides any desire to actually fix the problem. that’s not fun for anyone. but for the average girl, if she comes to you with a problem, the first thing you need to know is if she actually wants you to help her with it.
sometimes she will. sometimes she won’t. sometimes she just needs to bounce her thoughts off of someone else so she can hear them in a new way.
does this sound exactly opposite of my last post? that’s because it is.
and it isn’t.
at one moment she’ll want you to read her mind. the next she’ll just want you listen. i assure you, it makes perfect sense to her.
when one of your guy friends comes to you with an issue, he’s looking for you to tell him at the least, what you think, at the most, what to do about it. it’s simple. kind of like when you two guys get in a fight. whoever hits the ground first, loses. easy. done.
not so much with girls. if she’s telling you about an issue she’s having, it’s usually going to be up to you to determine if she actually wants your help or your ears. chances are she’s going to start talking and may even to appear to not need to breathe during the alpha and omega of run-on sentences. just sit still and pay attention. when she winds down, that’s when you start looking for clues to how you are expected to respond.
1. the pause – when she runs out of steam and just ends it without a question or even looking you in the face, a simple “that sucks” or “i’m sorry it was such a crappy day” should work just fine. she hasn’t asked you for anything so just offer concise but sincere sympathy. follow it up by doing something she likes. get her a cup of tea, build a fire, watch Grey’s Anatomy…
2. the exit – she also might just leave the room. it’s not that she is getting away from you, but sometimes girls feel like if they change the scenery, they can get away from their own thoughts. i do this. it actually works sometimes. it’s okay to follow her and ask if there’s anything you can do. do not offer advice. just ask what she needs from you. be prepared for ordering pizza or running out to grab her a bottle of pinot. or both.
3. the “so?” – this can go either way. she may look at you and say “so?” and leave it hanging like a question or just look you in the eye and clearly be waiting for you to say something. at this point you have to ask a question. “do you want me to help you with a solution or do you just want me to go buy you some chocolate?” she’ll tell you.
4. the straight up – sometimes you’re going to get lucky and she’s going to point blank ask you what she should do. offer what you can without being heavy handed. ask her questions and let her interact with you on the process.
when in doubt, ask her. the best you can do after that is take her at her word and act accordingly.
you can be her hero without being her savior.
girls are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and solving their own problems. sometimes they’ll tell you about them so they can feel like they have an ally even if they don’t necessarily need your help.
they don’t always want a solution.