Dale was gruff, a hard-working man who operated his own construction company. Highly successful as a businessman, he was also able to run any piece of equipment. Sixty-hour work weeks were not unusual for him, especially in the early years of building his business.
However, in the meantime Dale let something very critical slip by him—his relationship to his wife, Elizabeth.
A friendly man, Dale stands over six feet tall, is muscular and has hands like baseball mitts, calloused and rough.
“Flew all the way across the country to meet you,” Dale said, grabbing my hand as they walked up to The Marriage Recovery Center. “I wanted to meet this guy who’s going to save my marriage.”
“I’m not so sure I’m going to do the work, Dale,” I said. “But, I’ll help you.”
“Ah, c’mon,” he continued, smiling. “I’ll give you anything if you can make her like me again.”
We went into the Marriage Recovery Center cottage and began our work.
“As you can see,” Elizabeth began, “Dale’s a wise guy. He is able to solve any problem. I can bring him any issue having to do with machinery and he’ll have it fixed in minutes.”
“Everything except one piece of machinery,” Dale said with a grin. I should have seen it coming, but didn’t.
“Women,” he said. “Actually, one in particular. I can’t seem to learn to speak ‘Chick’. That’s why we’ve come to you.”
I stopped and pondered what Dale had said. Was there really a different language between men and women as some authors have suggested? Are women’s needs really that different from men’s? I decided to pursue the question to both Dale and Elizabeth.
“Absolutely, there is a difference,” Dale asserted. “The guys at my shop don’t talk anything like the stuff my wife reads out of your books. I’ve got to learn to speak ‘Chick,’ and I’m sure you can help me.”
“Well,” I said. “I’ll sure give it my best.”
With that, I asked why they had flown across the country to Seattle to work with me. After their initial friendliness, they got down to business. It seemed that Dale and Elizabeth really were in marriage trouble and much of it had to do with Dale not speaking her language—or she speaking his.
As I took a history of their marriage, it became apparent that Dale spent most of his day barking out orders—and his men were rarely offended by it. That style, however, didn’t work in his marriage. He raged and let his temper fly at work; this again didn’t go well at home. Dale rarely shared his more tender emotions, the emotional currency Elizabeth treasured and longed to share with her husband. We began our work of learning to speak ‘Chick.’
For those of you wanting to learn this language, here are a few thoughts I have on the topic.
1. Learning ‘Chick’ is learning to share about our most vulnerable self.
We have a place within where we feel emotions. Whether we call this our heart or core self doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we become familiar with our vulnerable feelings, such as sadness, hurt, fear, loneliness and inadequacy to name a few.
2. We all have these feelings.
Whether we work on a construction site, business office or in the home, we all have a wide range of feelings. We may have stifled them in favor of feeling safe, rather than vulnerable, but we have those feelings nonetheless. Often these feelings are covered beneath resentment, anger outbursts and even humor.
3. Some places are not safe for sharing vulnerable feelings.
Not everyone wants to hear about our feelings of inadequacy or loneliness. Some families, job sites and marriages are inhospitable places for these vulnerable feelings. Denying those feelings makes us feel safe, for the time being, but renders us unbalanced in the longer run.
4. Vulnerable feelings are God-given and useful.
Our feelings are part of our human nature and were actually a part of Christ’s character. Scripture is replete with Jesus having feelings for others (empathy) as well as having His own feelings of agony, discouragement, betrayal, anger and sadness. Feelings aren’t necessarily good or bad, but rather what we do with them that is the critical issue. We must learn to understand our feelings and make healthy choices from them.
5. The language of feelings is one of the primary ways we connect to others, especially our close interpersonal relationships.
Sharing facts about our day can be one way to connect. Sharing feelings about those events is a deeper, more intimate way to connect to others. Being vulnerable, open and sensitive to our mate creates a powerful connection. Learning this language is a great way to connect to your mate.
Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at email@example.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and yourrelationshipdoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.