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Jul 21, 2013

The Art of Mind-Reading, Part II

I left off last time with the idea of how well I get along with my wife has to do with how well I can read her mind. Let me reiterate this is not about her, but rather a real skill I should try to improve.
Of course I do not have any sort of clairvoyance or other mental prowess. But I do have powers of observation. How often do I “know” how someone is going to act or react in an upcoming situation? How can I know this if I am not a mind-reader?
I make a judgment and prediction, based on what I know of the other person. If I know that person very well, as I should my wife, that prediction can often appear as mind-reading. This is the skill to which I refer. And as stated last time, knowing my wife very well begins with my willingness to pay attention and having the personal discipline to recognize What’s the Count and Where’s the Play.
Before getting married, my wife and I read several books together as part of our premarital scrutiny. His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley Jr. was one very eye-opening book. It really brought the concept of personal perspective in a relationship into a new light for me. After reading the book, it registered that when I assess another’s need, I do so by assessing what I would need in that circumstance; however, the other person’s needs may not be the same as my own. Therefore, as well-intentioned as I may be, I often deliver “help” in all the wrong ways.
To simplify this, imagine a friend is hungry. If I remember that a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich always gives me a quick fix, I might suggest it or even make one for my friend. However, if my friend is allergic to peanuts and I don’t pay attention enough to know that detail, then I could actually be doing harm. At the end of the exchange where I try to feed my friend “poison,” neither my intent nor my feelings really matter.
This is the same when I am nice to my wife and do things to help her. If I am not careful, I will be helping her as if I were helping myself. In some cases, actually many cases, I could actually be poisoning her, emotionally at least. I really need to get to know her and what her top-priority needs really are in order to meet them. And I cannot assume her needs are what I would want.
That doesn’t just happen by studying her or asking her to make a list. I think I often want the Junior-High solution where I would ask her best friend, “Well, what kinda things does she like to do?” That’s not a horrible place to start, but too many men stop there and don’t continue to learn what their partner wants and needs in life.
I am not meaning to toot my own horn here, because I still have many things to learn and I fail from my best delivery more often than I like to admit. However, let me list some pursuits I make to help better understand my wife:
  • I read books and articles about gender differences.
  • I perform quizzes and exercises to better know and share our needs.
  • I discuss with her what she’s feeling.
  • I discuss relationship goals with her.
  • I discuss with her about other couple’s struggles and ask for honest feedback
     about how we do in those same struggles.
  • I talk about when my needs are in conflict with her needs and try to find compromise.
Don’t count me as an expert on my wife or even on woman in general. There are still many ways in which I can improve. I consider myself an eager student at best. However, I believe the effort to try to improve my character, to better learn who she is, quite relevant.
I might be so bold as to say, at least from my wife’s perspective, the effort to try may be more important than the result. But then again, that is only if I am reading her mind correctly.

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