Finding meaning

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Husbands Not Listening

By Skip Hellewell

In my untiring search for meaning, I dropped in on a women’s Bible study group a while back. Being unusually gracious women, they let me stay. The group had been meeting for a number of years, so my hosts were women who had reared their children and were settling into life with just a husband to talk with at home. The reader can probably guess where this story is headed.

I forget just what scriptural topic was being studied, perhaps it was the story of the Good Samaritan, but the discussion drifted downwind to husbands who don’t listen. The energy picked up as their favorite husband-not-listening stories were dusted off and brought out; it seemed they all had one. One explained that you had to stare directly into the husband’s eyes until they flickered with recognition before starting your message. About this time, one of the ladies pointed out they actually had a husband in the room and perhaps I had something to say in defense of men.

In the pressure of the moment, I remembered a business training class I once attended. The topic was about listening and we were supposed to listen to a story and then answer questions. Turning to competitive mode, I focused on the story and got the most correct answers, winning some award for best listener. That night when I returned home, I told the Beautiful Wife about my listening prize. I thought she would be proud, but my account left her sputtering with indignation. “They gave you a prize for listening?” she asked in an incredulous tone.

I had never quite understood the BW’s reaction, but the Bible study women got it in a hummingbird’s heartbeat. About this point, I remembered a practice of my children when they wanted my attention. They would come close and say, repeatedly, “Earth to Dad!” I raise this topic to alert the guys that listening to their beloved fills an essential human need. It’s not about what they’re saying, which they may even agree is forgettable. I suspect that listening is taken as a metric of your caring, a category you ignore at your peril. It may also be about your emotional response, that their issues are valued by you also.

Doctors are generally good listeners, especially during the part when you describe what’s ailing you. Pastors are also good. I have memory of Fr. Mackenzie at St. Mary’s, when I was about to offer a thought, intently zeroing in on me with, “I am hearing you.” The problem for husbands may be that you’re competing with doctors, pastors, and other women. When the BW takes her morning walks, she and her girlfriends never stop talking with—and listening to—each other. They’ve done these walks for years, but they’ve yet to run out of words, or the patience to hear.

Better listening may not solve all of one’s marital needs, but it’s an essential requirement. And it’s part and parcel of what the historian Dr. Will Durant considered the most precious thing in our civilization—“the loyal love of a man for a woman.” There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, Sunday 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish). Saturday: 4 pm Reconciliation, 5:30 Mass.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.



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