“I talk to my cows.”
Many years ago I had a couple of clients (wife and husband). I often think about them because of the outcome. It was one of those marvelous outcomes that teaches a life-lesson: Communication is vital. It does not have to be polished. But, it needs to occur. And, it needs to be honest and consistent. The gist of the experience follows below.
A lady in late middle-age told me she was going to divorce her husband. He was described as a good man, a good provider, as loyal and trustworthy, and as dependable as they come. Puzzling that she was contemplating divorce. What was her reasoning? “He does not talk to me.” She craved conversation. She wanted to feel like she was his “go-to”, an important part of their marriage. She had not felt that way for many years. She was weary of the neglect and had begun to contemplate a change in her relationship status.
“You need to tell him what you are considering” was my recommendation. I suggested she invite him to accompany her to a session so as to determine if the multi-decade marriage could be salvaged. “He won’t come in. He is a very proud and private man” she said. My reply to her was something to the effect of: “Perhaps he will if you tell him what you have told me.” She conceded that she owed him that.
He accompanied her the next appointment. He was not a happy man. He was angry and suspicious. He made it clear that his business was his business and nobody else’s. He did not come in willingly but out of desperation. He feared losing his wife. I acknowledged his dilemma, and his position that his business was his business and no one else’s. He was in a tough spot. I offered my assistance even though it was the last thing he wanted.
He was not one to talk about things. He was a doer. He was responsible. He was honest. He was self-sufficient. He was determined to take care of his wife. He just did not share things with her. When asked his rationale, he stated, “I don’t want to trouble her”. I suggested he might want to risk talking because she sounded determined to make good on her threat to file for divorce. That thought was terrifying to him. He acknowledged that he experienced pressures, concerns, and dilemmas. But, he kept them to himself so he would not be a burden to his wife. He truly believed he was acting lovingly by not sharing his concerns and burdens. He did not realize how much she needed him to share with her.
I asked him what he did when he was feeling stress, pressure, etc. “I talk to my cows.” I suggested he talk with his wife like he did to his cows. “I don’t want to burden or trouble her” was his reply. I reminded him that she was contemplating divorce and it would be worth a try because he was terrified of her ultimatum: “You will talk to me or I will leave you”. I conceded that he really had no choice, he had to do what he did not want to do.
The next appointment was remarkably different from previous sessions. Both came in with a sense of well-being I had not previously observed. He calmly volunteered, “I talked to her like I talk to my cows.” He was amazed how well she responded. To think that it would be beneficial to talk with her like he was accustomed to talking to his cows. She responded so well that she no longer threatened divorce. Rather, she reported that she was getting what she so long pined for. He was sold on the value of sharing with his wife and not solely to his cows. His last words were “I have a lot of friends who could benefit from talking to you”. He had learned the value of talking to his wife like he did to his cows. It did not trouble or burden her. It helped her feel as though she was a valuable and loved part of a team.
There is also a spiritual application to this lesson. “Talk to God like you would talk to your cows”. He desires it. We will not trouble or burden Him. Remember, He is omniscient. We are the ones being cheated if we do not talk to Him. He desires for us to share openly, honestly, and about everything. Hebrews 4:16 states: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (ESV). We need to. He wants us to. And, we can be confident. The above verse is preceded by: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (vs, 14-15). He is safer than cows.