It’s Not About the Nail




Throughout the years, my husband and I have repeated versions of this scene over and over. I would endeavor to explain how I felt about some issue, the anger, the pain, the disappointment. And Eddie, being a very linear thinker, would assume, falsely, that I wanted a solution when in fact what I wanted was just for him to listen. To empathize. To feel my heart. To allow me to explore how I felt. Why I felt it. And just to sort out all the emotions as I talked through it. For me, the process allowed me to clarify my feelings and decide how to respond.

Many times throughout our years together, I’ve poured out all the details about something that was troubling me. Eddie’s brain would spin, computing all the possible solutions, and offer me an answer to which I would reply, “I don’t need you to fix it.” Or “I don’t need you to preach to me.” We’d both feel frustrated if not downright angry, scratch our heads at the other one’s utter inability to “get it.”

Now, marvelously, we can much more successfully move through such scenario. More often than not, we process through such events and end up feeling more understood, more valued, and more loved.

John Gray explains it this way in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus:

“When a man can listen to a woman’s feelings without getting angry and frustrated, he gives her a wonderful gift.

He makes it safe for her to express herself.

The more she is able to express herself, the more she feels heard and understood, and the more she is able to give a man the loving trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement that he needs.”

This not only works for the complex relationships between men and women, but also for friendships, for parents and children, and all sorts of relationships.

One thing I have learned in my journey is that fixing doesn’t feel like love to the person who is being fixed. This applies in marriages, in co-dependent relationship, etc. While we may want to “fix it” for someone else, the end result normally doesn’t feel like love for either people. It feels like fixing. Love allows the pain without always needing to fix it, knowing that there can be much gain in the process itself, much growth through the pain.

Simply being emotionally present with another human being, caring and supporting, can be a sacred gift and can be a bridge to eventually finding solutions, healing hearts, and strengthening relationships.  

p.s. I couldn’t resist adding this ending. Earlier this morning, I shared that video with Eddie. I loved it and thought of how perfectly it illustrated this principle of not needing to fix things for our spouse. He laughed. We both enjoyed the video together. Then I wrote this blog and sent it to him. After he read it, he said, “That’s great. I didn’t know that’s what the video meant. I thought it just showed what she needed to do.” Case in point. Mars and Venus.

We both laughed for quite some time. Maybe you will, too.



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  1. Jim Petersen says:

    Hi Mikki, I just found the “nail” video and am about to respond to your husband’s comments in the Stephens Minister group on LinkedIn. But in heading that way I got to you first and enjoyed your “nail” blog. I’d like to share a listening skill insight related to my book, Why Don’t We Listen Better? (This technique is not in this book, but will be in a book I’m working on for couples.) My wife Sally taught it to me. She found that when she walked into my office at home with an issue she needed help thinking through, I would quickly forget what I teach and leap to giving advice. This of course made me feel really smart and important, that is, for the short time before she got mad and considered not ever placing her problems in the hands of this rotten listener.
    I immediately jumped to giving advice because I could be the fixer guy. (This is described in the guys’ handbook for marriage based on ancient rituals of bagging game for the wife and kiddies and fighting off marauding wife-stealing enemy tribes.) Guys know we are supposed to fix our gals’ problems. Of course there is a parallel pressure for women, that is, being mothers who should fix problems for kids ─ of any age.
    Fortunately for us, she figured out a way to get me off the guy problem-solver-thing and into a useful mode of listening. For years now she’s walked into my office and said, “I have an issue I want to talk over. I need a consultant not a husband.”
    Whew, knocks me right off my advice pillar and gives me my marching orders. I know how to do that. I go for the Talker-Listener Card, remember my listening techniques and help her sort out her issue (The TLC is a folded card with talking and listening roles on either side). The TLC reminds me it is her problem. I’m to work at understanding and clarifying with no advising, agreeing or disagreeing and especially no defending my turf. I don’t try to solve her problem. She gets heard, sorts out her issues and I stay out of trouble. We both feel better.
    Keep up the healthy thinking, best wishes, Jim

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