Perhaps Rosetta Stone, the language learning/translation software, should develop a program to help you learn what your spouse is really saying. Listening to some husbands and wives try to communicate, you would think they grew up in different countries speaking completely different languages. You need some translation aids for Man-Speak and Woman-Speak.
The problem comes when his English isn’t her English (or Spanish or Swahili or anything else). In truth, even if they did grow up in the same city men and women function very differently when it comes to language and communication. Add to that the different perspectives on life and marriage each grew up in, and it often adds up to learning a whole new language when you get married.
My husband Al would frequently make a summary statement about a practical problem, group of people, business situation, or other matter as if it were fact. I learned that in doing so he was actually asking for my opinion, which he valued highly. He wanted me to affirm his assessment, or to kindly present an alternative view if I saw things differently.
You and your spouse will each have your own unique quirks of communication, and learning those things about each other makes the journey of marriage interesting. But there are some ways in which men and women differ in general that may help you decode your spouse’s communication more quickly.
Keep in mind these are generalities. These translation aids may provide some welcome insight into how your spouse thinks and talks.
The Way Men Speak
Men generally view communication as a way to convey information. Talking is a necessary means of getting the 411 from one person to another. Talking to express feelings or connect emotionally feels foreign – and frightening.
While he may be able to talk about external “stuff” indefinitely, talking about deeper issues such as feelings makes a man feel naked. He won’t feel safe enough to be emotionally vulnerable just because you as his wife want him to. Pressuring him to do so will make him defensive.
As a woman, understand that most men are emotionally modest in the same way many women are physically modest. In the same way you want the door locked, the kids “anesthetized,” and all the practical matters attended to before engaging in sex, your husband will need privacy, connection, and safety before sharing his feelings. For many men this happens most easily right after sex.
A woman’s natural ways of communicating may make men feel frustrated and uncomfortable. Men are naturally wired to fix things, and if you present a problem his natural response will be to offer a solution. If he can’t make it better, he’s likely to withdraw. He won’t keep doing something if he doesn’t feel he’s likely to be successful at it.
As a wife, learn to communicate in a language your husband is more likely to connect with. Get to the bottom line quickly. If there’s something you want him to do, ask clearly, and give him opportunity to say either yes or no. If you don’t want him to fix anything but only to listen, tell him so. And welcome the moments after sex; those may be some of the most meaningful times of communication for many couples.
The Way Women Speak
Women generally view communication as a way to connect. The information conveyed may be important, but in comparison it’s almost secondary. Talking is a way to destress, to deal with problems, to strengthen relationships. Talking without feelings feels superficial to a woman.
When her husband (or anyone) doesn’t give her undivided attention as she’s attempting to communicate, a woman easily feels misunderstood and devalued. A woman’s natural response to strong feelings – either positive or negative – is to talk about them. Many wives want to do this with their husbands; it makes them feel loved and connected when they can do so.
A man may be able to understand this better by realizing that communication feels as vital to his wife as sex feels to him. Lack of emotionally-rich and authentic communication makes her feel starved, lonely, frustrated. When she does connect with you through such communication she is also much more likely to willingly engage in sex.
A man’s natural ways of communicating may feel superficial and distant to his wife. When your wife presents a problem and you immediately try to find a solution she may feel that you are dismissing her feelings and minimizing how important the issue is to her. She may respond with defensiveness, anger, or tears.
As a husband, stretch yourself to communicate. Doing so is as necessary to your wife’s wellbeing as food and water. If nothing else, simply acknowledge verbally that your wife’s feelings are legitimate and listen attentively as she shares. Most of the time she needs you to understand more than she needs you to DO anything. You may be surprised how happy and connected she feels when you do so. You truly are helping when you listen to her.
Speaking Each Other’s Language
Why should you make the effort to learn and speak your spouse’s language? Because peace in your home and intimacy in your relationship depends on it.
Simply understanding more of how your spouse naturally communicates will help you appreciate the gifts they bring to the marriage. And making an effort to communicate to them in the way they are most able to hear will facilitate much more understanding – and love – between you.
Your Turn: What frustrates you about your spouse’s style of communication? How can understanding these differences between men and women improve the communication between you? Leave a comment below.
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True intimacy with your spouse depends on healthy communication.
If you’re feeling disconnected, there are things you can do to improve the intimacy between you.
In order to help, I’ve prepared a Resource Guide to help you Re-Connect with your Spouse. I hope you take advantage of this FREE resource right now!