We’re at camp this week with the boys so I’m sharing some posts on marriage.
Communication. It’s so vital to the health of a marriage. But it’s often overlooked and taken for granted. Now women by nature are typically talkers. We like to talk out all the options of a scenario and possible outcomes. We like to know what our husband is thinking. We ask questions like “what do you think about…” or “so tell me…” We are whole story people, we want the whole story, little details and all the stuff from beginning to end.
Men on the other hand, typically are short answer kind of folk. Quick to the point. Short story, strictly need to know kind of information.
This can cause some (okay, a lot) of conflict in a marriage. First I have to say this to the ladies…life is not a romantic comedy. Our husbands can’t read our minds and really things rarely play out like they did in “how to lose a guy in 10 days”. Most of the time if you tell them that you’re okay, he believe you. Unless you use that tone that says…”buddy you should know what’s wrong” that strikes fear into his heart. He’ll spend the rest of the day trying to figure out why he’s in the dog house. So don’t expect him to read your mind. Tell him. You love to talk…don’t clam up and expect him to suddenly become telepathic about the stuff that is really important to you.
Guys…your wife wants you to talk to her. She wants you to tell her what you’re thinking and then she wants to verbally process it with you. It’s unnatural for you. I know. But try to give her more than just “it’s okay” or “fine” when she asks you a question. Communicate…it’s one of the ways she knows that you’re paying attention to her, that you care and that you love her.
Here are some general guidelines for communicating with your spouse…
1. Shut your phone off. Don’t facebook, tweet, check your email or otherwise send the message that you’re not really paying attention. (I have been known to try to do all of these while carrying on a conversation with Kerry…it did not go well.)
2. Don’t roll your eyes, sigh, cross your arms etc. Again this says “I don’t really want to be here”.
3. Say something back. Seriously. If you’re listening to someone…say something back to them to let them know that you at least kind of understand what they’re talking about. Even if you say “I have to think about it for a minute”
4. Don’t interrupt. If your spouse can’t read minds…you can’t either. Let them finish their sentence.
5. Be willing to postpone the conversation if you need to. In our house full of 4 boys, we will sometimes have to put our discussion on hold so that we can attend to whatever emergency (diaper change, tantrum, fight or whatever) is at hand. One of our favorite authors has a policy in his house… when mom and dad need time together they tell the kids they’re taking a break. They shut their bedroom door and have time alone to talk, nap or do whatever married couples do when they’re alone. The kids know that only in dire emergencies are they allowed to interrupt. Now, this wouldn’t work on our house Our kids are still too young yet, but it’s certainly a great idea.
6. Sometimes silence (gasp!) is okay…for a bit. Other times it means that your spouse has fallen asleep. Silence is helpful to collect your thoughts and formulate a response. But I’m telling you…I only give Kerry about 30 seconds before I start nudging his leg to make sure he’s still awake. Which brings me to my next point…
7. Don’t save big topics (or in some cases any topic) for right before bed. Your husband is tired. Once the lights go out I have about 2 minutes max to say good night to my husband. Now is not the time for me to bring up discipline issues, job conflicts, having another baby (no that’s not an announcement) or whether we should move again. I’ll get irritated that he falls asleep and the poor guy has no idea what hit him when the pillow comes flying across the bed.
8. Keep your personalities in mind. One of the most helpful things we did in our marriage counseling was take a little questionnaire. To be honest the biggest take away I have from this survey was that our personalities are very different. I typically answer questions with either strongly agree/strongly disagree, while Kerry answers them with agree/disagree or neutral (I’m rarely neutral on anything). Eventhough we answered questions similarly, I almost always picked the strongly option. Early in our marriage this proved to be huge. I tend to get excited and worked up about things quickly. I wanted Kerry to do the same. When he would respond calmly or would take time to think about stuff (this is a great quality as I tend to make pretty snap decisions) I would get irritated and interpret it as lack of caring or that he wasn’t paying attention. Sometimes your spouse might need to take time to let it sink in.
9. Be respectful but be honest. This goes without saying I think, but sometimes it’s helpful to have a reminder. Be nice and tell the truth.
I would encourage you this week to think about how you speak with and to your spouse. Communication isn’t just about conveying ideas. It’s about connecting. It’s about meeting the needs of your marriage and building your relationship.