Do you ever feel like you and your spouse are speaking different languages when you try to communicate? I do. Communication breakdowns can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
First, we must be careful not to make assumptions. For example, my husband often reminds me of things and I just thank him because I know he intends to be helpful. But I’ve found that he doesn’t always appreciate it when I remind him of things. So I’ve learned to ask him if he’d like a reminder.
It’s also good to learn if your spouse needs more time than you to process complex emotional data. If so, give him time to process. When I have a “heavy” topic to discuss, something that works well for my husband and me is to write out my thoughts. (This also allows me to carefully choose my wording.) Then I give my husband the letter and ask him to read it when he feels he’s ready and get back to me with a response. This allows him the necessary time to process his thoughts and emotions.
We should also strive to be very clear and direct in our requests. We should state what we want and why. I once heard a joke about a wife telling her husband that the light bulb had burned out. He replied, “Yes.” To him, she was simply stating a fact. In her mind, she was making a request for him to fix it. It would have been better if she had said something like, “That light bulb needs replacing. Would you be willing to replace it when you can?”
Too often, hurt feelings are simply a result of miscommunication. Couples will be much happier if they take the time to learn how to speak their spouse’s language.
Questions for meditation and discussion: (1) Have you ever misunderstood what your husband wanted? What happened? (2) Does your husband ever misunderstand what you want? How do you handle that? (3) Do you or your husband ever need time to process your thoughts before you respond? (a) How do you handle that? (b) Have you ever tried writing out your thoughts and letting him read them? Do you think that would work in your marriage? Why or why not? (4 a) How good are you at clearly stating what you want? b) How good are you at asking clarifying questions when you aren’t sure what your husband wants?
Application homework: Do one of these and write about how it went: (a) When you aren’t sure you understand what your husband wants, ask questions until he confirms that you’ve correctly understood him. Example: “So when I’m upset, you would prefer that I discontinue the conversation until I’m calm, is that correct?” What were the results? (b) Make sure you give your husband time to process his thoughts before you ask him to make a decision. You could simply ask him to let you know when he’s ready to discuss it further, or you could try the letter writing idea. What were the results?