When you and your spouse discuss a problem, do you seem to end up further apart than when you started the conversation? If so, you can improve the situation. First, though, there are a few things you should know about the different communication styles of men and women.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Women usually prefer to talk out a problem before hearing a solution. In fact, sometimes talking is the solution.
“I feel better when I have expressed my feelings and know that my husband understands me. After I talk about it, I’m over it
—usually within just minutes after the conversation.” —Sirppa.
“I can’t move on if I don’t have a chance to explain to my husband exactly how I feel. Talking it out is a form of closure for me.”
“It’s like detective work. As I talk, I’m analyzing each step of the problem and trying to get to the root of it.”
Men tend to think in terms of solutions. That is understandable because fixing things makes a man feel useful. Offering solutions is his way of showing his wife that she can rely on him for help. So husbands are baffled when their solutions are not readily accepted. “I can’t understand why you would talk about a problem if you didn’t want a solution!” says a husband named Kirk.
But “understanding must precede advice,” warns the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. “You have to let your partner know that you fully understand and empathize with the dilemma before you suggest a solution. Oftentimes your spouse isn’t asking you to come up with a solution at all
—just to be a good listener.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
For husbands: Practice empathetic listening. A husband named Tomás says: “Sometimes after listening I think to myself, ‘That didn’t accomplish anything.’ But often that’s all my wife needs
—a listening ear.” A husband named
Stephen would agree. “I find it best to let my wife express herself
without interrupting,” he says. “More often than not, she finishes and
tells me she feels a lot better.”
Try this: The next time you discuss a problem with your wife, resist the urge to give unsolicited advice. Make eye contact, and focus on what she is saying. Nod in agreement. Repeat the gist of what she says to show that you get the point. “Sometimes my wife just needs to know that I understand her and that I’m on her side,” says a husband named Charles.
—Bible principle: James 1:19.
For wives: Say what you need. “We might expect our spouse to know just what we need,” says a wife named Eleni, “but sometimes we do have to spell it out.” A wife named Ynez suggests this approach: “I could say, ‘Something is bothering me, and I would like you to hear me out. I don’t need you to fix it, but I would like you to understand how I feel.’”
Try this: If your husband prematurely offers solutions, do not conclude that he is being insensitive. Likely he is trying to lighten your load. “Instead of getting annoyed,” says a wife named Ester, “I try to realize that my husband does care and wants to listen but that he also just wants to help.”
—Bible principle: Romans 12:10.
For both: We tend to treat others the way we want to be treated. However, to discuss problems effectively, you need to consider how your spouse would like to be treated. (1 Corinthians 10:24) A husband named Miguel puts it this way: “If you are a husband, be willing to listen. If you are a wife, be willing to hear solutions once in a while. When you meet in the middle, both spouses benefit.”
—Bible principle: 1 Peter 3:8.