Have you sometimes wondered if, when talking with your husband, he doesn’t speak your language? That he looks so perplexed when you are talking, you are convinced he isn’t hearing a single word you are saying? There is a whole range of books written about the different ways men and women communicate. Here are some tips that will help you break the “gender language barrier” and keep the conversation flowing between you and your husband.
1. If you need to talk about a “big” subject, schedule a time for that
You won’t be able to have a productive talk if one of you is rushing out the door for work, the house is topsy-turvy with the children screaming for your attention, or you’ve only got five minutes to sit down and express yourself. Instead, set up a date night, hire a sitter, get out of the house to a place that is calm and has no distractions, and start talking. You can relax, knowing that you have a couple of hours to devote to this discussion.
2. Start with warm-up phrases
You and your husband have carved out time to talk about an important issue. You might be ready to dive right in and get going on the discussion. Your husband, however, might need a little warming up before he can start unpacking the issue at hand. You can help him out by starting out with a small nudge. If you are going to talk about household finances, opening up the conversation with “What worries you most about the way we are managing our money?” is better than “We are broke! We will never be able to buy a home!” The former invites him warmly into the conversation. The latter is destabilizing and will put him on the defensive from the start.
3. Say what you need to say, and keep on topic
Research on the different ways men and women talk shows that women tend to go overboard when describing a problem or a situation that needs addressing. If you go on and on, bringing in related stories, past history or other details that could distract from the goal of the conversation, your husband may zone out. This is where you might want to communicate “like a man,” and get to the point simply and clearly.
4. Show your husband you’ve heard what he has said
It is important that you validate what your husband shares with you. Men are used to talking, but few are used to their listener acknowledging that they have heard what has been said. “I’m hearing that you want us to be better money managers” shows your husband that you are focused on what he is saying.
5. For conflict-resolution: Fight fairly
All married couples fight. But some fight better than others. When in conflict with your husband, keep things fair, on point, and moving towards resolution. Don’t scream, cry, play the blame game, or use phrases like “You ALWAYS do [whatever he does that annoys you]” or “You NEVER [whatever you’d like him to be doing]”. You want to communicate cleanly, addressing the topic that is the source of the immediate conflict, and stating what your needs are and how you’d like this to resolve. Then turn it over to your husband and ask him how he sees the conflict.
6. Don’t make him guess what your needs are
It is typical of women to feel that they can’t voice their needs. Putting on a nice face but secretly feeling hostile inside is a sure way to stay stuck in a situation. Many husbands will ask “What’s wrong?” only to be told “Nothing. Nothing at all.” Most men will take that answer as the truth, and move on. Most women, however, will continue to stew over the problem inside, until issues build up and, like a pressure cooker, finally explode. Your husband is not a mind-reader, no matter how well he knows you. You are responsible for expressing whatever is going on inside you. Own it. By communicating honestly and frankly with your husband, you move one step closer to resolving whatever is bothering you.
7. Express your needs directly and in clear language
This is related to tip number six. Because women are taught that it is not feminine to speak directly, we often resort to “hidden” requests that take a code-breaker to decipher. Instead of asking for help cleaning the kitchen, we say “I cannot look at this filthy kitchen for another minute!” Your husband’s brain only hears “She hates a messy kitchen” and not “Maybe I should help her clean it up.” There’s nothing wrong with asking your husband to give you a hand. “I’d love it if you could come and help me clean up the kitchen” is a perfectly acceptable and clearly-stated way of asking your husband to help you out.
8. Husbands do better when you reward them for their good deeds
Did your husband help out with a household task without you having to ask him? Did he take your car in for a tune-up so you wouldn’t have to? Remember to show your appreciation for all the small and large things he does for you. From a heartfelt thank-you to a love-filled text sent to his phone, nothing reinforces good actions like recognition. Positive feedback generates repeated positive actions, so be generous with the thanks and compliments on jobs well done.
While it can often seem like men and women don’t share a common language, using some of the tips above can help bridge that communication gap and help you communicate more effectively with your husband. And just like learning a foreign language, the more you use these techniques, the better you’ll be able to express yourself in ways that your husband will understand and appreciate.