John Gray wrote the renowned book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” in 1992, but his premise continues to be valid today: Men and women’s ways of seeing, interpreting and sharing the world differ vastly. These differences can often be obstacles for a man who seeks smooth, conflict-free communication with his wife. But with a little understanding on how a woman’s mind works, men can make the small tweaks necessary so that what they say, and the meaning behind it, is what she hears. The goal is to learn her communication style so that you can give her what she wants and she can understand your needs as well.
1. Men are solution-oriented and women just want to be heard
Typically, when a husband opens up a conversation, it is to state what the issue is and look at various options that will resolve it. When a woman opens up a conversation, she will offer ten times more information about the issue, and not begin to seek a solution until a good amount of discussion has gone on between herself and her husband.
To help you communicate with your wife, you will want to understand this difference in communication styles. Your wife finds it normal to express the emotions and feelings that are connected with whatever you are discussing, so make sure that when you set out to have a conversation about an important issue, you have the time and energy to devote to it. (If you don’t, you’ll want to propose another time to hold the conversation.)
Sometimes your wife won’t be seeking a solution. She just wants to be heard. And you can provide that validation for her by being present for the conversation. Nothing is more irritating to a wife than watching her husband keep one eye on the game and one eye on her in a half-attempt to listen to both. So make eye contact with her as she speaks, nod your head when you agree with her, say “Yes, I understand” when you are clear with what she is saying and “Could you clarify that a little more?” when you are not.
If you aren’t sure if she is open to suggestions for resolution, ask her. “I’ve got a couple of ideas on ways we could fix this; would you like to hear them?” is a good way to check and see if she wants solutions or just wants you to listen to her vent.
2. Your wife may use indirect ways to communicate her needs to you
If you are not sure of the message, ask her to be more specific. Women typically surround their requests with more culturally-approved language so that they don’t seem demanding or too assertive. So when your wife walks into the room and sees you in front of the computer playing a video game, then gives a loud sigh as she looks around at all the mess, know that she is asking you to stop the game and help her tidy up the room. If you aren’t clear on what the sigh is expressing, ask her. “What can I do to help you right now?” is a positive way to frame this question. You are showing her you want to help, and the “now” implies that you are ready to stop the video game to do this.
3. Make good use of “I” statements
Husbands who value good, respectful communication with their wives learn to open up statements with “I” instead of “you.” “I wish you would make sure the babysitter is confirmed when we have a dinner date set up” sounds better to your wife’s ears than “You always forget to lock in the childcare and then we can’t go out to dinner.”
4. Fight clean, not dirty
All couples fight. If they don’t fight, they aren’t communicating enough. But when you fight, choose your language carefully. Again, “I” statements can help move the conflict towards an agreement faster than accusatory “You” statements. Never bring into the fight hurtful criticisms such as comments on your wife’s weight, appearance or personal habits. That’s a quick way for things to go sour. Stick to the topic at hand. Be willing to concede if your wife brings up valid points. Be extra-willing to say “I’m sorry” when you are in the wrong side. And always keep in mind that this difficult moment will pass.
5. Celebrate your wife’s successes
She’s worked hard to raise good, respectful kids/decorate the home/get that raise at the office/keep your intimate life spicy. Make sure you acknowledge how successful she’s been in all these areas. Not only will she think you are awesome for giving her kudos where it is due, but it will have the positive effect of encouraging her to keep doing all the terrific things that she is doing. Bonus for you: when you express your gratitude towards your wife, you will naturally feel happier, too.
6. Be generous with your expressions of love
Everybody wants to be appreciated and valued. Make sure you tell your wife how much she adds to your life, whether you are newlyweds or a couple that has been married for decades. It is especially important for wives to hear that their husbands are grateful for their expertise in running the household, managing the children, being a supportive partner, and holding down a job while juggling all those balls. Happy couples express their love and appreciation for each other at least once a day, through love notes, texts, emails, and just plain “I love yous” as they kiss goodnight.
While it is true that men and women use different “languages” to express their wants, needs and desires, it really is not that difficult to learn how to best communicate with each other so that your marriage stays strong and your messages are received loud and clear. There are many useful resources out there to help you understand your unique communication styles, but remember: the best way to understand what your wife is trying to tell you is to just ask her.