This post is written by contributing writer, Mary Beth from New Life Steward.
Recently, my small group randomly began discussing the book Men are Like Waffles–Women are Like Spaghetti. Having never read the book (see this post for books I recommend on marriage), I gathered from the others that the main gist of the book is the difference in thinking and communication between men and women. Women are described as being like spaghetti: our thoughts slide from one to the next with no real connection or order, and therefore our conversation topics are also scattered and difficult to follow. Men, conversely, think more concretely with everything having its own “box”–like a waffle. They are more logical and objective in communication. Because of this difference, men often find themselves wondering just what their wives are talking about and how they arrived at that topic given the conversation they were having just a moment ago.
A couple in our group described it this way: The husband said they were in the midst of discussing the book Radical in preparation for leading the small group that Sunday. In the middle of their conversation, his wife asked “Do you think she’ll keep him?” The husband was completely clueless as to what his wife was talking about with no idea how to answer the question. The wife explained that she was referring to whether or not he thought their babysitter would be able to keep their son for a couple’s night out. In her head, discussing Radical meant discussing small group which reminded her of their idea to plan a couple’s night out for which they would need a babysitter. Makes perfect sense, right?!
After the husband finished telling this story, my husband gave me that look–you know the one that says you SO do this too! I smiled and said, “That does not describe me at all! I cannot remember that ever happening in our conversations!” He laughed and said, “That’s just because you’re pregnant and you’ve forgotten everything!”
Eesh. We have a long way to go still apparently. In light of this exchange and my apparent forgetfulness, I thought I’d share some easy tips for improving communication with your spouse–especially when discussing ”big” issues.
1. Think about what you want to say before sitting down for a conversation.
This is perhaps one of the greatest reasons that conversations lead to arguments and confusion. We begin talking before we fully know our own thoughts and feelings and determine the best way for sharing those thoughts and feelings. Take some time alone to think through whatever you wish to discuss with your spouse. This might mean stopping a conversation in midstream and saying, “wait, I need some time to think further on this and clarify my own feelings before we finish this conversation.” If you take this approach, go ahead and schedule a time to come back and finish the conversation.
2. Pray through issues and examine your own motives and feelings against God’s Word.
When we want to discuss something serious with our spouse, especially if it’s a way in which they’ve hurt or offended us, praying first is key. When you take time to examine your own feelings, ask the Lord to examine your heart and show you if there is sin there that you must first deal with before approaching your spouse (Ps 139:23-24). Also determine how your thoughts and feelings stand up against God’s Word–are you thinking Biblically?
3. Establish a purpose for your conversation.
Now its time to actually do some talking, but first it’s imperative to establish what the purpose of the conversation is. Do you simply need to feel heard and understood? Do you need to come to a decision together about finances, children, etc.? Do you need to solve a problem or argument? Do you need your husband’s input on a particular circumstance in your life? Be clear about what you expect from your husband, so he is more able to meet that need.
4. Say what you need to say (or allow him to say what he needs to say!)
This step is perhaps the simplest but most difficult. Simply tell him what’s on your mind. Be clear and direct. Own your statements: “I feel…” or “I think…” or “I am having a hard time with…”
5. Allow your husband to summarize what he’s heard.
This is huge! This is also something we fail to do because it feels fake and contrived. Ask your husband to repeat back to you in his own words what he’s heard you say. This is vital because at this point you can clarify any misunderstandings or affirm that he’s got it right. If he has misunderstood, don’t get angry–just say it again in a different way. Help him to understand.
Repeat steps 4 and 5 until both individuals are satisfied that the goal established in step 3 has been met.
How have you improved communication with your spouse?
Photo Credit: Riza Nugraha