Honey... can we talk?
Updated: Sep 4, 2021
Image credit: Harriet Lerner’s tweet: ‘Brene Brown’s favorite quote from my book, Marriage Rules’
“Husbands are the best people to share secrets with. They’ll never tell anyone because they aren’t even listening!!!”
All of us have laughed-out-loud at this classic husband-joke! But, for quite a few of my female clients, this isn’t a laughing matter at all. Based on my experience of working with couples, here are some simple suggestions that can help improve the quality of communication in them.
For the Husband:
Discuss face-to-face: Non-verbal cues like facial expressions and body language, are an important part of the conversation and help in reducing the chances of miscommunication. Hence, it’s always a good practice to face your wife while she is talking to you. This way both of you can take note of all the ways you present and express yourselves apart from the actual words that are spoken.
Just listen: Males are generally action-oriented and start thinking in terms of problem-solving as soon as the wife starts talking. Sometimes your wife may just want to be heard, so don’t be in a rush to give an immediate response. At times, just listening to her with empathy is all that is needed. Also, it’s a good practice to have an open mind and not ‘assume’ what your wife is about to say as soon as she starts a conversation. You may be tempted to take the “I-know-where-you-are-going-with-this” stance since you think that you know her very well but it can be very frustrating for your wife!
Paraphrase: Paraphrasing means using your own words to describe what you heard. It’s a great way to reduce the chances of a misunderstanding, provided it is done in a non-judgemental manner. It will make your wife feel validated and understood.
For the Wife:
Be specific: Your husband is NOT a mind-reader. Try and be specific about your expectations from him. So, for example, a friend invites both of you for a house party. You are not interested but you tell him that he can go “if he wishes to”. Chances are that he will take your suggestion at face value and ACTUALLY GO! No prizes for guessing what will happen next
Choose the correct time and place: Men, in general, aren’t experts at multi-tasking. Your husband cannot be watching TV and listening to you at the same time even though he may pretend to do so. Going for a stroll post-dinner, for example, may be a great time to connect with him.
Let your man speak: Expressing emotions can be a task for men. Exercise patience and encourage your husband to verbalise his thoughts and emotions. It’s your turn to give him an empathic ear now. And yes, please do not interrupt!
Be mindful of your tone and words: This is obvious. Aggressive tone and harsh words are detrimental to an effective conversation and must be avoided under any circumstances.
Stick to the issue at hand: When discussing an issue, it’s better to stay on that. Digging up the past will only increase resentment between both of you and lead to total shutdown!
Keep that phone away: Mobile phone has now achieved the status of being the “other man/woman” in a relationship. Various measures can be taken to keep the phone away (even if it is for an hour) so that nothing invades your private space.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of a happy marriage. Both husband and wife need to share the responsibility of improving it equally.