Developing Effective Communication in Marriage
- 2005 30 Apr
I had been married almost a year when I found myself wishing that my husband could read my mind. I wondered if Kirk felt the same way, so I asked him. His answer changed our marriage.
"Do you ever wish that I could read your mind?"
Kirk thought for a minute, sighed, and answered me with a serious expression. "No, but I wish I could read yours."
I had to think about that. As we talked, I realized that he felt an amazing amount of pressure to "show" me that he loved me and yet he had no idea of how I wanted to be shown.
On our second Christmas together Kirk went shopping for my Christmas present. He had it wrapped and ready as soon as our tree was ready. He had put a lot of thought into this present, made time to get it, wrap it and have it early to show me that I was a priority in his life. I, on the other hand, looked at the present with dread. I knew what it was. I had given my in-laws a list of things that they could get us for Christmas and at the top of the list was a new coffee maker. I was very specific about the brand and the functions it had.
I also held (and still hold) a very common opinion among women about what is an acceptable present from a loving husband and an appliance is not on the list. But I had
never mentioned to Kirk how I felt. I really didn't see the need. After all, if he loved me he would never even want to get me an appliance, he would only want to shower me with wonderfully romantic presents.
As the season continued, I fumed inside about that present, trying to drop hints about what I wanted for Christmas. Kirk was oblivious; he had, after all, already purchased my present and in his mind it was at the top of my list. How could it do anything but make me deliriously happy?
Finally, on Christmas Eve, I told him point-blank how I felt. "If that present is an appliance I am going to be bitterly disappointed."
The look on his face told me he truly had no idea I felt that way. I went on to explain about what was and was not an acceptable present for a husband to give his wife. He said very little, then mumbled about having forgotten something and left the apartment. He returned a couple of hours later with a look of triumph on his face and several presents in his arms. The next morning the tag on the coffee maker was changed to read "From Sherlock" (our cocker spaniel) and Kirk gave me a beautiful sweater, chocolates, and an adorable teddy bear (which I still have).
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
We both learned a valuable lesson about communication, and several days later he asked me that I never expect him to read my mind again. I have done my very best to hold to that. It hasn't been easy, but I have learned to vocalize my expectations to my husband. Many times the husband catches all the bad press about not communicating, but in our marriage I have been every bit as guilty as he.
Suggestions for beginning effective communication:
1. Find a time to talk about the expectations you have concerning one another, before your feelings get hurt. (Ladies, if you don't want appliances for presents be sure to tell him before he goes shopping.)
2. Delete the words, "If he loved me he would..." and replace them with, "I feel loved when you..." This brings your feelings out in the open where your husband can understand them.
3. Be patient with each other. People forget things and make mistakes. Look beyond the obvious to the true motive behind the action.
Other resources to improve communication:
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate
By Gary Chapman
His Needs, Her Needs
By Willard F. Harley, Jr.
What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women
By James C. Dobson
How to Be Happy Though Married
By Tim F. Lahaye
Edie Melson, wife and mother of three, is a freelance writer, teacher and speaker of 14 years experience. She can be contacted through email at email@example.com.