Discard the Communication Games in Your Marriage
- 2006 4 Apr
Does this scenario sound familiar? The husband comes home from a Saturday morning trip to the hardware store. As he walks into the kitchen, his wife throws him a look that quickly lets him know she's upset with him. Several questions run across his mind: Is it their anniversary? Her birthday? Did he forget something she asked him to do? Did she have something special planned for this morning? Did he forget to put the seat down again?
So, being a typical male, he dares to ask, "What's wrong, honey?"
What's her response? I don't even have to tell you, do I? She folds her arms and shoots him a dagger-filled look as she snarls, "Nothing."
What happens next? Believe me, he does not say, "Oh, Love of My Life, I know something is bothering you. Tell me what dumb thing I've done this time so I can fix it." Instead he merely shrugs, says, "Oh," and starts sorting through that day's mail.
Now she's really upset at him. Why? After all, he asked and she answered. But with a lie. Plenty is wrong, but she wants -- or should I say we want? -- him to somehow "just know" what the problem is even though his brain's mind-reading chip is dislodged.
Would it kill her (us!) to say, "I'm upset because you promised to pick up the dry cleaning since the hardware store is right next to the shop. And the green dress I wanted to wear to the wedding this afternoon is in that order."
Her honest answer would give him a chance to slap his forehead and rush back to get the dry cleaning. Or, if he's really a quick thinker, to wrap her in a hug, say he's sorry he forgot, and suggest she instead wear the blue dress that shows off her great waistline. Either way, you get the point: The problem is going to be solved only if he's allowed into the secret of what he did wrong.
When I'm speaking at a couples' conference, the men don't come up to me later and say, "If my wife loved me, she'd just know what I need." But I've had numerous wives say that about their husbands. Forgive my sweeping generality, but perhaps it's because men are more direct in telling others what they want. And perhaps we women have the idea that if we are truly loved, spouses, children and even friends will read our minds and anticipate our every little wish. That's too heavy a burden to put on another human being.
Remember, even God wants us to express our needs and desires to Him -- and He's the only one who can read our minds. I find it interesting we're willing to present our needs to our heavenly Father even though He already knows them, but we often refuse the same courtesy to those around us -- the humans who can't read minds.
Believe me, ladies, silence is not an effective form of power. All it does is create anger -- first within yourself and then in your husband as he realizes you're upset but he doesn't have a clue why.
And when we keep quiet about our feelings, why do we blame our husbands for daring to assume everything is all right? We might have grown up with adoring people around us who anticipated our every need, but we're adults now, and we need to communicate directly.
Yes, I find it interesting God made men and women so vastly different, put us together and then said, "Now get along." And, of course, it's difficult to keep working at expressing needs in a nonthreatening way. But we mustn't give up. As we keep trying to understand each other -- instead of demanding others anticipate our thoughts and wishes -- we will find ourselves enjoying the wonderful adventure called "communication." So, let's discard the games and start putting gracious, honest dialogue into full swing. Better communication builds stronger, happier relationships. And isn't that what we all want?
Adapted from Men Read Newspapers, Not Minds -- and other things I wish I'd known when I first married by Sandra P. Aldrich. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Used by permission.) Author or co-author of 17 books, Sandra is an international speaker who handles serious issues with insight and humor. For information about her speaking availability or to order this book, contact her at BoldWords@aol.com.