Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Marital Communication: Understanding Our Differences

It's not fair. Women just naturally say more than us men. They so easily share their feelings while we men can't imagine being that vulnerable with someone we only live with every day. Our wives will openly talk and even cry about their deepest hurts most any time of the day while the extent of our emotional angst, at least on Sundays, is often, "I can't believe he didn't throw on third down!"

And while our significant communication styles and habits may be different, that's the way it is at least much of the time. Sure there are exceptions, but we men aren't nearly as verbal as we need to be and we certainly don't listen with the intensity that our wives do.

I remember as a kid being in the car with my mom after she had picked me up from school. We had also offered my friend Paul a ride home. But on the way to his house we stopped at a store of some kind and my mom had me go in to get whatever the items were we needed. However, after we had dropped Paul off at his house my mom began to tell me all the things she now knew about him, things I hadn't discovered in knowing and hanging around him for years!

So, it's important that both husbands and wives develop some techniques, plans and forums in which they can both talk and listen to each other, understanding that they won't always start the conversation on level ground.

First of all, learn to listen well. Proverbs chapter 18 says that it is pure folly if we speak before we try to listen to another person. So often we're listening to one another while we're rehearsing in our minds what we're going to say to them when they are finished. Instead, we need to make our goal to merely hear what our spouse has to say and to try to say back to them what we heard.

In fact, some of our poor listening skills kick in the moment we hear something negative said about us and our defense lawyer mode goes into overdrive. We believe that we must explain why we have NOT messed up, been insensitive or done anything wrong. And during our defensive moments women will more likely (though not always) want to be more verbal in their defense while men have a tendency (though not always) to become silent.

Neither posture encourages more listening and understanding. And yet that's what we want and need the most - to be understood. So as James in the New Testament says, "Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." You won't die even if you hear something about you that isn't as positive as you would like. Listen to understand and to be able to respond more effectively, honestly and compassionately.

Second, limit the distractions. Yes, I know when there are children around it's pretty hard to have a deep discussion. That means you'll have to make time to be alone and talk or let the kids stay outside all night. Of course, I'm kidding. I would suggest that they come in by 3am.

Men, don't try to talk to your wives with the television on. And wives don't jump in to a deep conversation while your husband has five other plates spinning that day or evening. If deep and significant communication is going to happen we'll have to work at making the setting right. Find out something that accommodates you and your spouse and keep doing it. How many spouses are missing each other by a mile every day because of poor habits and settling for the same old, same old one more day?

I'm sure I will sound really old to some of you, but here goes . . . the years really do go by quickly. Don't allow yourself to look back someday and be sad for the time you gave away to things that don't matter. More next time.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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