Some of the most common complaints in marriage counseling sessions center around communication. Men and women alike take issue with the way their spouse communicates (or doesn’t), citing many similar things like, “he never listens to me,” “I don’t understand why she gets so upset,” or “he acts like he doesn’t even want to talk to me.”
The reason these complaints are so common is simple: men and women do not communicate in the same way!
We’ve all been there – an experience where a person of the opposite sex just didn’t seem to get what we were trying to say, or misinterpreted our intentions or tone of voice. Isn’t it curious that women usually complain about not enough communication, and men complain about their wives demanding too much? Women are verbal communicators by nature – they want to talk things out, to share moments of their day to day lives, to use speech as a means for connecting with others. Men, of course, do this too, but their approach can be quite different. Where a woman will include contextual information to create a detailed picture, a man will present more rigid information, choosing to get to the point more directly. Where a man may want to dive right into problem solving, a woman is more likely to probe further to determine the reasons for the issue at hand.
This can even be apparent in casual communication, or conversations among friends. It has been said that women form relationships through communication that leads to activity, and men form relationships through activity that leads to communication.
These differences can become a serious problem if people aren’t aware of them – they will only see the communication (an inherently two-sided event) from their own perspective. To make the best out of these natural differences, couples need to keep them in mind when they talk to one another, both in the way they speak and in the way they listen. Now, not all men are alike, nor are all women. These are just general observations – each individual is going to have their own way of communicating, and it may or may not align with the typical behavior of their gender.
Based on those broad generalizations, though, here is a little advice for communicating with your spouse.
For men: your wife wants to communicate with you; it helps her feel connected. Make a point to listen actively, and to hear not only the information she’s sharing, but what she says about how it makes her feel – this is what she’s really sharing. When talking to her, let yourself be open to sharing details of how a situation affected you emotionally. You don’t have to be so matter of fact.
For women: your husband wants you to be direct and clear in your communication. They may not pick up on the emotional cues that you think you are giving, and it’s easy to lose their interest with too much loosely related detail. Ask questions. Get him involved in the conversation. It is inconsiderate to simply talk AT him. On the listening end of things, understand that if he has something to say, he has good reason (at least in his own opinion) for saying it, and wants to be heard.