Aahh, the cosmic joke—expecting a man and a woman to live together in harmony. It’s been said that America and England are two countries separated by a common language. The same can be said of men and women. Because you and your wife use the same words, you think you are talking about the same thing. Twenty years as a marriage coach and counselor has convinced me that you’re not.
It isn’t just that the same exact word can mean different things to each of you. Take the word ‘respect’ for example. Or maybe ‘fight’. You might be in the same ballpark about the definition but there’s enough wiggle room in the perceived meanings that you can end up on opposite sides of the field. (Which can lead to a fight, argument, disagreement, etc.) It’s also that the context isn’t experienced the same by both of you.
This was brought home once again in a conversation with a male client. Many years ago, his wife asked him if he would be interested in taking dance lessons with her. He truly thought that “no” was an option as a response and, since he really wasn’t interested, that’s the answer he gave. He’s recently learned that she felt rejected and unloved by his lack of interest in something she really wanted to do.
Let me be clear—he did not understand the full meaning of what she was asking. He took her question at face value and responded truthfully. He also did damage to the marriage because he didn’t see her invitation as a request for connection. He saw it in a context of black/white, yes/no, do you/don’t you, which is an error many men make.
While it has been debunked that women use more words on a daily basis than men do, there still are some differences in how they communicate. Many women have been taught that their job is to be nice, not make demands, that speaking up for what they want is not just unseemly but aggressive. So, they hedge. If there are perceived differences in power, this behavior is more likely. And the biggest challenge? You aren’t even aware it’s happening because men are usually more comfortable with being direct.
So, when your wife mentions hearing about a new Italian restaurant that’s getting rave reviews or that Wicked is coming to town next month, it isn’t just idle chatter. She is letting you know her interest in going and she would like to go with you. She might even make a direct request about whether you would like to go. An answer of “I don’t like Italian” or “it sounds expensive” may be factually true, and “no” may seem like a legitimate choice but answer quickly at your peril.
A better choice would be to clarify if it is something she is interested in doing. If so, give it some real attention. It may not be your jam but, if it isn’t an activity equivalent to having your fingernails pulled out one by one (scrapbooking or perhaps a Nicholas Sparks movie), give some consideration to how it might bring you closer together. Sometimes seeing the enjoyment of your partner is enough of a reward.
Yes, your wife should do the same for you if she isn’t already. It’s the loving and giving part of marriage that often gets lost over time. It’s how you got together in the first place and it’s the way you can reconnect. Doesn’t your marriage deserve that? Need help now? Get a free 15-minute laser coaching session on your biggest marriage
This post was previously published on The Hero Husband Project and is republished here with permission from the author.
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