Conversational Improvement: Communicating With Your Husband (Pt. 1)
Hello and welcome back to the blog!
Today we are carrying on with our series on conversational improvement, focusing on communicating with our men. One of the most important areas where you could work to improve your communication is perhaps the place you communicate the most: your marriage. But unfortunately, too many people fail to realize this truth until it is too late.
I believe that the quality of a marriage can be found in the summation of each interaction we have with our partner. It truly does not matter how much you vacation or date as a couple, or how many kids you have, or how much money you make if your individual interactions are fraught with conflict, negativity, and misunderstanding.
These negative interactions will add up and eventually amount to marital tension, or even marital separation.
It is, therefore, in our best interest as women and wives to work towards a firm improvement in the area of communication, working every day towards a more loving, understanding, and rational way of communicating. This shift will increase our personal satisfaction, help us grow as disciplined individuals, and improve the bond we have with our husbands.
If you want to stop the blog post right here to complain about your husband's communication flaws, I hear you. However, I urge you to remain focused on yourself for now, as the reality is that we can never control or sufficiently manipulate the actions of others in such a way that will leave us satisfied. True change can only come from one's own heart--we can only control our own actions, our own voices, and our own attitudes. And fortunately my friend, it is possible to improve MUCH of your communication problems simply by shifting your own behavior rather than waiting for your husband to change.
Please keep in mind that I practice Biblical Christian womanhood and traditional Biblical marriage, so my perspective is of course going to be colored through that lens. However, I still believe that the following communication methods will be helpful and effective in your marriage regardless of your background, leaving you, your husband, and your peace of mind in a better place.
Let's dive in.
The first part of communication that we need to address is "tone." Tone can be described as the way we communicate with our husband. It's the way we speak, the attitude we are communicating, our body language, and even the setting in which we decide to have our conversation. My advice here is to learn to be disciplined and mature in the control of your tone when communicating with your husband so that you might have an advantageous position in which to communicate your needs, present your ideas, and address problems.
Men respond best to showcases of respect, and tone is the best way in which we can show that we respect our husband.
Always come into the conversation in a way that communicates your respect and admiration. Avoid adopting a harsh or critical attitude. Rather, approach him with gentleness and maturity, showing that you are in control of your emotions, and therefore not a ticking time bomb. He will be much more likely to engage with you and be open to hearing your voice if he senses that you are a safe and controlled person to have a discussion with. It is essential to avoid a hostile environment during tense or sensitive discussions, and that setting begins with YOU. Never have a hostile, accusatory, or unyielding tone or attitude. Always always always present in a nurturing and positive way, even if the subject material is sensitive.
Adjust your vocal tone, your body language, and even the setting and timing when you need to bring up serious subjects. Don't start a fight right before you head out to a family event. Don't enter a conversation with your arms crossed and a scowl on your face. Don't start a fight in public: be strategic. Being strategic with your tone and the timing of your conversations increases the possibilities of you and your husband coming to a mutual understanding, and it increases the possibility of you getting your needs met.
If you are having a hard time maturely controlling your tone, try to take at least ten minutes before the discussion to write down and think about everything you love about your husband and everything you are grateful for about him. No matter how angry you feel, reflect on his good qualities, and get the perspective and space from the situation you need. It is not helpful to fixate solely on the problem at hand without also accounting for the positive. And while the positive does not mitigate or excuse problems or issues in your relationship, reflecting upon such things will certainly help you remain self-controlled and pleasant throughout the communication.
The next strategy I want you to consider is communicative "sandwiching." The idea is to sandwich your problem or issue in positive encouragement, before and after. This is one of THE most effective communication strategies you will encounter. I first learned this in my communications program, and have since adopted it into my marriage as well because it WORKS.
Never have a completely negative conversation with your husband. Always open by setting the stage in a positive way, and offer encouragement or affection after you bring up the issue. This is not to be confused with backhanded compliments or abusive language, when one partner will greatly hurt their spouse, only to sandwich it in kindness or affection. No.
This should be saved for times when you need to bring up something serious, or a problem in your marriage without letting the conversation be overly negative or demeaning.
For example, if your husband has been consistently late from work without notifying you, causing you to worry or feel confused about dinner times, I suggest you bring it up by sandwiching it. Approach him in a nice setting and tell you you would like to discuss something. Begin by thanking him for his hard work and all he does to provide for you and your family. This is the top of the sandwich. This is ESSENTIAL because a man needs to feel appreciated and noticed for his work in order to be receptive to your requests. That's just the way it is.
Next, tell him the problem. Say that you have been running into some problems with him not telling you when he's going to be late and that it often makes you feel anxious or confused about when to start dinner. DO NOT stress that it makes you angry. That will only lead to more problems: never cite anger as a reason for him to do or not do something. It just won't work. Then, suggest a simple and easy solution to the problem, like maybe he sends you a quick emoji that means he's going to be late: nothing complicated.
Finally, thank him for hearing your heart and ask for his thoughts. This part is the bottom of the sandwich. It's essential to acknowledge the sacrifice someone makes by sitting through criticisms of their behavior: it's not comfortable! We all know that! But also remember to ask for his thoughts in a kind way, so that he might feel included in the discussion, rather than ordered around.
I know this may seem like a lot of effort to just communicate, "Hey buster! Let me know when you're going to be late! You're driving me crazy!" But we are not playing the short game here: we're here for the long game. And when you're playing the long game as a wife, you're going to want to establish yourself as a safe and kind person who is reasonable and happy to be in his life. Establishing yourself in this way will help you get what you want and need WAY more than if you go to the discussion in a flippant or angry way.
I promise you that he will be MUCH more likely to easily comply with the change and your requests if he knows it's to make you feel safe and happy rather than if he's just doing it to diffuse your anger.
Just as we never want to parent out of fear, forcing our child's obedience through threat of punishment, we also never want to "wife" out of fear.
Do not have your husband live in fear of your anger, rather, show him how he can increase your happiness and be your hero. This method is extremely effective and will work with nearly any situation, big or small. If you need to ask him to bring out the trash more, sandwich. If you want to bring up having a baby, sandwich. If you want to go on vacation, sandwich. Do it. I promise it works.
Next, I want you to focus on being as logical as you can in your discussions. There will always be times when we need to simply express our feelings, but I have found that using logic is the most effective way of communicating with your husband.
The way I employ this is by carefully thinking through my words before speaking. It's important to take as much time as you need to think through your words so that you may avoid a hyper-emotional conversation and instead, enjoy a rational and centered discussion. If you don't know the answer or if you need time to calm down, communicate this.
Playing with emotions is like playing with fire. If you begin to let the hysterics in, it's soon going to turn into a wildfire, ruining the discussion with emotional and hysterical melodrama. Try as hard as you can to approach from a rational perspective, eschewing the hysterics and choosing to control your tongue.
This, funnily enough, is the best way to make your husband understand your emotions. If you can communicate your emotions and explain them in a rational way, you are far more likely to achieve relationship peace than if you simply dump all your emotions on him.
Remember that men often need rational explanations to lead them to the point you are trying to make. Saying things like "I just don't like it" isn't going to fly. Explain WHY something is affecting you negatively, and explain what exactly can change to fix the situation.
If you have a ton of emotion about a situation, try to cool off as much as possible. Write pros and cons lists and explain things as best as you can in a way that makes sense.
If you have already thought of possible solutions, present those as well. Men like to fix our problems and if you offer him a way that is effective and pleasant for both of you, it will be very helpful. So instead of saying "I don't like how infrequently we have sex," you could say "I would like to have sex more often. This is how frequently I am thinking. What do you think?" This opens a discussion and keeps things from getting heated right off the bat.
And finally, never view yourself as above the need for a mediator. If you are having problems in some of the larger areas of marital strife such as finances, sex, or trust, you may benefit from couple's counseling.
Okay, so I originally had another 7 minutes of material in this post, but I decided to shelve it until next week. Digest this advice and come back for more soon! And remember to always take what I say with a grain of salt.
This advice may or may not be applicable to you, and I am sure there are many extenuating circumstances that might prevent you from successfully applying these methods, but regardless of your situation, I hope that you at least feel inspired to adjust the way you view communication. It IS important, and it is in our best interest as wives to improve our communication every day.
Sending you love!