Couples generally have no major problem talking about daily business – what should we do for dinner, who’s picking up the kids, let’s make weekend plans. That’s good. People need to communicate about what’s going on in their daily life.
However, over time, it is not uncommon for one partner to feel pressured by the quality of their communication. Often, though not always, it is the woman who complains that she wants deeper communication. And people who find themselves in a defensive position.
“We need to talk,” it may seem like a simple statement to women, but it’s not. Specifically, if her husband hears, “What am I doing wrong now?” Or, “What makes you upset now?” Trying to get away from the dressing, he might respond, “later.” Which might be fine if you ever come. But usually not. After all, not of his own volition.
Initially, he may believe that “later” has helped him escape a confrontation, but after awhile he realizes, it hasn’t. For she still needs to talk. And if he doesn’t give her a chance to do so, she’ll be stewing.
What does she want? She may want him to be more involved with the responsibilities of home or child care. Or, she may want him to be more involved in her life. She may be weary of the mundane talk that’s the core of their discourse and be yearning for intimate conversations like those that used to take place in the days of courtship. It’s typical for a woman to keep trying to improve the relationship with her partner. But she may go about it in ways that are not particularly productive. What might she do differently? Here are a few suggestions:
Begin with the Positive
It’s so easy to begin a discourse with the negative. Your complaint is right there at the tip of your tongue. Do your best, however, to squelch the urge. Surely, there are positive aspects of your relationship that you can point out before giving a laundry list of all the stuff that’s been bothering you. People get ready when they feel they have been attacked and counterattacked or defended. So, do your best to start with the positive, end with the positive and tuck your complaint in between.
Be More Solution-Oriented
Complaining is a position of the weak. Suggesting a solution is a position of the strong. Instead of saying, “You never….. (fill in the blank), say something like, “I love that you’re such a good dad (as you enumerate a few positive traits).” Then add what it is that you want. “And I want us to spend more time communicating about each other, not just the kids.”
Ask Specifically for What you Want
Do you want to go on vacation without the kids? (Studies show that those who do this have better marriages.) Do you want a date night once a week, once a month? Do you want to have an evening conversation that focuses on each other, not the details of everyday life? Think about that. It’s not always easy to find out what you want.
Keep it Short
It’s no secret that women like to talk more than men. Women like the details. Men like to get to the bottom line, fast. So, if you’re planning to have an hour long discussion about the state of your relationship and he’d like to keep it to two minutes, strike a compromise. Better to have 20 minutes of quality conversation than 60 minutes of a diatribe.
Communication, like other interpersonal skills, needs to be fine-tuned to the person you’re speaking with and the topic you’re speaking about.