Communication Cues for Couples
By Fred and Florence Littauer
CBN.com It is absolutely essential that couples talk things out with each other if they wish to have a rich, deep, and meaningful marriage.
Hugh Boudreau, a Baltimore marriage counselor, said, “The inability to converse shows up in 85 out of 100 couples visiting marriage counselors. The inability of husbands and wives to talk to each other is our number one marriage problem.”
What A Man Wants:
This word comes from the Latin sine cera, meaning “without wax.” Back in the Roman days, when disreputable people made an urn to sell, if it did not come out smoothly they would fill in the cracks with wax to fool the purchaser into thinking it was perfect. But artisans who did outstanding work would proclaim their pieces to be sine cera—without any fillers.
When we women converse we tend to fill in the cracks with excuses and with blame put on others, but our husbands would like sincere statements. When we communicate with them they would like us to be sincere vessels with no guile, artifice, or fillers.
Are you ready to talk to your husband openly, hiding nothing, with no excuses? Can you be, perhaps for the first time in your married life, sincere and clear without exaggerating or manipulating?
Originally this word meant “without a fold.” It referred to garments which were made simply, with nothing to hide. How many of us women can approach our men with the simple facts? How many can wear garments without folds of deception, without ruffles of exaggeration, without pleats of endless details, without pockets of concealment?
Those of us with poor marriage relationships, with husbands who flinch when we begin to talk, have probably never stated a simple fact to a man who desires an open heart, a clear statement, an honest answer, or an uncomplicated truth. We have covered and concealed. We have drenched them with details and drowned them in trivia. Can we begin to make simple statements without any folds?
To possess this quality we must be aware of and tuned in to the other person’s feelings. As women we must be sensitive to our partner’s needs and not approach him with our problems when it is clearly not the right time. So often we store up complaints in a bottle all day, and when our husband walks in we take out the stopper and let him have it. When this deluge becomes a constant style of communication, our mates stop coming home or arrive with plugs in their ears.
If we could only pray for a sensitive spirit and try to discern their desires before we dump, we would have much better reception. Feed them and let them know you love them before emptying the wastebasket on them.
Many men tell me they are afraid to bring up any meaningful subject to their wives because they fall apart. Men don’t like weepy women, and if a woman employs this type of barrier to communication often enough, her husband will withdraw.
Men like to approach problems from an organized, businesslike point of view, and they respect a woman who is stable and serene even under stress.
Some girls grow up getting their way through emotions. They have temper tantrums and make a scene, and the family gives in. When they marry they use the same tactics on their husbands, and the men wonder what they have on their hands.
These little-girl tricks are unbecoming to a mature woman and contrary to the stability that a man wants in a wife.
What A Woman Wants:
All of us crave attention so much that if you won’t listen to our heartfelt pleas, we will find someone who will. It’s not just your wife who is trying to get you to pay attention. We all want men who look at us as if we were intelligent, listen to the details we delight in dropping, and respond to what we really said. An occasional “uh huh” is not enough. We want you to put down the paper and pick up our hands. We want you to look at us eye-to-eye, not through us to the Washington Redskins, or the wallpaper.
If you want to communicate with us, pay attention to what we say but don’t feel we need answers. Fred finally understands that when I cry out my problems to him, I only want him to listen and commiserate. I don’t want him to prescribe a cure. I already know the answer; I just want an audience.
Somehow men find this pattern illogical. They feel that if we tell all our misfortunes of the day we are asking for help. We’re usually not.
When I lost my car in the seven-story parking garage, I didn’t need a lecture on the little numbers and letters painted on the walls. When I told Fred I fell up my office stairs, I didn’t need to hear how clumsy I am and that my heels are too high. When I suffered through a whole day with the neighbor’s two dogs yelping incessantly I didn’t get spiritual when Fred smiled and said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
To communicate with us, listen to us and love us. Don’t preach or teach. Only answer if we ask and even then proceed with caution.
If you men want to open up communications, try to agree with us in some area quickly. This will unnerve us and give you an immediate advantage. Because most of you love to argue with us and put us down, we are stunned by a man who agrees with us on anything. Arguing builds up barriers between us. Agreement tears them down. You don’t need a wall when you’re both on the same side.
This simple principle of agreement, when applied, will be a blessing in your marriage. Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”
In the past Fred found something wrong with everything I said. He was so predictable that I would carry on mock conversations in my mind with him. As soon as I would hear him disagree, I would file that thought away in the reject pile, never to be dealt with again. What a big pile of resentment I built up, a barrier to communication! But soon he learned to listen to the end of what I was saying and at least agree with part of my message.
The dictionary tells us that appreciation implies “A just estimation of a thing’s value, an understanding.” Oh, how we women want to be looked upon as something of value, and how we want to know that you understand what we are trying to say!
To understand, you have to listen, put yourself in our place, and hope you catch our drift. We won’t always be logical and we won’t think as you do, but we do want to be appreciated and understood.
Often philandering females will give me the excuse “My husband never understood me, but when I met Steve Studley I could tell he understood.” He probably didn’t understand her much better than her husband, but he encouraged her conversation and made her feel intelligent, and she just knew he understood. Let us know you are so grateful to be married to us and we will do almost anything you want.
When you men sense that there are some communication problems in your marriage, take the leadership and set aside some special time to converse. George Vandeman in Happiness Wall to Wall says, “Marriage partners who will not listen are already experiencing a separation of interests. Where there is no dialogue, there is emotional divorce.”
The majority of the couples Fred and I counseled didn’t hate each other but were just emotionally divorced. They stopped communicating somewhere along the line and neither side did anything about it. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t wait for your wife to come in hysterical; plan relaxing times when you can get away together and communicate. Don’t take friends or relatives along. Don’t go on a tour with 24-hour activities. Go to a quiet motel and renew acquaintances. Work together to find out where your communication went astray.
Some couples who do not force themselves to sit down and discuss their poor communication never know until it’s too late where they missed out.
One couple had a simple problem that they had not solved. They didn’t want to break up their marriage, but each thought the other didn’t love him. When I listened objectively, I found a Sanguine wife who said “I love you” 20 times a day but did no housework and forgot to wash his socks. He was a Phlegmatic man who never said he loved her but quietly did all the housework. Each one was communicating a message that the other didn’t understand. She said “I love you” but did nothing. He said nothing but did her work. Using their own standards, each one had concluded that the other was not in love. Once they had an interpreter, they saw their simple mistake.
Who knows what little irritants you could clear up if you tried? Make an appointment with each other and learn to communicate.
Talk it Out
Remember, it takes two to communicate, and one must lead. As a start, find a time when you and your mate can discuss your mutual problems.
Ideally both of you should make lists of areas where you have failed yourselves and each other. If getting this organized will scare off your mate, prepare informally in your head.
Before bringing up your problems, be sure it is not a time when his attention is preoccupied or when he’s racing to get out the door. Women seem to have a gift for choosing the wrong moment to begin a deep discussion.
If you have difficulty in starting a conversation in a positive direction, here are some sample sentences.
“We used to communicate well before we were married; when did this break down? Where have I failed?”
“There are certain things in my life that I haven’t wanted to discuss. I was afraid you’d laugh at me or like me less if I was straightforward with you. I’m hopeful now that you will listen and still love me.”
Don’t expect instant euphoria, as your partner hasn’t heard these thoughts before and he’s not sure you mean business. Be prepared for him to tell you, “It’s about time you realized that you are the problem in our marriage.” Agree with him and then move on. When you take the blame a decent man will soon own up to his part of the marriage problem.
Florence Littauer is a popular author and speaker whose topics include personality traits and differences, biblical truths, relationship issues, and life skills. Her books include "Behind the Personality," "Silver Linings: Breaking Through the Clouds of Depression," "Personality Plus," and her most recent book, "Making the Blue Plate Special."
Florence was married for 50 years to her husband Fred, who died in 2002. She has three married children and five grandchildren. When not traveling, Florence divides her time between her home in the Las Vegas area and the Palm Springs area. Visit her Web site.
This article was adapted from After Every Wedding Comes a Marriage. Published by Harvest House Publishers. Used with permission.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.