Marriage Tip: Wives, since processing your husband’s decisions out loud can sometimes come across as painful disrespect or questioning his judgment, think in advance about how to say it so he doesn’t misunderstand what you are saying.
Has your husband ever gotten upset when you start talking through a suggestion he’s brought to you? Yeah? Me too! It may be easy to get irritated and think he’s so oversensitive … but you’ll foster so much more peace in your home if you instead understand what is going on under the surface, and how to respond well. First, in any communication, remember just how much your husband needs to feel that you trust and respect him, and how easy it is for him to feel that you don’t.
One way we can inadvertently signal “I don’t trust you” is by processing out loud when our man (or even our boss at work) brings a suggestion to us: “I think we should do this.” Or at least…. we think it is a suggestion!
Instead, in my interviews with men for the For Women Only research, men often explained that since they usually need to process internally, they have to give something a lot of thought before they say anything. So a man would think about a decision for a few hours or a few days and relay it to his wife, only to have her instantly ask, “Well, what about doing it this way?” The same dynamic often occurred at work. Male subordinates rarely jump in with those sorts of knee-jerk questions, but –in men’s minds at least – women often will.
You may be asking, “Well, what’s wrong with that?! It’s a valid question!”
Here’s the issue. There’s nothing “wrong” with that, in the pure sense of the word. Neither is right or wrong: just different. But that difference can cause a marriage problem (or a boss problem!) that we can avoid simply by approaching the situation differently.
See, we women are verbal processors: we generally think something through by talking it through. We ask questions. We raise all sorts of issues. Not to pick something apart, but because that is how we will get the best and most thorough thought process about it.
While this makes perfect sense to us, for our husband (or male co-workers), it can definitely come across as questioning his judgment and “picking something apart.” More dangerously, because we sometimes casually throw around language like, “Well that’s silly, we should just do this instead,” we can, without necessarily meaning it, tell him that after his three days of thinking something through, he was “silly.” He feels disrespectful, and inadequate. It is painful. And that is why he gets upset.
What’s the answer? You certainly don’t need to try to turn into a dude, and process everything internally! After all, God made you to be the verbal processor you are. But if you don’t want to hurt your husband, it is worth it to be aware of how he processes, too. After all, when you talk through something with your girlfriends, they will instinctively understand what you mean when you toss around the “but what about” questions, or use words like “well that’s silly, how about this?” But your husband probably won’t. At least not at first.
The key, when your husband brings you something and you are thinking it through, is to remember that what matters is not so much what you say as how you say it. When he says “Let’s do this,” instead of jumping instantly into the questions, saying something like “oh, interesting idea” up front will help signal that you don’t think he’s an idiot. Even saying, “Honey, I’m not disagreeing with you, but I need to think this through by asking some questions first, is that okay?” will go a long way.
The old lesson your parents taught you in grade school is still the best one: thinking before you speak will go a long way.
Join us next Monday for the next in our Marriage Monday series, as we talk about how men view emotions at work and home.
Drawn from chapter 4 of For Women Only.
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. (Inquire about Shaunti speaking, or visit www.shaunti.com for more.)
The post originally ran at the Christian Post for Marriage Mondays.
Welcome to Marriage Mondays! Each Monday, join us here in the Book Corner as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on what makes happy marriages so happy, based on nationally-representative research with more than 1,000 couples.