Women are often the first to recognize a relationship problem, and might believe that if they can see it, the husband can also, according to relationship expert Dr. Gary Smalley in his relationship curriculum, “Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships.” Unfortunately, men don’t usually look at relationships the way women do and can totally miss the signposts you see. To open the door for meaningful communication about the problem, employ helpful strategies.
Set the Stage
Setting the stage can be as important as anything else you do, according to relationship expert Robert Leahy, Ph.D. in a Huffington Post article entitled, “Relationship Communication: How to Talk So That Your Partner Will Listen.” Choose a time when he isn’t actively involved in something else, such as a sports game or trying to wind down right after work. Ask if it’s a good time to talk and get a commitment for a better time if it isn’t. Give him a specific time limit you will work with so he doesn’t think this is an all-evening event.
A to B Communication
Men tend to be A to B communicators -- getting right to the point in short order, so adopt his format. Present your information in a clear, concise manner, majoring on the facts and presented in a calm tone, suggests Leahy. Avoid hostility, as it will derail your discussion. Allow him to respond to your words, suggests Leahy. Smalley suggests that you listen to his response, affirm that you understand his comments, validate his feelings and ideas and repeat them back to him in your own words to verify that you understood what he said. Conduct the discussion in respectful tones and with as little rancor as possible. Avoid accusations and providing only negative feedback, suggests psychotherapist Judy Ford for Women’s Day.
Emotional Word Pictures
Emotional word pictures can help him get a clear idea of your feelings, suggests Smalley. A word picture gets his attention and pulls him into intimacy by giving him a glimpse into your feelings and needs. You could say things such as “I feel like I’ve been wrung out like an old dishrag and tossed in the scrap heap” or “I feel like I’m standing miles away and trying to talk to you by yelling.” Emotional word pictures paint something so graphic he can’t forget it.
Many men prefer to find a way to fix a problem rather than talk about it at length, according to Leahy. He suggests that you have several suggestions for what to do about the relationship, even if he doesn’t take them. Leahy also suggests that you provide positive feedback to encourage your husband. Keep it honest and positive, suggests Ford.
- Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships; Dr. Gary Smalley
- Huffington Post: Relationship Communication: How to Talk So That Your Partner Will Listen
- Woman’s Day: 9 Things You Should Never Say to Your Husband
- Gary Houlder/Lifesize/Getty Images