Problems with communication are the biggest reason, by far, that couples come into therapy. For the most part, there are a variety of reasons why your communication fails. But there is one theme that continues to pop up in a lot of the cases that I see: the discovery that your husband fails to read your mind.
“He should just know that it bothers me when he doesn’t call. He should know that him calling me during his lunch break means a lot.” This is just one example of thousands. I’ve heard thoughts like these more than I can count, and each time the expectation is that your husband should just know. However, this is just simply not how men (and most likely your husband) work.
Men are generally less skilled at picking up subtle cues and hints that something is bothering you, or that you would like him to do something less, more, or differently. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t love or value you, but has a different communication style than you. So what do you do? How can you communicate differently that satisfies both of you?
Communicate Your Needs Clearly
It would be great if your husband could read your mind, but since he can’t there has to be another way to communicate. Your husband will respond much better to what you’re saying if you spell your needs out.
Instead of saying, “You never even think of me!”, say, “It makes me feel really good when you call me during lunch. Can you do that more often?”
Although it might feel unnatural to state your needs and wants so explicitly, there will be a much better chance that he’ll make changes to address them. And your relationship will grow as he knows what you want. And he will even be able to anticipate what you want – making you not need to be so explicit every time.
Guys: don’t think you’re off the hook, there’s also some steps that you need to take. You need to hear and understand your wife, rather than just listen to her.
Instead of just saying, “I understand what you’re saying,” go further and say, “I can see what it’s like for you. You feel neglected, or that I’m not thinking about you when I don’t call you during the day.”
This will let your wife know that you actually do understand what she’s saying, and that you hear her. Even if you genuinely understand her, she won’t know that if you don’t repeat back what she expressed.
Also, don’t sit around waiting for your wife to clearly state what she wants or needs every time. Give conscious thought to your relationship what you can do that will satisfy her. This will become easier and easier as she continues to clearly state what she wants, and doesn’t leave you to read her mind.
About the Author
Ben King is a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate at The Marriage and Family Clinic who focuses on working with couples experiencing sexual difficulties. In his spare time Ben loves to cook and is secretly aspiring to be the next Iron Chef