Why does my wife always want me to talk to her? When I'm tired and just want to relax, she launches into an emotional outburst about how we don't "communicate" the way we used to. I have to leave the house to get any peace and quiet. Why won't she leave me alone?
It's not unusual to find that spouses differ radically from one another when it comes to their needs and desires for verbal communication. This is partly attributable to male-female differences, as most women have a far greater stock of words in their arsenal than do their husbands. Or it can also be a matter of individual temperament and personality. Opposites attract, which is all well and good until the honeymoon is over and couples have to get down to the business of living together and understanding each other.
If you're feeling nagged to talk, you're probably feeling overwhelmed too – like a trapped victim, at the mercy of your spouse's "need to talk." Worse yet, you may be dreading another session of having your shortcomings pointed out. Under these circumstances, avoidance may seem like the only way to find relief, but ultimately avoidance doesn't work. The relief it brings is only temporary because it leaves your spouse without resolution – and often determined to try even harder the next time.
So what can you do if you're feeling cornered by a spouse who always seems to be asking, "Can we talk?" Here are a few suggestions.
- Take the initiative to spend time doing things together other than talking.
- Go to a Christian bookstore and buy a book about communication in marriage. Read from it aloud to your spouse and ask her questions about her reactions.
- Share a chore, like doing the dishes. You may find yourselves communicating during the dull moments.
- When she's not expecting it, ask her what she really needs. Say, "How can I show you that I love you?" or, "What would make your day easier?"
- Put the newspaper away, neglect a hobby, or turn off the TV in order to spend time with your spouse.
- Keep a sense of humor. For example, find cartoons about the differences between men and women and how they communicate. Post them on your refrigerator. Be sure to poke more fun at your own sex than your partner's.
Once you've tried some of these strategies you'll be in a stronger position to ask for the peace and quiet you may feel you need. It's important to do this – you shouldn't deny the realities of your own personality and temperament. If you do, you'll probably end up feeling like a helpless victim of your mate's demands.
To avoid this, try setting up a specific time to talk. This should thrill your spouse, since it demonstrates a commitment to communicate. Be sure to establish a time frame beforehand in order to manage any false expectations. Your wife may be thinking of a marathon conversation while you may dread anything longer than a TV sitcom. Twenty or thirty minutes should be long enough to begin with – that's sufficient for a serious discussion. Pray at the beginning and the end if you like. Get a kitchen timer and stick to the limit. Promise not to run, but allow for a time-out if things get too intense.
What should you talk about during this time? You could start by focusing on your respective needs for communication and quiet time. From there move on to express your feelings to one another about outside friendships and recreation. Make a conscious effort to use "I" statements to convey your feelings of being pressured, overwhelmed, or discouraged. In other words, don't blame or attack your spouse. The goal is for the speaker to be heard and understood. If you need to take a time-out, schedule a reunion session within twenty-four hours for further discussion. This will give both of you a sense of reassurance and safety.
If you need help putting these concepts into practice, call us. Our counselors would be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area who specialize in communication issues.
Your Attitude in Marriage Matters: Dr. Gary Chapman talks about why your attitude is the most important factor in creating a positive atmosphere in your marriage, especially with choosing to love your spouse and do good toward them.