Communication with men in general and in marriage in particular can be hard for a girly girl. I’m not a girly girl in the traditional sense, though I have my moments evidenced by my doll collection in my guest bedroom. I have simple hair, don’t wear much makeup, and find shopping in a mall a torturous experience. But I was raised one of three daughters. Now as the lone female in a house of men, I have come to realize that the way women communicated with which I grew up is not the way men communicate in my home now. I am a girly girl in my communication at times.
Women can be more subtle with each other. Maybe we shouldn’t be, but we can be and get away with it most times. We can drop a hint. We can suggest. We can put out a vibe. But that doesn’t work as well with men.
Many times, I have dropped hints and subtly suggested things in my home. And I am ignored! Which makes me angry!! Which causes me to say a lot more with a strident tone. Then I get a reaction, but it’s certainly not the one I wanted.
A couple of resources have come my way over the last year or so that have reinforced the value of simply saying exactly what I need or want, when I need or want it, without emotion. The without emotion part is crucial though extremely hard for me. When first practicing the suggestions on how to communicate with the men in my household, I initially got emotional over the fact that I had to state it so clearly without emotion. I want to be known and understood! Why do I have to say that I want X for my next birthday? I want someone who loves me to notice me looking at X with longing and who then tucks it away to surprise me with it at a later date. That seems so romantic. But I’m coming to value the fact that my husband needs me to clearly articulate what I need or want, because when I do clearly articulate it without an attached emotion that makes him feel shamed or guilted, he responds. Because he loves me. And his love for me is tangible when it’s accompanied by gratitude that I said exactly what I meant without a negative emotion attached to it.
I’m learning that dropping hints and putting out a vibe don’t work with men, at least the men in my house. I’m learning that if I can communicate my main points in two sentences, it is much more effective that communicating additional sub points of context and emotion with multiple paragraphs. Again, that’s hard because I want to be known and tend to process things by talking something through. I have to distinguish between wanting to communicate something specific to my husband and wanting to process through something with him. In the first case, I need to say exactly what I mean in as few sentences as possible without attached emotion. In the second, I need to let him know I just want to verbally process something and that I am not looking for him to do something or offer advice about what I need to do. Then I can process with him, with emotion, using multiple paragraphs describing the intricacies of my feelings on the subject. But he’s not on the defensive trying to figure out what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s just supposed to be listening. Then he can hug me at the end and have fulfilled what I needed of him. Oddly enough, he often has very good advice with that hug as well.
When we communicate clearly without emotion, we offer the best protection for ourselves from the kind of explosive anger and bitterness that shuts down communication altogether. The great Biblical characteristic of love to bring to each of these communications is that love is ever ready to believe the best of someone. Start your communication giving the benefit of the doubt in conversation. And then say what you mean. Don’t put out a vibe. Don’t drop hints. Don’t get distracted by tangents. Those can come later. But the big rocks of what you want to communicate will get lost if you add the others in too soon.
Matthew 5:37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ …