I sat in Starbucks with Ken.
He’s a guy I had met only weeks before. He wanted to connect better in his marriage. He got right to the point. “I need to know how to communicate better with my wife! Can you help?”
This is one of the biggest questions I get from men. In this article we’ll discuss 6 steps to better connect, relate and bond with your spouse.
Before I launched into my answer with Ken, I felt like I needed to lay the groundwork for the six things I’ve learned about communication in marriage. The first thing we – as men – need to realize is that communication for women is different than communication with men.
In This Article
- Six Keys To Help Communicate Better With Your Spouse
- Wrap Up
Here’s what I mean…
Not only do women use more words than men. Some studies show that women need to ‘get out’ around 20,000 words a day. Men? Only about 7,000. There is actually a science behind this. According to the latest research by the University of Maryland, the FoxP2 Protein is the reason. This protein is one of the factors involved in speech development. While it is hotly debated (James Pennebaker disagrees with this analysis) there does seem to be some connection.
In any case, it plays well into the apparent reality that women need different things than men. There are things we can learn from this juicy piece of reality.
So what does this have to do with communicating with your spouse?
The simple answer is to recognize the two factors mentioned above:
1) Women communicate differently
2) Women need to communicate more frequently
For men, this means we have to work at listening and hearing. These two issues are related but different.
Listening means we need to invest time. Women, generally speaking, need time to ‘get their words out.’ This is important to understand because it means that, as men, we must put in a time investment to allow them to feel they are communicating.
Hearing refers more to our ability to truly connect. While listening is a time investment, hearing is a heart investment. We must try to understand.
Remember, it’s all about loving them enough to WANT to listen and hear. Even if you fail at times, your desire (because you love her) will come through. Learn from these six tips, but don’t allow them to become a ‘rule.’ Instead, see them as a way to express love. That’s the real key.
Six Keys To Help Communicate Better With Your Spouse
These six points are keys. They take work to perfect. Sometimes it takes work to simply implement one of them. You don’t have to master each one immediately. I suggest you take one (pick one that you feel is important for YOUR situation) and put it into practice.
In time, each one will serve you in relating to your wife in a way that satisfies both of you.
Before we get started, I write about marriage restoration and relationship issues, If you want to get my latest articles, click the link and join the list to get the most up-to-date information and research on building great relationships. Join here.
Let’s break it down…
1. Be Interested
At the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart! That’s a quote I wish I had coined. It’s truth is more profound that we even imagine.
If you want to communicate better with your wife you have to begin with truly caring about what she thinks, feels and says. Trust me, she knows if you are faking it. Your authentic desire to communicate with her will be noticed. So give it your best heart effort.
One way to put this into practice is to ask her questions. Then let her talk. She might ramble, wander, jump from topic to topic, and chase rabbits, but let her get her words out.
It’s not just a matter of ‘letting her get those words out.’ It’s a matter of truly listening.
Scott Clark has great insight on this:
It is a common temptation to wait until the other person stops talking (or writing) and then to ignore everything that has just been said (or written) and to go on as if nothing has changed. That is not a conversation. That would be two monologues.
2. Be Constructive
Starting a conversation when things have been difficult or uneasy can present problems. Sometimes emotions are raw. It’s important to get YOUR emotions in check before beginning a conversation.
Here’s a few pointers and tips:
- Don’t be defensive.
- Don’t accuse or place blame.
Jennifer Kunst Ph.D. in an online article for Psychology Today, “In Search of Constructive Conversation” says this:
I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m good, you’re bad. When we demonize or idolize, we eliminate the middle ground. It’s all or nothing. It’s my way or the highway. When we scapegoat and play the blame-game, we eliminate the space for compromise. There is no room to talk. There is nowhere to go. To be polarized is to be paralyzed.
If you truly want to connect, you have to find the middle ground. To do this you must refuse to place blame and draw dividing lines that keep you apart.
3. Be Specific
I’m not talking about only talking about one thing. Being specific is my way of saying ‘control the conversation.’ Not in the sense of suppressing your wife’s opinions, ideas or issues. But by NOT allowing this time to get derailed with ‘hot button’ issues.
It’s a way of guarding your ‘Talk Date’ and keeping the conversation positive. The goal is to connect. If the conversation begins to move in a direction that is unhealthy, heated or negative, simply pull it back into the lane you want it to be in.
You can do this by saying something like, “You know, we probably should discuss that at some point, but what I would really love to do right now is focus on YOU. I want to hear about you and what’s going on in your heart!” (or something along those lines)
This will usually defuse the potential of sabotaging your conversation. It affirms that the topic is legitimate. But it controls where the emotions go at the moment.
4. Be Intentional
Don’t leave it to chance. Come to the table prepared. Literally.
Here’s what I mean.
My wife and I made a commitment years ago that we would keep dinner time a sacred time for us. This means we do not watch TV while we share our meal. We reserve that time for conversation, connecting and bonding.
But sometimes it’s tough because, as a man, I simply run out of things to talk about. I found a valuable tool that helps me come to the table (literally) prepared. It’s called ‘Conversation Starters’ by Gary Chapman. It gives me a questions to ask my wife that initiates meaningful discussions.
I don’t leave it to chance.
Another thing I did was set a ‘Talk Date’ with my wife. That’s right. A talk date. I mentioned this above. Here’s waht we do…
Sometimes we drive. Sometimes walk. Sometimes it’s a glass of wine on the deck. But it’s always reserved for her. To talk about anything she wants to discuss.
Funny thing is I find myself guarding that time. The more we talk, the closer we get. The closer we get, the more meaning the relationship. There’s a cycle that happens that leads to a deeper, more meaningful relationship.
1. Get Your Conversation Starters for Couples (affiliate link)
2. Set a ‘Talk Date’ with your wife. Tell her it’s all about her and what she wants to discuss. Then listen.
3. Guard your dinner time and use it to grow your relationship.
4. Be Positive
I alluded to this earlier. The goal of the this time with your spouse is to connect. Anything that has potential to block that goal needs to be dealt with.
5. Be Positive
“You can’t make positive choices for the rest of your life without an environment that makes those choices easy, natural, and enjoyable.” – Author Unknown
It’s vital to make sure we are creating a positive environment for our marriage to grow.
Our relationships will always be a reflection of what is going on inside of us at any given moment. – J. Douglas Nolan
How do we do this?
1. Don’t cop an attitude
2. Avoid “I” statements; use ‘you’ and ‘we.’
3. Make a mental decision to stay positive
4. Get your head and heart right before you start a conversation.
5. Don’t confuse ‘happy’ with positive
6. Give your wife at least one compliment a day (from now on)
7. Don’t critize
8. Control your thoughts. Don’t let your mind run you; you run it!
I’m sure you’ve heard this quote, but it’s worth repeating.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” Lao Tzu
That’s well said.
By the way, if you are a negative person by nature, you need to get some help. Negativity will destroy your relationship faster than an affair.
I don’t like to interrupt articles with blatant promotions, but this is important. There are two programs I’ve found to be very helpful.
Both are paid programs. But if you struggle with being negative, you need these to help you get control of your emotions and change your mindset. It’s the most important thing you can do for yourself. If you fail here, you will certainly fail in communicating with your wife.
And you run the risk of ruining your relationship permanently.
6. Be Attentive
The University of Glascow presented a paper titled “Having a Constructive Conversation.”
It’s a guide designed to help staff people connect in conversations. I found it useful in helping men communicate with their wives. In the paper they present a basic chart of how conversations flow. The image below gives a visual of this process.
Here’s how they explain it:
Provide information or an explanation, so that the employee (in our case, wife) knows what the discussion is focusing on, or what is coming next etc.
Example – “I’d like to discuss your performance over the last month” (Our case: “I’d like to spend some time talking your day…”
Ask a question relevant to the information given at the inform stage in order to seek input from the employee (spouse) and to bring them into the conversation.
Example – “How do you feel you have performed over that period?” (Or…how do you feel about your day today?”)
Actively listen to the employee’s (spouse) response. Utilizing non-verbal communication while the speaker is talking, such as maintaining eye contact and nodding may help the speaker feel more at ease and confident that what they are saying is being heard and understood. A degree of interruption can be appropriate here in order to ensure a point is understood, although interruptions should not be to an extent that they detract from the employee being given the chance to respond.
Having listened to what the employee had to say on a given point of discussion, managers (husband/spouses) should demonstrate that they have listened and understood by acknowledging what was said. Language such as “Ok, I understand” or “I appreciate that” alongside a degree of paraphrasing/feeding back can help to acknowledge what was said.
So how does this relate to being open with your wife?
When we understand how conversations usually take place – the flow of discussion – we can find insights that help us engage instead of disconnect.
In the examples above, there are keys that help keep the conversation on track. When we say ‘I understand’ we are acknowledging the statement our spouse made.
It allows us to verify and affirm what is being said. This is KEY!
We verify it by restating what we hear.
We affirm by saying things like, ‘Oh, I see that!’ or “Yes, that makes sense.”
Two of the biggest needs our spouse has is to be validated (verify) and affirmed. Practicing these principles allow us to give this to our spouse.
Why is this important?
It validates that we are interested.
You are not engaged if you are always looking for the next thing YOU want to say. Slow down. Focus. Think of your spouse. Listen to HER. Then let her know you hear her by reframing her words back to her. Not in a critical, bane way. But sincerely.
Again, remember the goal. Connecting.
Follow these six principles and your communication skills will develop. More than that, you will begin to connect with your wife on a new level.
If you want further help, we recommend a program called ‘Conversation Chemistry.’
We are an affiliate for this program, so know that if you purchase through our link, we will receive a commission. This does not affect the cost of the program.
It’s our goal to help you repair any broken places in your marriage AND to offer ways to create the relationship of your dreams.
We also have other articles to help you and your spouse make your marriage healthy.
Why not take our Marriage Quiz and find your relationship score. It’s a 10 question quiz that will pinpoint the area”s of greatest need in your marriage AND discover helpful solutions to get you on the right track.
It’s Your Turn Now
I would love to hear from you. Has this been helpful?
Leave a comment and let’s keep the conversation going.