Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chronicle 40: Say What?! Wednesday: Communicating with your Spouse

Well, here we are, more than halfway through the Say What?! Series and I am a little sad. Not like "Leave Britney ALONE!" sad... more along the lines of "There are two more Oreos left in the package and I'm about to finish them off" sad. Wistful-like. Because there is only one more post left in the series, I've been brainstorming and narrowing down topics. I want to hit the most important issues, what I think might be most helpful to YOU.
Oh, Mr. Gable!
Something that comes up time and again in any relationship with a significant other is communication (mostly lack thereof, if we're honest with ourselves). Never is this skill more important than when you're trying to nurture a little ankle biter of your own. 

Is is notoriously difficult for men and women to truly hear and understand what the other is saying. Women are talkers and sharers by nature and men are visual creatures who just want us to get to the point so they can offer a brilliant solution. 
I can't even begin to count the number of times I sat down and talked to my husband about my horrible day and spilled my guts only to encounter a glazed look or the "I'm pretending not to read what's on my computer, but I'm really rocking the hell out of my peripherals" stare. One of those moments where I truly considered extreme couch bouncing a la Tom Cruise craziness... 
There are books. And articles. And Doctors and therapists and couples counseling and churches, and and and. What it really comes down to is your willingness to LISTEN. By stepping back, turning off defensiveness and keeping an open ear. This is a constantly evolving skill... trust.

Here's what I know/try to keep in mind:
1. Talking scares a lot of men. They're afraid you want them to get emotional and share their feelings... and stuff. Plus, they are petrified you will yell or cry. This triggers a shut down in most men. (Trying desperately not to generalize, here!)

Instead: "Hey, hotness (bunny, lovebug, big strong man, etc.), I wanted to get your opinion on something. Can we set aside 10-15 minutes later? I'll bring the wine! 
-A limited amount of time is concrete. It means that there is a way out. It means that you go into teamwork mode and find a solution without a prolonged, emotional conversation. 
-Also, talking about ONE issue at a time may be frustrating, but it is a scientific fact that men cannot multitask. It's brain science. 
-Don't cause confusion by bringing up five different things at once, as tempting as it may be. If it helps, write down everything beforehand, just to simply get it out so it doesn't make an appearance during your "non-chat."
-Don't get drunk, or even tipsy. The wine is to help you loosen up, not lash out! 

2. Start SMALL. 

-Don't try to tackle a heavy, complex issue on your first try. Gradually increase the time limit as you and your spouse become more comfortable discussing more emotional issues.
-Starter topics: Projects around the house, weekend plans, a trip, your next big purchase, planning a date.
-Eventually you will dive into the sensitive topics: money, sex, family, raising your children, your feelings about _____ event/situation, etc. 

3. Be ready to swallow some pride. You may have an idea of how you want the conversation to go, but the goal is to really listen to your spouse. Remember that you cannot control their thoughts, words, or actions. Give them time to think and talk, without interruptions. Check out their body language.
Body language
-Interrupting or giving an emotional monologue says "I don't care what you think. What I have to say is much more important" (whether that is true or not). Your love should shine through, not your impatience. 
-Support is key. Creating a safe environment will encourage your spouse to talk and share. 
-You may hear something that you don't like or conflicts with your wants. Take a minute to mull it over  before you respond. A lot of times our initial reactions may be overreactions, which hinder any progress you've made!

4. When all else fails, agree to disagree, and re-visit later. 

-When either one, or both, of you gets too worked up, the conversation is over and stops being productive. Being upset does not lend to rational thinking.
-Take a day (or several) to cool down. Jot down thoughts as they come to you and bring them to your next conversation if it will help keep you focused. 
-Do not say something you will later regret. This will make it really difficult to revisit the conversation with a wary spouse.  
5. Last, but not least: Timing is everything.

-Read your partner's cues. Did they have a rough day at work, or at home with the kids? Not the best time to approach them with a sensitive issue. Glass of wine, maybe, but super chat? No.
-A person who is on-edge will not be prepared to listen objectively.
-Your convo should take place in a quiet, distraction free setting. Chaos begets chaos!

Take it to the houuuuse!

The Hot Mama

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