The husband comes home late from work because he went to the coffee shop with his friends. They'd had too much fun and didn't notice the time passing, something that was all right for the single men in the group, but not so for the newly married man. When he finally got home, with a smile on his face, his wife met him at the door, so angry. Her cheeks were red, and she looked like she might cry.
"You're a jerk!" she yelled at him in frustration.
"Are you talking to me?" he asked her, with confusion on his face.
"No," she replied sarcastically, "I'm talking to myself."
The husband is now angry. He doesn't like the tone in her voice, as if she's mocking him. He has to restrain himself when she doesn't let up, and he walks out of the house. She ends up crying alone; sure that he has no regard for her feelings.
Although this scene happened on a television screen, its origins come from real life, and married people could definitely see themselves in such a situation. In fact, the number one problem reported by married couples is the trouble they have talking to each other — the trouble they have communicating.
And it's a certainty that if communication problems could be solved, money problems or other marital issues could be solved as well. Communication is the key.
Oftentimes, it's women who realize this before the men do. It's in their nature to "want to talk" and the belief that if they could do so effectively, solutions would be discovered, feelings would be nurtured, and love between the two would grow.
Still, even though the women might understand the value of good communication, it's easier said than done (no pun intended). Men might not seem as willing, but more often than not, it's a matter of them not really understanding the nuances of what their wives are trying to tell them or the intent behind their words. Sometimes, like in the scene above, the wife's hurt feelings come to the husband as more of a challenge or a form of disrespect — both of which aren't helpful in nourishing communication.
So, what is helpful? Here are two guidelines to help husbands and wives communicate better:
- 1. Communication must take into consideration what the person thinks and feels.
Communication problems begin when you don't like what the other person has to say. For example, the wife in the scene above was feeling abandoned and alone, sad that her husband found the company of his friends more fun than being with her. She didn't want to hear that he had lost track of time or that he hadn't been thinking about her during that time. She wanted to control what he expressed, but instead of telling him that, she went on the defensive and angered him.
A breakdown in communication occurs because we don't like what the other person is saying, or not saying, and so the preemptive action is to go on the defensive in order that we don't have to hear the thoughts or feelings.
Proper communication starts with being willing to hear the message that is sent.
- 2. Communication in marriage is about handling the truth of what the other person thinks and feels.
You can handle the truth. You just have to believe it and be willing to get through it, even if you don't like it. A husband and wife need to be able to say, "Okay, let's talk this out without insult or grievance, and no matter what the truth of the situation is, we can deal with it together."
Honesty will increase, and when honesty increases in the marriage, the marriage grows, and the couple will be capable of reaching new highs in their marital satisfaction.
How do husbands and wives begin to practice more honesty in their communications with one another?
First, it's important to note that you mustn't remove the filter between your mind and your mouth. When you speak, it's about wording your thoughts and feelings in a way that isn't hurtful to the other spouse. Oftentimes, spouses delay speaking up because they're afraid of the reactions of the other. But by training yourself to speak up more often and not wait for the most opportune time (which may never come because nothing is perfect), then you're helping yourself train on the proper communication skills.
Some couples fall victim to faulty thinking that sounds like this: "If my spouse really cared about me, they'd be able to figure out what I'm feeling or thinking." But neither men nor women are mind readers, even though we might think we are.
When we stop sitting back and waiting for our spouses to pick up on our hurt or frustrated feelings or thoughts, two things start to happen. One, we start to be more mature in our communication methods, because we've claimed responsibility for our own thoughts and feelings. Two, our spouses begin to mature in their communication skills too, because we're treating them like adults capable of handling our thoughts and emotions. They feel trusted, and anyone thrives with the feeling that he or she is being trusted.
Make the obvious obvious.
Anything we feel in other parts of our life is carried over to our homes and to the communication that is exchanged with the person closest to us, namely our spouses. If a man has had a stressful day at work, and his wife has had a hectic day with the children (or if the opposite is true), it's likely that when they meet up in the end of the day, both will be too wound up to really consider each other's thoughts and feelings the way they would if they weren't stressed. In this case, it's important to state the obvious, knowing that your spouse isn't a mind reader. It just needs a simple "Assalam Alaykum honey, it's good to see you. I've had a rough day. Do you mind if I take a few minutes resting before I ask how your day was?"
Another way to make the obvious obvious is to acknowledge when a discussion or argument is getting out of control. It's crucial for husbands and wives to realize that when they start being disrespectful during communication or conversation, it's no longer about what's best for the people involved, but rather it's become a matter of individual pride.
The couple that laughs together communicates better together.
`A'isha (may Allah be pleased with her), the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him), said, "I raced with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and beat him in the race. Later, when I had put on some weight, we raced again and he won. Then he said, 'This cancels that,' referring to the previous occasion" (Ahmad).
In their communications with one another, husbands and wives are usually discussing important issues. They talk about their finances or discuss decisions regarding the rearing of their children. In order to make sure that all their communication is more successful, couples need to have times when they talk about "nonsense." The times of play in their communication with each other strengthens all the other times. And when things get rough, a well-placed and well-timed joke can actually diffuse a potentially harmful communication situation.
For the ultimate communication success in marriage, make it a habit to share fun times and jokes with one another. Here's one to share:
A young couple was on their honeymoon. The husband was sitting in the bathroom on the edge of the bathtub saying to himself, "How can I tell my wife that I've got really smelly feet and that my socks absolutely stink?"
Meanwhile, the wife was sitting in the bed saying to herself, "How do I tell my husband that I have a problem with really bad breath?"
The husband finally plucks up enough courage to tell his wife, and so he walks over to the bed, gets close to his wife, and says, "Honey, I have a confession to make."
And she says, "So do I, dear."
To which he replies, "Don't tell me you've eaten my socks!"