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Saturday, January 21, 2012

You Need to Talk

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ouples generally have no major problem talking about daily business - what should we eat for dinner, let's make weekend plans. That's good. People need to communicate about what's going on in their daily life.
However, over time, it's not unusual for one partner to feel distressed with the quality of their communication. Often, though not always, it's the woman who finds herself complaining that she desires deeper communication. And the man who finds himself on the defensive.
"We need to talk," may seem like a simple statement to women, but it's not. Particularly, if her man is hearing, "What did I do wrong now?" Or, "What are you upset about now?" Seeking to escape a dressing-down, he may well respond, "later." Which might be fine if later ever came. But it usually doesn't. Not of his own accord, anyway.
Initially, he may believe that "later" has helped him escape a confrontation, but after awhile he realizes, it hasn't. For she still needs to talk. And if he doesn't give her a chance to do so, she'll be stewing.
What does she want? She may want him to be more involved with the responsibilities of home or child care. Or, she may want him to be more involved in her life. She may be weary of the mundane talk that's the core of their discourse and be yearning for intimate conversations like those that used to take place in the days of courtship. It's typical for a woman to keep trying to improve the relationship with her partner. But she may go about it in ways that are not particularly productive. What might she do differently? Here are a few suggestions:
Begin with the Positive
It's so easy to begin a discourse with the negative. Your complaint is right there at the tip of your tongue. Do your best, however, to squelch the urge. Surely, there are positive aspects of your relationship that you can point out before giving a laundry list of all the stuff that's been bothering you. People put up their guard when they feel that they've been attacked and either counter attack or go on the defensive. So, do your best to start off with the positive, end with the positive and sandwich your complaint in between.
Be More Solution-Oriented
Complaining is a position of the weak. Suggesting a solution is a position of the strong. Instead of saying, "You never..... (Fill in the blank), say something like, "I love that you're such a good husband (as you enumerate a few positive traits)." Then add what it is that you want. "And I want us to spend more time communicating about each other, not just the kids."
Ask specifically for what you want
Do you want to go on vacation without the kids? (Studies show that those who do this have better marriages.) Do you want a date night once a week, once a month? Do you want to have evening conversations that focus on each other, not the daily details of life? Think about it. It's not always easy to know what you want.
Keep it Short
It's no secret that women like to talk more than men. Women like the details. Men like to get to the bottom line, fast. So, if you're planning to have an hour long discussion about the state of your relationship and he'd like to keep it to two minutes, strike a compromise. Better to have 20 minutes of quality conversation than 60 minutes of a diatribe.
Communication, like other interpersonal skills, needs to be fine-tuned to the person you're speaking with and the topic you're speaking about.

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