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Friday
Apr292011

Learning to speak Man

The 10 years my husband spent traveling regularly on business, lead me to a seemingly unrelated revelation. 

How to communicate problems or frustrations to a man.

I know they sound unrelated.  But during the years he was traveling I would sweep problems under the rug so that when he was home our time together as a family, would be happy and fun.

Sounds okay.  Perhaps even selfless.  But overtime leaving so many small things unresolved left me frustrated and resentful.  Not particularly for anything he had done, or hadn't done, just because I was young, overworked and didn't know what to do about it.

So I started out by venting my frustrations when he was home by very loudly closing the kitchen cupboards, stomping around, or muttering under my breath - completely within his ear shot of course! 

He would see I was upset and ask me what was wrong.  My usual reply. 
"NOTHING!" 
This, of course, didn't solve anything.

Until I just grew up and told him that I was hurt or frustrated, and why. 

Once I learned to address my frustrations, in a calm and rational way, he was more than willing to discuss  problems with me.  He knew his traveling wasn't easy for me, and I knew he wasn't away from us by choice.

During those years I learned that men respond well to direct and specific communication. 

Here's the problem.
This is how it makes me feel. 
Here's what would make me feel better. 
Period. 

A rational, logical discussion.  In search of resolution.

I also learned that men do not well respond to...
YOU'RE the problem.
Here's a big long story about it.
Followed by tears.

This completely throws them off and usually leaves them angry at you for making them feel like an insensitive jerk.  Trust me.  I've tried it.  It doesn't work.

Now that we've been married for over 20 years, I feel like I've learned how to speak "man". 

If I want to discuss an issue with my husband I use what I learned during those years when he was away so much.  Direct, to the point, no guilt trip.  I just lay out what the problem is and how it makes me feel.  It never hurts to throw a suggested solution in there too!  That just makes the whole thing that much simpler, and easier to resolve. 

But even if you don't have a solution.  Or even want one.  Even if you just need to tell him you're hurt and have him hold you.  This approach still works. 

I can honestly say at this point in our marriage we very rarely have big conflicts.  Part of that is because we've been together so long, that we know what we can and can't expect from the other person, but it is also in large part to the fact that we've learned to communicate in a way that the other responds well to.

Husbands know you get upset sometimes, and they're okay with that.  It's how you go about telling them about it, that determines whether or not they'll respond to you with tenderness and understanding or defensiveness and withdrawal.


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