Heck, are we even in the same book?
On my last blog post “How Does She Do It?” I touched on some of the challenges mothers face raising kids and how most of the work they do at home is not appreciated. Culture teaches us that work is earning a paycheck. It is so embedded in our brains that we do not see the sacrifice of a spouse who has to deal with the day to day chores and dealing with kids at home. I have received a lot of good feedback on how men and women can learn to listen to cues and establish an environment where we don’t take each other for granted. I have to admit that I have a lot of learning to do. Despite trying to understand my wife between conversations that beat around the bush and non-verbal cues, I can totally miss what she has to say.
What’s fascinating is the huge difference in the way men and women process information,
yet we have to live with each other. Our differences somehow are weaved into this amazing hidden treasure that unfolds as we explore life together, discovering the
beautiful and the ugly parts of a relationship. True friendship develops when we can connect with each other on a deeper level, going beyond the superficial. We then discover that beauty comes out of the ugliness in a relationship.
I am not as patient as my wife when it comes to grocery shopping. I get in, get out, and get on with my life, but then I would only have a meal for dinner and most likely break the budget. She has all the menus planned out for the entire week, a grocery list, and a plan of attack upon entering the store. Sometimes, in the middle of planning the menus, she will ask me a question about what I would like to eat during the week, and it is usually when I am in the middle of doing something. And my mind goes blank. It sure is not rocket science—it’s a simple question, right? If it takes more than 30 seconds for me to respond, she will come back with a suggestion. She will say “What do you want to eat Monday, chicken or beef?” Information overload! I still hadn’t processed the first question, and now she’s added a second! And my response will be “yes, chicken or beef”. My brain has just gone through a state of nothingness. I have been caught off guard and do not know what to do or how to answer the question. My brain is flat-lining. It’s not that I am not interested in eating for the week. Interrupting a one-track mind is like making a wrong turn on the highway, like a GPS, I am recalculating trying to find an easier route to the question at hand. It won’t take long before she is frustrated because of my lack of input in planning the meals and she will proceed to make the menus without me. Or just quit cooking altogether. Good thing she loves cooking.
What frustrates both men and women in a relationship is the fact that we don’t operate on the same page most of the time. We think that we have communicated with our spouse about what we need, but we are using words or giving them cues they don’t understand, and then we expect instant results. What makes sense in our head does not mean that it made sense to our spouse. I have heard frustrated women say “why can’t he do something without being asked? Can’t he see that there is work that needs to get done around the house?” In a lot of cultures, the mentality of most men is that work around the house is done by women and as a result, they do not feel the need to take the initiative to help. Men who do help on the other hand get frustrated when they are asked to do multiple things at the same time. I can’t multi-task like my wife. When I’m sweeping the floor or something and she asks me to take out the garbage, my response will be, can’t she see I’m already doing something? Our frustrations are the result of our lack of understanding on how different we process information. We tend to be impatient with each other and are unwilling to give each other grace.
Every once and awhile, my wife and I have these self-evaluations where we talk about our needs and the things we do that makes the other person frustrated. At times my wife will say she has needs. I ask her what her needs are, and she tells me she doesn’t know. What’s a man to do with that? It is hard when you hear your spouse take a jab at your ego and bring out some of the ugly parts of your life, but it is necessary. This helps us find ways to reconcile our differences and learn how to meet each other’s needs. We become better people when we learn to take criticism and not become defensive when we are corrected. Many times we are all locked up in our own little world, but we must look beyond it. We must work hard to keep the channels of communication open even if it is a hard thing to do. In the end, it will be worth it.
What do you find frustrating while trying to communicate with others? Spouse, parents, friends, co-workers, kids? What has been the most rewarding conversation you had? Would you mind sharing some of the ways you use to effectively communicate? We can all use help in establishing genuine and solid relationships.
4 thoughts on “Are We On The Same Page?”
I don’t know why food is always such a difficult subject, but one of the things I used to do that drives my husband crazy revolves around when we’re going to go out to eat. My husband would ask, “Where do you want to go?”
In my head I immediately start on the following train of thought, “Hmmm, food sounds good. I like places A, B, C, and D… but I know he’s not a fan of place B, so maybe I shouldn’t mention that one, and I know he probably wants to go to place A or C… and I’m fine with either of those… I’m hungry, let’s go get food.”
And so I would answer, “I don’t care.”
This totally annoyed him (because, of course, he hadn’t heard any of the internal dialogue) and he would think, “She doesn’t CARE? Maybe we should just go home and eat cereal, then.”
Interestingly enough, we have learned that if I say, “I have no preference,” (which is what I MEANT when I said, “I don’t care”), it didn’t bother him at all and he felt free to make a decision, knowing that I wouldn’t be totally bummed by his choice.
(Found you through your wife’s post today and wanted to let you know that I like your blog! Welcome to the blogosphere!)
James Mbewe says:
Hi Jenelle! Thanks for stopping by and sharing! My wife and I have similar conversations, sometimes she does care, but won’t admit it. That’s a different topic for a different day. 🙂
Regarding the “I don’t care” bit – my husband would get frustrated cause I would say that – and then veto the one suggestion he made. 😀
I found reading the “For Women Only” & “For Men Only” some of the most enlightening help ever. After every chapter I would run to him and say “Is this true?” and he’d be flabbergasted – “that’s what I’ve been trying to communicate to you for years!” But I never understood it until the way it was phrased in the book. And I loved that the “For Men Only” had a chapter for all the wives that were going to read it even though it was aimed at their husbands, telling them to back off and let their men process what they read without any wifely hovering. It was right on as that was what I was about to do, too! We also learned a lot from the “Five Love Languages” books.
We learned early in our marriage to communicate by saying “I feel” to express frustrations. To explain “you may not mean it this way but this is how such-n-such makes me feel”. Another big component is learning to not instantly reacting negatively. We’ll say “are you open for some feedback?” & the other can say yes or not now, later please.
James Mbewe says:
Ha! My wife does the same thing at times, she will say “I don’t know” but when I suggest something else, she will come back veto the idea. A least I don’t feel so alone now:-)
Thank you for some great comments. We all need to learn from others, you have definitely brought in some new perspectives to the discussions!