Less than a year ago I got married. I love my wife… but we have had problems, for when something upsets us and causes us to fight, I try to settle it so we won’t have to deal with it but rather will be able to have harmony in our home and sleep peacefully. My wife, on the other hand, clams up instead of talking out our disagreements, and that bothers me a lot. I react in a bad way, not hitting her, but often ignoring her.
What can I do, or how can I talk to her so we don’t get upset? How can I carry on a conversation with her without hurting her feelings?
You have asked the universal marriage question! Every couple has to learn how to communicate and how to solve disagreements without one or both of them getting their feelings hurt. The most important point to realize is that every happily married couple has overcome this hurdle, and you will too.
Generally, men and women handle conflict differently. Some experts say that the average number of words spoken by a woman in one day is twenty‑five thousand, while the average number of words spoken by a man is only ten thousand. Women tend to want to talk about their emotions and the details of every situation, while most men want to get to the bottom line, identify what is wrong, and repair it as quickly as possible. Neither of these alternatives is right or wrong, but between husbands and wives there must be compromise.
When a woman (or man) refuses to talk about a problem, there is usually something from the past that is affecting this current behavior. Many times, women don’t talk because they have learned that men don’t really want to hear all the details and emotions. But women may find themselves unable to conceive of a resolution to the problem without going through the process of expressing the emotions and being heard and understood by their husbands. The husbands just want to fix the problems and skip all the chitchat.
Often a spouse has experienced ridicule or repercussions from having expressed opinions, or the partner always interrupts and won’t listen. Sometimes women feel that their husbands tune them out. After a while, they give up trying to express themselves.
We completely agree with the Biblical principle that says we shouldn’t let the sun go down while we are still angry.1 Early in our marriage, we tried to resolve every conflict before going to sleep each night. We lost a lot of sleep! One day we realized that we could go to sleep while still disagreeing, but only after having asked forgiveness of each other for any angry words, and having agreed on a time to talk about the issue the next day. We learned that we could get over our anger and focus on solving the specific problem.
In every discussion, partners can have respect for one another’s opinions, use kind words, and listen without interrupting, even when they don’t agree on the details. It may take months of practicing these simple principles, but if you do, your wife will eventually begin to share her thoughts and feelings.
We wish you well,
Linda and Charles
1 Eph 4:26