James writes, “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger…” (James 1:19). Today’s  pulpit message speaks of the importance of faith, family, and friends. I wanted to complement the message with a few thoughts about how husbands and wives communicate differently.

Years ago I discovered the Reader’s Digest article, “Can’t We Talk.”  It explains the different “languages” men and women use to communicate. Yes, we hear the words, but neither gender really understands the meanings buried within those words. By understanding the hidden message behind the words, we can be  better listeners  who better understand each other. The result will be more fulfilled communication with less anger and frustration.

A married couple is driving on a trip  when the wife asks her husband, “Would you like to stop for something to drink?” The man replies, “No, thanks. I’m fine.” They continue to drive. The wife, who wanted to stop becomes annoyed and feels her needs are ignored by her husband. Words are exchanged, and in frustration the husband blurts out, “Well, why didn’t you just say you wanted to stop!”

The man failed to realize the women was not looking for an instant answer but was trying to begin a discussion about stopping for rest and refreshment. The wife also failed to realize the husband was only expressing his preference, not making an authoritative ruling.

Here are a few common areas of conflict arising from a misunderstanding of how men and women communicate differently.

  1. Status vs. Support.

Men grow up with the view that conversation is a contest to achieve the upper hand or to prevent others from pushing them around. Listen to all the “smack” and challenging statements men make to other men. Women, however, talk to exchange confirmation, connection, and consensus.

  1. Independence vs. Intimacy.

Women  think in terms of closeness,  togetherness, and understanding with their husband. Men think in terms of establishing independence and status.

These differing views often create conflict. For example, the husband’s old friend calls him to say he’s in town for the weekend. The husband, without consulting the wife, invites him to stay at his house for the weekend. That evening over dinner, he breaks the news to his wife. The wife is upset. How could he do that without first consulting with me, she thinks. She would never do that to him. She says to him, “Why didn’t you tell him you have to check with your wife first?”  He replies, “I can’t say I have to ask my wife for permission!”

To the husband asking his wife would mean he is not free to act on his own. The man wants his independence to make his own decision. But the wife wants to feels a closeness and a togetherness with her husband when she asks him about something before she decides on it.

  1. Advice vs. Understanding.

A wife will tell a husband about a particular difficult problem at work or a concern. The husband immediately goes into a “Mister Fix-It” role. He gives every possible solution to the problem or issue. The wife becomes frustrated.

Why? She isn’t asking for advice she is only looking for understanding and emotional support. She doesn’t want a problem-solving husband at this time. She wants an understanding man who will listen to her and give her emotional support.

  1. Information vs. Feeling. A wife starts a conversation and tells her husband the events of her day and how she is feeling about what has happened. The husband listens quietly and says nothing. When she asks him what he is thinking or what happened in his day, he replies, “Nothing.”

Why the difference? Women like to verbalize their feelings and their activities. Listen to women talk with each other. Much of their conversation focuses on these things. They think of it as a way to show involvement and caring for one another.

But most men talk only to share information. Listen to men talk with other men and even their wife. Their conversations always focus on sharing information about their career, their favorite sport team, their hobby, an event they attended, or some family situation. Men have practiced all their lives keeping their innermost thoughts and feelings to themselves. You almost never hear a group of men discuss their emotional feelings with each other.

When a wife understands this she should not take it as a rejection. When a husband understands this he should not take his wife’s questions as an intrusion but should attempt to open up more and share more with her.

When husband and wives understand the different ways they communicate, the result will be a huge improvement in understanding each other. —- Tom