One reader asked a question I get from time to time that is near and dear to my heart, and I wanted to address it from my perspective right here, anonymously of course (and slightly edited to further protect her identity):
Here is her question:
I let my husband know with soft tones in my voice that I support him. My husband takes it as sarcasm.
When I suggest things like appointments, chores, etc., he thinks I am attacking him or judging him.
Even when I say something positive to him, he walks away like I just insulted him.
There are many times where I left the room crying because I have no idea how the conversation went sour. I don’t talk to him for a couple of days because I am tired of being hurt. Then my communication stops with him and that’s not good.
I just want to understand how to communicate better with my husband.
Does this feel familiar to any of you?
It does to me.
For several years (and even from time to time to this day) my wife would remind me of things, ask me to help, and, yes, even say something positive, and I felt nagged or babied, or even just took things the wrong way.
I was a miserable jerk.
It wasn’t what or how she said things, although that’s what I’d tell her.
The real reason was this:
I was hurting.
I was uncomfortable with myself.
I was just unhappy overall.
It wasn’t her. It was me.
Her communication skills or techniques weren’t the problem.
The problem was what was going on in between the two ears receiving the messages.
It was how I felt inside about myself, about “my situation,” about a whole bunch of things.
She didn’t need to communicate better or differently.
I needed to get through my funk to be able to receive things differently.
So what’s the takeaway?
1. Talk less. Listen more.
I suspect your husband is hurting. I suspect that the issue here isn’t you.
But we do know two things. First, it doesn’t seem to matter what you say or how you say it during these conversations. He doesn’t react well. Second, you don’t know why.
I suspect you have a good idea why he might be hurting. Maybe his job stresses him out. Maybe his boss is a jerk. Maybe it doesn’t pay well. Maybe he is out of shape and feels uncomfortable in his skin.
I don’t know.
But I suggest spending a few weeks just trying to figure out if he’s hurting and why.
Just observe. Listen more.
Because if he’s not happy with himself it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it.
And once you have a sense of what’s got him in a funk, you might stand a better chance of helping him out of it.
2. Write him a letter.
I was skeptical when I picked up a copy of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships.
I do believe the different genders have different tendencies, pressures, experiences. But I have never been a fan of “men are like” and “women are like” content.
That being said, I really enjoyed the book and thought Dr. John Gray made a lot of great points.
One of the highlights was suggesting writing a letter to your spouse to convey certain messages and emotions. He has two blog posts about it here, called The Feeling Letter: How To Communicate Difficult Feelings To A Loved One, and here, called The Feeling Letter: How To Resolve Conflict With A Loved One.
When my wife and I weren’t communicating well, neither of us could finish a sentence. A letter would solve that issue because it is interruption proof. Sure, I could have stopped reading it, but even then I know I wouldn’t have.
I think this might help.
3. Get support.
Find mentors, counseling, coaching, groups, or even just a group of kind-hearted positive-thinking friends. Meet regularly with an agenda of self-improvement with a primary goal of helping each other improve their relationships.
I am a member of three groups, have several mentors, trusted friends, read/listen to content, and am in mastermind groups for business/life.
Each of those sources has helped me through tough times. I am constantly looking for more and better information and support to help me grow and remain accountable. It is literally the best thing I’ve done for my marriage over the last two years.
There is so much value to connecting with others who are committed to helping your relationship blossom.
Originally Published: Confessions of a Terrible Husband