Relationships are complicated, just as human emotions are complicated. When we talk about relationships in the context of marriage, it gets...err.. even more complex.
This “theory” is supported by a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Researchers call it the “closeness communication bias,” which states that married people overestimate the effectiveness of their communication with their partners because of their close relationship. However, studies show that in fact, married people convey messages to their partners just as ineffectively as they do with strangers.
In other words, we often assume that our husband or wife will understand something we tell them (and get frustrated when they don’t). On the other hand, we give more accommodation to strangers (and are more polite with them) if they fail to catch what we said the first time.
Add to that the fact that each individual comes from a different background, and that men and women are wired differently. It’s the perfect formula for miscommunication!
Renay P. Cleary Bradley, Ph.D., who did research on relationships at the Gottman Institute in Seattle, tells Parents, “Women are more likely to bring up issues and to make demands, which men tend to perceive as criticism.”
The resolution: check your approach when talking to your partner, suggests the research. Here are examples.
How to tell your husband exactly what you mean
You say: “Do you want to go out?”
Your husband hears: “I have a choice if we’ll go out or not.”
Experts say: William Doherty, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, says that women don’t want to come off as controlling, so rather than giving out a statement (“Let’s have a date.”), they ask a question instead. However, remember that your man is not a mind reader. Thus, it becomes a guessing game for him — it's not meant to disappoint you.
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What you should say instead: Be more direct: “Honey, I’d like to go out this week. Can we plan something?” It leaves nothing to chance.
You say: The house is a mess. (You want help cleaning up!)
Your husband hears: The house is a mess.
Experts say: Your husband takes your statement at face value, so he is simply echoing what you are saying. He does not sense that you are upset or are crying out for help to clean up the place. Says Dr. Doherty, “Most men just don’t think about logistical things in emotional terms.”
What you should say instead: Tell him what you really want rather than merely throwing a statement in the air. “The house is a mess. I feel so overwhelmed. How can we make a system so that it never gets to this?”