My wife and I are having a great deal of communication problems, I believe most of it is my fault, the fact is I don’t know how to express the way I feel appropriately and she is miserable, I believe there are a lot of things that she dose wrong as well, and that her believes and values differ from mine a great deal, we have recently had a baby (6mo.) and I love her very much, but lately when we try to talk about our problems we end up rambling from one topic to the next, we both get very defensive and nothing ever gets accomplished or any solutions are created. I believe we need someone to help us get organized. Do you have any suggestions? Signed, Defensive
Dear Defensive: Thank you for the email. I really appreciate the straight forwardness and the ownership you take for your part in the break down of communication with your wife. It is a difficult time for you and your wife especially with the addition of your 6 month old child. Listed below are some things you could try.
1. Pick a time and place to talk with you wife where there will be no interruptions. In other words when the baby is asleep and you can take the phone off the hook to share some interrupted time. Ask you wife what time would be most convenient for her and suggest you have a 15 to 30 minute
discussion. Set a timer if you have to for this first discussion.
2. Speak for yourself by using “I” statements. The minute one of the partner’s use the word you that person will become defensive. Also try to avoid the following words when talking with your wife: never, always, should, why and but. These words tend to attract defensive behavior.
3. Start the conversation with your wife by telling her how much you love her. Also mention how you understand how hard it must be to be a Mom and have a small baby and all the responsibility. Validate her with your kind words and show her empathy.
4. Tell her, if it is true, that you are concerned about the relationship and you really want to take some positive action to start improving how you communicate. Let her know you take ownership for your actions and then ask her what you could do to improve things for her over the next week. Ask her opinion on what she would suggest you do to improve the relationship.
5. Show her you have really listened to her by repeating back what you think you’ve heard. Show her you are listening by keeping good eye contact and nodding your head occasionally while she speaks. (Up to 90% of our communication is sent and received through body language. Be very aware of yours and keep it positive.)
6. Understand that most women only want to be heard and validated by their husbands. They want to be understood. If you can show your wife that you hear and understand her you will warm her heart and she w ill be able to respond to you in a more positive way. Don’t try to solve her problem, just listen to her. Most wives don’t want the husband to solve their problems unless they ask for help directly. So if your wife starts talking about her problems, listen and empathize but don’t offer solutions unless she asks.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit our relationship articles. There are several articles and evaluation forms I think you would find helpful. We also highly recommend the book Talk to Me as a way to learn how to communicate in a positive, loving way.
Please understand you have free will. This advice is given only in the realm of personal growth and self-help. This is not to be considered a substitute for therapy or professional counseling. We wish you well.