Say What?


Husbands and wives use the same language (sort of), but they have different software and apps. Here are five tips to help spouses understand unfamiliar operating systems.

Voice-recognition technology sure has leaped forward in sophistication, hasn’t it? I remember trying to use an earlier generation of it some years ago. I sat in front of a computer for hours, talking into its mike and seeing gibberish come up on the screen. I gave up. Now you can simply talk your text messages into your smartphone and Siri, or whoever lives in your mobile device, will do your typing for you.

Men and women come equipped with different communication software. We use the same language, sort of, but the apps are different. I know for sure that my wife’s facial-recognition software far outstrips mine, and my analytical and logical use of words sometimes drives her crazy. Here are five tips for husbands and wives, knowledge I have earned honestly and painfully. I know you can’t generalize with 100% certainty about “male” and “female” behaviors, but see if these ring true to your experience:

For Wives:

  1. If you are saying something to your husband with the TV going, a computer screen lit up, or in the middle of a video game, you are wasting your breath. He can’t hear you. He can’t multitask like you. If he says he can, he is either lying or delusional. Wait with your talking until he mutes the TV or pauses the game. Turning everything off is better still.
  2. Start sentences with “I want . . .” We are eager to please. We can’t read your mind, even though you think we should be able to. We may not get your cues and hints. Just tell us. Women somehow are socialized to lean toward indirect communication. If you usually do that, you will get style points from your sisters but your husband won’t respond. Not because he doesn’t love you, but because your messages aren’t reaching the command center in his brain.
  3. If your husband isn’t looking at you when you’re talking, you may have lost him. Just because he in the same room as you and is silent doesn’t mean he is listening to you.
  4. Your husband has an attention span of 45-60 seconds, maybe less. If your long discourse goes beyond that, pause and reengage him before launching back into it.
  5. Just because your girlfriends can read facial and body language cues doesn’t mean that he can. We’re not dumb, just different. If you actually want to communicate and not merely talk at him, learn his dialect.

For Husbands:

  1. When she’s upset and venting, don’t try to fix her problem. That will just infuriate her all the more. Just listen. Turn your face toward her. Experience her pain and frustration with her. Show that you care.
  2. If you say, “How was your day,” be prepared for a long answer. Drop what you’re doing. Listen to all of it.
  3. Assume that her need for communication is as great as yours is for you-know-what.
  4. You can be right or happy. Pick which one you prefer.
  5. Say “I love you” more often than you think necessary.

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