Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marriage, communication and conflict

One of my readers sent me the following questions about marriage, and you can see my answers below. I'm posting this not to instruct anyone, as indeed I'm a young and not very experienced wife, but I thought sharing my perspective - and encouraging all you ladies to share yours - is a good idea.

What is the most challenging part of being married?

Marriage is a tremendous change, and so many things can be challenging for a young wife about this transition, both in the practical realm (homemaking) and in the spiritual. I personally believe that the most challenging part is leaving "me" behind and embracing "us". Adjusting to the needs of another person and accepting a husband's leadership. 

So much is now said about the crucial need to preserve one's individuality in marriage, to go on practicing your hobbies, seeing your friends, attaining your goals. Nothing is wrong with having friends or hobbies of course, but for a marriage to work the focus must shift entirely from "me" to "us". It may take a while and it may be difficult. Right now when I talk to my single friends I see an enormous difference in perspective. They don't understand why I must always consider the needs of my husband while making plans, while I don't understand how I could do otherwise. 

How do you keep the communication line open in your marriage since most men do not like to talk? 

Now, I'll make a confession. My husband and I don't fit the generalization of a silent husband and a chatty wife. My husband is very communicative, in fact more than me. It doesn't matter, however - in almost every couple there's someone less and someone more communicative, be it the husband or wife. I think it's highly important that both spouses accept communication is essential if you want to live together without tearing out your hair by fistfuls every day. If you are the one communicatively challenged, do make an effort to let your thoughts and feelings be known - at least about the important things (and even trivial little things can be important in marriage!).

If you are the more communicative side, do try to be forgiving of the other side's shortcomings in this area. It's wonderful to encourage the other side to express their feelings, but if it comes to pestering it might become extremely off-putting. Important conversations should be held one on one, in a pleasant atmosphere and when there's a leisure of time to talk, for example over a relaxed late dinner, or before your bedtime when the children are asleep - not when your husband is late for work, or when one or both of you are stressed out or extremely tired. Tiny little things can be easily blown out of proportions when you're bleary eyed with tiredness at 2 A.M. and talk them over and over, but if you just let go until morning you might see they were not that important after all. 

I believe the reason it is said most men "don't like to talk" is that men focus on the big picture, while women deal more with details - as a generalization. Even though my husband is a great talker, when he wants to he can have a very summarized, short conversation that covers all the basics in one minute - the typical, efficient manly communication. Many men believe you should only talk about what's truly important, instead of going chatty or delving into the secret depths of feelings. Personally I don't believe we must talk about everything. It's possible to just let go and forget about some things and it's alright.   

How do you handle conflict in a marriage?

Talk, and talk some more. When you are in conflict you must communicate openly and honestly, so that each one of you can express his or her views. Obviously it depends on the scale of the conflict, but if it's something you feel you can't just gloss over, then don't, or it will continue to eat at your heart and will come back to haunt you. Talk and reach compromise, and honor your husband's leadership. This can be challenging, it is challenging for me as much as it is for anyone else but it's a part of marriage - and life. 


Nea said...

"Personally I don't believe we must talk about everything. It's possible to just let go and forget about some things and it's alright."

Whit my huge :) nearly three year experience in marriage, I completely agree with that. While talking and communication are indeed a key factor in a well working marriage, it's sometimes healthy just let (some minor issues) go. Talking about everything just because you "have to" can lead to many unnecessary conflicts. I think it's the same thing you wrote about thinking of "us" instead of "me".

Kelly said...

I think you hit your first bit of advice spot. I'm going on year number ten of my marriage and it is still a work in progress to keep the "us" in mind at all times. Nothing wrong with having friends and hobbies. BUT there is too much emphasis on keeping those friends and hobbies at the expense of a marriage and it should be the other way around.

Luci said...

Amen! What's helped my husband and me solve disagreements on occasion has been for me to take a ten minute "mental break." I tell him that I need ten minutes of time to settle down and gather my thoughts, and he respects that. Usually, five minutes is enough, and almost every time, I've found that I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. If you're someone who tends to get emotional and speak before thinking, I'd highly recommend this method! :-)


Analytical Adam said...

Question asked by person:

>How do you keep the communication line open in your marriage since most men do not like to talk?

If the person has such a negative attitude towards men and a whole gender in the first place that is a problem and this kind of chauvinism in the first place a person like this is not fit to get married to a good man and a marriage can't work with this kind of chauvinism and negative stereotypes. There really isn't anything more to say.

As a Jewish man it is extremely insulting and to be quite frank scapegoating. I am not married and I see a lot of women who go for men that don't communicate in the first place because they want to control everything. So they are the problem and they reward men who don't communicate for their own selfish reasons. A woman that wants to blame men for everything because they don't like the idea of any sort of Patriarchy so they marry men that are silent because they don't want men to fulfill their role and hate the role G-d gave men.

All the men in the torah had very good communication skills and a women can't be a helpmate to a man that doesn't communicate.

Many of these false stereotypes of hurt a lot of people.

I am so disgusted by this vicious false stereotypes of men made by so called religious people.

Alysa said...

Excellent advice :) I aren't married yet, but in this courtship period, I have learnt one of the best ways to handle conflict is to pray. And then I find it is not my boyfriend who is change, but me and my perspective... God gives such a peace, that I wonder what in the world I was upset about!

Homemakers Cottage said...

I found "Adam's" input thought-provoking to say the least. I agree that most women stereotype men as being noncommunicative.

The truth is (or seems to me), that men DO communicate, but just in ways different from women (of course).

My husband is an excellent communicator... but he isn't nearly as chatty as I am. I've found over 8 yrs of marriage that two people can TALK and not truly communicate. Sometimes, just being silent and letting my man take the lead makes a world of difference in truly learning to communicate with him.

It seems to me, a man WILL open up when he truly trusts his wife and feels "safe" with her. Just speaking from my own experience, the "silent treatment" is usually nothing more than a man retreating from criticism, harsh words, and constant fussing. All of these undermine communication in marriage.

Kristy @ Homemaker's Cottage