“That is NOT what, I said,” you exclaim to your spouse! Then, what follows is a ten minute spiel (or 20) of your spouse ranting and raving, squinting their face and twisting their tone in an effort to replicate a conversation you had last night over dinner. Not only do the theatrics being provided add to the heat of the moment, but the exclamations and extra words being ad-libbed for the sake of proving a point that you did say something you didn’t (Yes, this is hard to follow) – but you are also left wondering if husbands and wives are ever actually on the same page when it comes to heated conversations. Truth is, in the aftermath of an argument most couples spend more time digesting the ‘unspoken’ words and the things they ‘think’ their spouse really meant, rather than what was actually said.
Bottom line is all you did say was, “You spend too much money!” So how in the world did your spouse turn this into a war, and why are you now being accused of saying fifteen other things when you know gosh darn well that those words never left your mouth? Welcome to the world of marriage! Exaggerating and ad-libbing when arguing with a spouse is extremely common.
In fact, there is an entire book about this very subject entitled, What Men say, What Women Hear, authored by relationship expert Linda Papadopoulos that delves into why men and women have problems communicating. She says that one of the reasons that spouses have such trouble communicating is because they love one another. Women, are especially prone to hearing every day statements such as, “Can we do this later,” “You spend too much money,” or anything else atypical in a marriage and turning it into an attack on them.
What they feel when they hear these statements (often mood dependant) in their minds translates into a lack of love or respect. In other words, they are thinking that their husband just told them they didn’t love them, or didn’t think they were smart etc. They also tend to think in terms of, “If my spouse loved me enough…..he would have _____________!” This of course works under a woman’s assumption that not only does she know what her husband thinks, but also that her husband SHOULD (SHOULD BEING the OPERATIVE WORD) know how something will make her feel.
When women communicate, especially with people that they love and respect – they ‘assume’ that the other person knows what they need, want and how they think. So if a conversation faux pas arises, the feminine brain immediately takes it as an attack. This would explain why the reenactment the next day often includes words, phrases, and emotions that were never present to begin with. In other words, they are simply giving you the recount of what they heard and how they felt, and even though it may include adlibs and exaggerations – it is true to how they feel.
The ideas of Man Speak versus Woman Speak are nothing new. In fact, it is a common denominator in many popular books such as Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus. Sociologists believe that the cultural norms for males and females is so vastly different from birth, that it can be very difficult for males and females to communicate effectively. Add some love and marriage to the mix, and the miscommunication often becomes greater than the communication.
Yet, if you are willing to sit back and be accused of saying things, you didn’t – you can gain a lot of knowledge about what your spouse needs from you. In fact, the reasons why they are ‘hurt,’ or took offense to something that they ‘believe’ was said – reveals their vulnerabilities in the relationships and can be great speaking points to reaffirm the relationship.
Even though there are reasons and even research to back up the annoying void between what is said and what is heard, it is still frustrating for married couples. It can often cause more arguments to ensue. If it happens in your marriage often, you might want to think about recording these conversations. With today’s smart phones and available technology, it wouldn’t have to include much forethought. This way, when the waters calm, the two of you could listen to what was REALLY said, what was argued and learn how to communicate more effectively.
It is also very important that men and women realize that they cannot read one another’s minds, no matter how long they have been married – or how well they think they know one another. Putting words in someone else’s mouth shows a lack of respect. It also implicates a lack of trust in the love between the two of you. Maybe your husband was just really mad that you leave your shoes in the middle of the floor, or your wife was truly upset that you never put your razor away. Maybe these little idiosyncrasies are simply kinks in the chain of marriage that have no higher or greater face value than what is being presented.
Remember an argument or disagreement is just that – it doesn’t mean that the marriage is over, or that the two of you are doomed to an unhappy life. Arguments can be healthy when both man and wife choose to look at it objectively and choose to hear what is being expressed, rather than what they think is being expressed. Operate in your marriage under the pretense that if your spouse wanted to say something negative – or didn’t love you anymore, that they would be honest and respectful enough to say so. Truth is, the two of you were just talking about money or about whose turn it is to take out the trash…