Men and women communicate very differently and for very different reasons. And if you don’t understand how and why, it’ll cause problems that strain your relationship. So what do you need to know and do differently to communicate better in your marriage?
In this episode of The Loving Truth podcast, you’ll learn about why men and women communicate differently, why it can cause issues, and the brain chemistry involved. I’ll also teach you four things you can do to improve the communication between you and your partner.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In This Episode:
00:54 – Ways in which men and women communicate differently and the reasons behind it
7:15 – How to be more direct in your communication with your husband (without coming across like a bitch)
10:20 – Two ways to be braver in your marriage and how they help your partner show up better inside the relationship
12:33 – An example of how understanding one another makes communication easier in marriage
14:10 – How to listen better when your partner is ready to share something with you
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Welcome to The Loving Truth Podcast where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host, relationship expert, and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.
Sharon Pope: Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. I think it's time that we start having a different kind of conversation inside of our marriages. Now I want to begin with the way that men and women communicate very differently and for very different reasons. Because until we understand this, if you are in a heterosexual relationship, you're always going to struggle with communication.
My goal with this podcast is really to help you get better at communicating with someone of the opposite sex. Men and women communicate very differently and they communicate for very different reasons. Men communicate for a purpose. For the most part, they're not talking to someone else just to talk.
Now, they might talk to themselves. My husband does that all the time, he talks to himself. But if he is speaking to me, there is some purpose for it. It's very intentional. Where women communicate in order to connect. That's our way of connecting with people. It is also our way of emptying ourselves and refilling ourselves up through that connection experience.
Just the act of talking to someone else serves a purpose for a woman, where for men, there's a very conscious intent of, “I'm sharing this experience with you,” or “I have a question or a problem that needs to be solved,” something like that. Now, the ways in which we communicate also are very, very different.
Women, we can navigate subtleties, can't we? We can communicate through nuances. We can say something without really saying the full thing. When we're speaking to another woman, for the most part, our girlfriends get it, don't they? They understand what we're saying without even having to really say the full thing where men are very different in that regard. But we'll get to that.
Now, women, when you are with your girlfriends, don't you also finish each other's sentences? Don't you chime in, if they're expressing, they're talking about an experience they had, and you had the same experience last week, don't you jump in, and you're like, “Yeah, me too. I had that same thing happen to me,” then you go back and forth? Yeah, that's not how men communicate. It's a little bit more structured where it's like one person has the floor and then another person has the floor. There's not that rapid-fire back and forth that usually happens.
The reason for all of this is because women have more synapses going between the left and right hemispheres of their brain, which means that we can go from “Here's a problem, and I need to come up with a solution. I'm going to think through by talking about all the different variables that need to be considered about this problem in order to come up with a solution.”
We can go from problem to solution, factoring in 10 different perspectives, and coming to a solution just by talking it through. Now, let's contrast that with the male experience. Men speak for a very specific purpose, we talked about that. They also speak very directly.
What I mean by that is that they say what they mean. If he says, “I'm going to be late because I have work to do,” he literally is going to be late because he has work to do. It's not because he doesn't want to spend time with you. They're very direct, and they say what they mean.
Now, when a woman is doing that rapid-fire back and forth, and they're like, “Yeah, me too. I had that same experience,” sometimes that can be perceived by men as interrupting, and when someone interrupts us, how does that feel? It feels disrespectful. It feels like they're more interested in hearing themselves talk than hearing what I have to say. It doesn't feel good when someone interrupts us.
Sometimes for men, when a woman is doing that, they look at it as interrupting, when really, for women, it's not that we're trying to be rude, that's just us being engaged in the conversation. It's one of those areas where we don't really see eye to eye and we can get frustrated with each other because we don't understand each other.
Also, where women can go from problem to solution by talking it through, many times men can't do that. They need to step away and think about “Alright, here's this problem. Here are these 10 different factors that I need to consider. Now I need to come up with a solution.” Their path to a solution isn't always talking it through.
Many times, it's “Let me step back and just think about it for a little bit.” They need to process it differently. The reason for that is because men have what's called singular focus, which means they're going to go really deep on one topic, they're going to think about one topic at a time, where women, the great multitaskers that we are, or at least that we think we are, we can be processing 10, 20 different things at once.
We can be thinking about what's for dinner, we can be thinking about “I got to make sure that Johnny gets his homework done by 8:00 PM so that he can get to bed at a reasonable hour because he's got a big test,” and I'm thinking about this budget report that's due for my job tomorrow. We can be thinking about several different things at once where men are typically very focused on one thing at a time.
One is not better. I know, ladies, we think multitasking is better. But if you think about it like this, that we're not really present for any one thought, any one problem, any one circumstance because we spread ourselves very thin across multiple circumstances, where men can be very present for one thing at a time, in that way, I would argue that maybe the men's way is better. But then many of us can argue that women's way is better.
Look, we can have whatever opinion we want. It doesn't change the brain chemistry. It doesn't change the number of synapses going between the left and right hemispheres of our respective brains. We can not like it. We can judge it but it's not going to change so we might as well embrace it, understand it, so that we can improve the communication that's taking place inside the relationship.
Now, after knowing all that, you can see why men and women many times have problems communicating with one another. You're probably thinking, “Okay, great, Sharon, what do we do about it?” Here are four things that you can do about this. Now that you have this information, you can do something differently, so that you can have a different kind of conversation inside your marriage.
The first is, and this is specific to women, ladies, we can be more direct. We can be more specific. Men are not going to get the subtle nuances. That's not going to happen. But can we learn to be more direct? Can we learn to call a thing a thing? Yes, we can. Because any woman who's ever been in business understands how to communicate directly because if you're going to be in a business relationship with men, you have to learn how to communicate directly. You can't do all these little subtleties and nuances and get your point across.
Now being direct doesn't mean you have to be a bitch. Those two things are not synonymous with one another. You can be direct and you can be bitchy. Oftentimes, bitchy is like passive aggressiveness when you're not being direct, when you're afraid to say the real thing.
Understand that we can be more direct and we can be more specific. Let me give you an example inside your relationship. So many times, women will come to me and say, “Well, I've told him he knows that I'm not happy in this marriage.” But what did you tell him? I'll ask them that. What they will say is “I went to him three years ago, and I told him I'm not happy.”
We expect men to know what to do with that. “My wife isn't happy. I think she means she's not happy in our marriage. Now I need to figure out what to do to make her happy when she probably doesn't even know what she wants me to do in order for her to feel happier inside the marriage.”
Now, can you see how ineffective it is to just go to your partner and say, “I'm not happy” and expect them to know what to do with that, versus going to them and saying, “I feel like we've lost our connection along the way, and I want to feel connected to you.
“I mean, you're my partner. You're my spouse, you're my ride-or-die. You're my person. I want to feel genuinely connected to you. I think one of the ways that we could do that is once a week, you and I spend, call it 30 minutes or 60 minutes alone together without the kids. Maybe we're just sitting out on the back patio or we close the door to our bedroom so that we can talk about the week ahead.
“But not just the logistics. We can talk about what's going on for each of us, in our lives, in our work, in our families, what we're most excited about, what we're most concerned about, where we might need support for the week ahead, so that you and I can really connect as a couple and not just about the logistics and the weather like we do today. Are you down with that?”
Can you see how that might be more effective to creating change and getting results than just I'm not happy? We can be more direct, we can be more specific, and it will serve us really well when we can do that.
Direct conversations change everything. But when we're so afraid to just say how we feel, it masks what's really going on, which leads to the second thing that we can do to improve this and that is to be braver, to be able to set healthy boundaries for ourselves.
That is actually serving our partner because then now they know how to get the best from us. They know when we're going to disengage, they know when something is not going to be okay with us, and we don't have to use that passive-aggressive silent treatment BS.
We can just say, “Hey, I am not available for being yelled at. If you want to have this conversation, I'm absolutely willing to have it when you are calmer and we can speak from an emotionally mature place but I'm not going to be yelled at. Would you like to come back to this or would you like to just lower your tone?”
That's going to get a different response than just shutting down because you're scared because your partner is yelling at you and he's thinking, “Hey, it's working. If I yell loud enough, I won't actually have to have this conversation with my wife that I don't want to have because it feels uncomfortable to me.” We've got to be braver.
Another thing is that we've got to be able to tell our partners the truth about how we feel. So many times, we hold back our feelings, we suppress our feelings in order to spare our partner's feelings. We don't want them to feel bad. We don't want them to know the full truth of how we feel about the relationship. But then they don't have enough information to make conscious choices for themselves about how they're showing up inside the relationship.
We're essentially setting them up to fail because we're not giving them full information because we're not brave enough to just really share how we're feeling. That is the second way and a really important way to open it up and have a different kind of conversation inside of our marriages.
The first one is be direct and specific. The second one is be braver. Be willing to set healthy boundaries, be willing to share how you feel. It is a kind thing to do to give your partner full information about where you're at and how you're feeling.
The third thing I would say is we need to try to understand one another better. The reason I started this with helping you understand how men and women communicate very differently is because once you can understand it, you'll stop fighting it. You'll stop trying to get him to be like you are or get her to be like you. You will just understand it and accept it.
For instance, now when I see my husband completely engrossed in one thing, maybe it's his phone or a text message that he has to send right now, or it's a video that he's editing, whatever it is that he's doing, he's all in it, I might have something that I want to share with him or I might want to say to him, and I can see that he's half listening, that's when I can just go, “There it is, that’s singular focus. Let me wait till he's done.”
He doesn't even notice that I'm doing this. Sometimes I'll say it out loud. Sometimes I'll just say it in my mind, “Well, there's that singular focus. I get it.” Now I don't have to create an argument. I don't have to make it feel like, “Oh, he doesn't care about what I'm sharing. He only cares about himself.” I don't have to make up all these stories in my mind. I can just go, “Oh, look at that. He needs to step away and process this in order to come to a conclusion. That's cool.”
When we can understand how each other processes information, how each other communicates, and why we do it that way, things get a lot easier. We don't create arguments or upsets over things that we can't change anyway.
The last thing that every single person on the planet can do better is listen better. Look, listening better is not rocket science. We all know how to do that. But it requires presence. It requires not needing to be right. It means reaching for understanding as opposed to what you want to say.
Sometimes when your partner is getting ready to share something with you, it really would be worthwhile for you to say to them, “How do you want me to listen to this?” Now they might think, “What do you mean, how do you want me to listen to this?” “Well, do you want to be heard, do you want to be helped, or do you want to be hugged? Do you want to do you just want me to hear you out, just really understand, and be there with you in whatever is happening?”
Do you want me to help you come up with a solution to what's happening or do you just want some, I call it poor babies, do you just want to be hugged and like “I'm so sorry this is happening. I wish it wasn't happening for you. You don't deserve this. I just made some poor babies,” that's the hugged part.
By the way, the whole helped, hugged, and heard thing works really well with your kids too, it just works with human beings. Feel free to use it wherever. But then you know what your partner needs because sometimes they do need your help coming up with a solution. Sometimes they just want to empty themselves at the end of the day, and sometimes they just want some poor babies, and that's okay.
Look, if we can change how we communicate in our relationships, it will improve every relationship we have. If we can do it in our marriage, it will improve every single one of your marriages. I promise you that.
Here's how I know that to be true. In surveys where they would distinguish between couples that were happy and couples that were unhappy, the happy couples, the number one reason that they cited for the happiness inside their marriage was communication.
Unhappy couples, what they cited as the number one reason why they were unhappy in their marriage was a lack of communication. Communication is the basis. It is the foundation of our relationships. Sometimes in marriages, when we're just dating, we're trying really hard, and all that, we communicate much more readily and much more easily.
But once we get into marriage, life gets a hold of us, and we have a home, we've got kids, we've got careers, and we've got things, what we end up talking about is logistics, the kids, and the weather, and we stop connecting as a couple. Then we wonder why we feel so disconnected from one another.
This is the reason because we haven't cultivated a better type of conversation, a better way of communicating, and really understanding the differences between one another so that we can accept that and work with it as opposed to resenting it and pushing against it. I hope that was helpful for you. Until next time, please take really good care.
If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage, and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. On the call, we'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage. Go to clarityformymarriage.com to fill out an application now.