When Communication Is Complicated

Dear Gigi,
My husband and I are seemingly unable to communicate.  I try to tell him how I feel but he doesn’t seem to care, or he feels attacked and shuts down.  He thinks I am too critical, but I’m just trying to honest. I don’t know how to get my point across without making him mad.  Help!

Unfortunately, we don’t enter into marriage automatically knowing how to communicate. It is a skill that must be learned, and often, the process is painful.  But in the end, it is worth it.

Flyboy likes to tell the story of the time early on that he pushed me and pushed me to talk to him (I had shut down) until I finally slugged him in the arm. He laughed out loud, which only made me madder. But through it  I realized that he could handle a difficult conversation, and more importantly, so could I.  We survived it, and slowly began to learn how to listen and know when and how to speak in order to be heard.

This was our beginning.

Picking the right time to talk makes a huge difference.  Just because I want to talk now doesn’t mean I will be heard. If Flyboy had just walked in the door from work, I knew better than to hit him up with a problem right away.  If he was tired, frustrated, or distracted, it was not the time to talk.  I’ve since developed a personal philosophy: if I know I won’t be heard, I must wait until I will. 

The other side of this “being heard” coin is saying something in a way that can be understood and accepted.  If I am accusatory and attacking, I will not be heard.  The way I word something is designed specifically with the goal of being heard. Are you getting the idea that being heard might be the most important thing? In my opinion, you’d be right.

When Flyboy retired and was home all day (I was still working), he wanted to be helpful and took over many of the household responsibilities.  The one place I really did not want help was in the kitchen.  One day, while I was at work, he felt I had too many rubber spatulas and started throwing them out.  This “help” did not set well with me, and I gave some serious thought as to how to communicate my displeasure without being unappreciative for his desire to be helpful.  Flyboy has a wood shop, and I explained that if I went into his shop and started rearranging his tools or discarding “extra” clamps, he would not be happy with me.  His shop is his space, and I respect that.  While he wants to help, and I appreciate that, the kitchen is my space. By not reacting but rather responding after giving it thought and creating an analogy he could relate to, we came to an understanding.

One of the most important aspects of good communication is to aim to understand the other person’s point of view.  Sometimes we get so committed to being right that we don’t put any effort into the thought that there might be another way to look at it. By being a good listener and truly trying to understand, you are opening the door to improved communication.

Praying for you.


My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry. — James 1:19 (CEV)