Although “Women’s English and Men’s English” (see April 3rd blog) sounds humorous, it hovers very close to the truth. We don’t always say what we mean or hear what the other person meant, especially between men and women. In order to experience a successful marriage relationship, couples need to learn to communicate properly. We need to learn each other's language. The ability to talk to your spouse and understand one another acts as the glue that will hold a marriage together.
It’s amazing we humans can communicate with each other at all. When you take into consideration what someone says, you also have to look at what they meant to say. Did the words come out precisely as they had thought? Were they able to find the correct words to say in order to relay those words as close to their meaning as possible? Did their tone of voice match the intention of the message?
What about the person receiving the message? Did he hear every word spoken? Did he understand every word as the messenger intended? Was the message misinterpreted because of the tone of voice?
How easy to distort a message from one mind to another. We often assume our words are received exactly as we planned. In reality, our message is often misconstrued.
For example, Mary is married to Fred. They have two children, Amanda, age three, and Jacob, age one. In preparing to leave for her Wednesday evening class, Mary recites a couple of things for Fred to take care of while she’s gone.
“Honey, would you please get the kids to bed and clean up the kitchen?”
“Okay,” mutters Fred.
A few hours later, Mary returns to dishes that have been washed, but the rest of the kitchen is messy. The kids are sound asleep in their beds with their play clothing still on and their faces dirty from dinner. Mary is furious.
Did Fred hear Mary’s request before leaving for school? Yes, he did, but he processed it differently than she intended. To Mary, cleaning the kitchen meant the whole kitchen, not just the dishes. For Fred, he thought washing the dishes made the kitchen clean enough.
Mary assumed Fred would bathe the kids and dress them in pajamas. Even though he’d seen the routine many times, he thought the kids only needed to go to bed. Mary didn’t say anything about a bath and pajamas. Maybe he was distracted by an interesting program and opted to put the kids to bed without the normal bath and PJ’s. The TV called to him. He can only focus on one thing at a time.
This doesn’t make Fred a terrible husband because he didn’t follow Mary’s wishes as she intended them. Women often assume men understand more than they do. Men sometimes need details that women neglect to offer. Women see the big picture and what needs to be done -- men usually don’t.
Most men perform better with one task at a time. Women are usually multi-taskers while men are not. Men will complete each item on their list before they start a new one, while women may juggle numerous items on their list before completing any. Men need each individual task acknowledged while women can comprehend a number of things at once that may need to be done.
Women mistakenly believe their husbands see all the tasks the same way they do. Even worse, most women feel they shouldn’t have to ask for help at all. The husband should notice what needs to be done and lovingly assist without prompting. This often becomes a major source of contention when a wife harbors these frustrating assumptions while her husband remains oblivious. Women NEED to ASK their husbands for help, often times more than once. Most men will never see it on their own.
That’s why you can put a few women together in a house and tell them to make dinner, get the kids to bed, and clean up. No one has to say a word. They all work together to get the tasks done, completely. Most men in this situation would wind up on the couch watching television, accomplishing little. The multiple tasks would be too overwhelming.
Men would do themselves a great justice by paying attention and asking questions. Repeat what your wife is saying and ask her what she means. Ask her what “cleaning the kitchen” implies to her. Negotiate if it’s overwhelming to you. Women would benefit by supplying specifics when asking for help from their spouse.
Note: This scenario is the norm for most couples. There are always exceptions to the rule though. You and your spouse may have reversed roles. Adjust as necessary!