Are we all getting angrier or are we just more aware of our anger? Anger is clearly popular in movies; consider hits like “Falling Down,” “Anger Management,” or “The Belko Experiment.” It also pervades the self-help section of bookstores and Reddit. Anger is one common misstep in communicating, especially when guys are trying to communicate with their wives. Here are some tips to being a better husband and better communicator.
You and I
When, during a disagreement, nearly every sentence out of your mouth starts with “You,” those words wound as surely as a knife edge.
Avoid hacking away at your wife by turning as many of those sharp “you” statements into “I” statements, say the experts at Good Therapy.
Following the traditional teaching model of “I do, we do, you do,” watch how we transform some common “you” accusations into “I” statements:
- “You always spend more money than I bring in.”
- “I worry about our finances and want to work to reduce our debt.”
- “You drink too much when we are out with friends.”
- “I would like both of us to drink less and be more in the moment when we’re with friends.”
- “You got fat, you eat junk food, and you don’t exercise. No wonder you don’t look good to me.”
- “I wonder if we could join a gym together. I want to spend more time cooking healthy meals together. I’d like us to schedule alone time, even if we don’t have sex.”
Notice that turning the viewpoint back on yourself is not an expression of vanity. Using “I” removes some of the barbs from the words. The phrasing builds trust and shows love for her. The “I” statement makes the situation more inclusive; it shows a willingness to step up to improve your relationship. We work through things; we resolve problems; we improve each other’s lives.
Now give it a try yourself. Consider a “you” statement that popped up in your most recent skirmish with your wife. How could that accusation turn into an “I” statement that takes the sting out?
General to Specific
Some guys let things fester. Your lovely bride leaves the left turn signal on for several minutes after merging onto I-264, and you let it get to you. You say nothing, and then the next time she puts the left turn signal on even for three seconds, you bark at her and scream about what a terrible driver she is.
You have generalized a single event into a huge problem. Be specific with your criticisms. The sooner you speak up, the smaller the issue is.
Imagine going from this:
- “What is the matter with you, always leaving the turn signal on, every stinkin’ time you drive us anywhere? You did it 17 times last month! I’ve been keeping track and you always do it! Do you just want to cause a huge accident? Do you just want to put me in the hospital?”
- “Hey, babe, I don’t know if you realized it, but your left turn signal’s still on. We don’t want to cause an accident.”
Always and Never
Just about the only times Always and Never are part of the words you use with your wife are when you get all mushy: “I will always love you,” “I’ll never stop loving you” (Thanks, Dolly and Doris.)
As Psychology Today tells us, Always and Never when used in an argument are provocative and inflammatory words. The experts there say those two words are hyperbolic, overgeneralized, and meant to put you on the defensive.
The remedy for Always and Never comes in two parts:
- Avoid absolutes yourself (always remember to never say Always and Never)
- Do not defend yourself against the words when she utters them
If you are triggered by Always and Never, you give your wife power to divert attention from the specific issue to a general discontent. If you know you do not Always and Never anything, you have no need to defend yourself. Your actions speak for themselves. And avoiding saying them yourself improves communication, even during angry moments.
Know Thyself … and Her
Introspection is hard and is generally not a concept men are encouraged to do. Looking inside yourself, to know what triggers you, can be painful. But if you can do only three things to communicate better with your wife, do these:
- Regulate your own emotions
- Avoid reading her mind and instead pay attention to her words
- Venture outside yourself and consider that she could be right, and you could be wrong
What do real Virginia men do? They admit error. They make amends. They talk politely. They respect their wives and treat them well. And they deal with their own emotions, from anger to fear. When real Virginia men work at a problem, they usually solve it. And real life with a happy wife is so much better than a movie.
Contact us today at The Firm For Men, or telephone our Virginia Beach office at (757) 383-9184, to learn how we can work through all aspects of family law without aggression or confrontation. We have built a reputation and law practice on protecting Virginia men’s rights, but we have always done so with the utmost respect and old-fashioned courtesy.