Relationship Help for Men: How to Communicate with Your Spouse

Welcome to another installment of the Relationship Help For Men article series.

What Women are Saying About How Guys Communicate…

“It’s so much easier communicating with my girlfriends than with my husband. With my friends it feels natural, like we’re intuitively in sync with what we need from each other…”  ~Norma, married ten years

“Sometimes I don’t share things with my partner because I know it will be too frustrating if I do. Over the years I’ve learned what to talk about with him and what not to talk about. Even though that’s sad, that’s just the way it is.” ~Felicia, in a relationship for eighteen years

Relationship Advice for Guys:

How to Improve Communication in a Marriage/Relationship

Both Norma and Felicia are deeply in love with their spouse/partner and both describe their marriage/relationship as strong overall—but faced with the reality of what they perceive as their partner’s communication blind-spots, both women have adjusted their expectations about their partners. The result is that they are more likely to reach out to their women friends when in need of support than their husband/partner.

The question at hand is how to communicate with your spouse/partner more effectively—and understanding what your wife/partner is getting from her friends is a clue for how you can become a better communicator.

Remember this communication tip: Effective communication = deeper intimacy and a more fulfilling, happy and harmonious marriage/relationship.

While not all men are poor communicators (and many excel at effectively communicating in their marriage and intimate relationships), the following patterns have been expressed by many of the women I work with in marriage/couples counseling:

3 Communication Gifts Women Receive from Other Women

1. Attentiveness

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how often I hear complaints that women don’t feel like their guy is really interested in them. This has to do with a lack of attentiveness—focused attention (without playing around with the TV remote or your new iPhone) sends a powerful message.

Remember this communication tip: Attentiveness > (sends the message) “You Matter to Me!”

2. Empathic Listening

This is where many men miss the communication mark. When you are being empathic, you are showing that you understand what your wife/partner is sharing with you. What empathic listening DOES NOT mean is trying to fix what you perceive as your wife’s/partner’s problem. One way empathic listening is demonstrated is by commenting on the feelings your wife/partner is sharing/experiencing (e.g. “I can see why that would be so frustrating”). Another way to show empathy is to comment on your wife’s/partner’s point of view (e.g. “It’s so unfair how your boss is treating you”).

Remember this communication tip: Empathic Listening > (sends the message) “I Get You and I Hear What You’re Going Through.”

3. Engagement

Okay, so your wife/partner has your attention, now what? The women I work with describe their supportive friends as being attentive and engaged in what is being discussed (remaining totally silent and blankly staring at your wife/partner is the opposite of engagement). When you are engaged, you are asking relevant questions, you are supportively commenting about the feelings being expressed, you are asking if there is anything you can do that would be helpful.

Remember this communication tip: Engagement > (sends the message) “I’m Really Interested In You.”

There you have it, three communication skills that women are often able to give to one another (attentiveness, empathic listening and engagement). And here’s the good news: with increased awareness of these and with practice, you can offer these communication gifts to your spouse/partner on a regular basis.

Wishing you and your relationship all the best!

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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