Effectively Communicating With Your Spouse (Part 2 of 5): It’s All About Timing!

clock in hands image smallerIf you are reading this post, hopefully you have already brought your topic to God in prayer.  If you have not already, please review Part 1 of 5: Seek God First! to be sure you have properly prepared yourself for this second step; It’s All About Timing!

One of the keys to successful communication (negative or positive) is appropriate timing.  Even an ill-timed, “You look nice today, Dear” or “I love you so much” can become an inflammatory statement.  If you have been married to your husband for more than a year, you can probably look back on times when he paid you a compliment that did not achieve a positive response from you.  Or, maybe you paid him a compliment that he did not appreciate.  Clearly, positive or negative content alone does not guarantee a positive response to your statement.

So, if positive content is not always successful (or possible), what is missing?  Timing.

Learning to choose and recognize appropriate times to confront certain subjects is an essential element in communicating effectively with your spouse.  In this article, we will address steps you can take to quickly identify and patiently await the ideal time to communicate effectively with your spouse.

Identification.  How do we identify when it is the appropriate time to speak?

When we were in 1st grade it was easy to recognize when it was time to speak.  Our name was called by the teacher, so we spoke.  Unfortunately, as adults, too many people still seem to follow this 1st grade level of identifying times to speak.  Even wives are guilty.  He says your name, you know you have his attention, so you speak.  That’s probably not the most effective way to begin a meaningful conversation.  Why not?  I’ll explain. We’ll begin by identifying appropriate times to keep our mouths shut:

  1. When your husband says your name.   This is a time to keep your mouth shut.  Your husband has reached out to you and said your name to get your attention.  Now is the time to listen.  A simple response of, “Yes?” is all that is required at this point.  Give him your attention and let him say what he needs to say.  Discuss it with him, if he wishes.  Don’t bring up your topic directly following his.  It does not matter if your husband just shared some item of minor or major importance with you.  What matters is that he shared with you.  You want your husband to feel safe sharing with you.  If you bring up your topic the moment he utters your  name or directly after he has finished speaking to you, you are teaching him that by opening his mouth, he invites an attack.
  2. When time is limited.  If you know one of you has less than an hour available to visit, it is not the time to bring up any topic than needs discussion.  The knowledge of the invisible deadline looming puts too much stress on the problem-resolution process and can make a man feel “cornered”.  Most of us are probably very familiar with the concept and illustration of what happens to a wild animal when it is cornered.  I can assure you that if you wish your husband to react as favorably as possible, the last thing you want to do is corner him with a clock.
  3. Within 30 minutes of your husband (or you) arriving home from work.  Do not bring up a topic for discussion until your husband has been home from work for at least 30 minutes.  That goes for you too!  After a long day at work (inside or outside the home) time is needed to unwind, relax, and allow stress from the day to melt away.  Bringing up a topic before the day’s stresses have had a chance to lessen, greatly increases the chances of those stresses having a direct negative impact on the outcome you seek.  Instead, prepare a mental list of several positive occurrences from your day to share with your husband during this time.  In this manner you condition him to anticipate his arrival home with joyful anxiousness rather than dreadful anxiety.
  4. While other adults or children are within hearing distance.  Maintaining a closed mouth when other adults or children is present is essential.  Business between you and your husband should be kept as such.  Even if the business involves others, they should only very rarely be involved in the decision making.  Give your husband the confidence of knowing that topics you speak to him about are not going to be shared with others until after you have worked together to reach an agreement you can both be satisfied with.   Men are unlikely to discuss their thoughts and feelings about something openly when there are more than 4 ears present.  Additionally, when you confront them in front of other people, you are essentially “cornering a wild animal” again, and the outcome is not going to be good.  Even if you achieve the answer to the particular topic that you desire, you lose the trust of your husband, which will make you the ultimate loser in the situation for months or even years to come.
  5. During brief times of strong emotional or physical duress.  If you or your husband are emotionally or physically exhausted due to a short-term circumstance, you should avoid bringing up a serious conversation.  If you were up all night with a child, your husband is in bed with the flu, you just received word that a loved one has passed away or your husband is tired from an unusually stressful day at work, be sure you both get a good night’s sleep before you begin again looking for an ideal time to speak to your husband.  Note:  I have excluded long-term emotional and physical duress as times to not speak because, often, long-term situations cannot be expected to relinquish in time for a topic to be addressed and because sometimes the topic has potential to relieve some of the long-term stresses you may be dealing with.

Now that we have recognized times in which you need to not bring up controversial topics, it is time to recognize some keys to appropriate times (other than the opposites of what to avoid):

  1. After a scrumptious meal.  Allow basic biology to go to work for you here!  I attended a college biology course taught by a woman whom had previously spent about 7 years studying the brain.  Yes, complete with white lab rats and all!  A basic physiological fact is that when you have a full stomach, the “rage center” of your brain shuts down.  That wonderful feeling of peace after a large enjoyable meal is much more than a psychological, phenomenon, it is physiological!  So, make sure you are BOTH well-fed and be prepared to have a nice loving talk!
  2. As the “ants are marching 1 by 1, hurrah! hurrah!”.  In this case, your topics are the ants.  When you are ready to speak to your husband about ONE topic (yes, ONE topic only) it is a good time.  Men are “fixers”.  It is in their nature to find a problem and fix it.  Presenting your husband with more than one problem to fix at a time will either cause him to have to choose one to address properly or cause him to address neither appropriately.  Present one topic.  Allow him to resolve it thoroughly.  Then patiently await another appropriate time to present another topic.
  3. When your husband says it is a good time to talk.  Can it really be that simple?  Yes.  If you have a need to speak to your husband about a topic, tell him you need to do so.  Ask him to let you know when a good time would be.  When your husband says it is a good time, it can’t get any better than that!

That is it!  You know times to avoid.  You are aware of which times to seek.  Now is the hard part.  Now you need to patiently await an ideal time to speak to your husband.  If time is short, be sure to use #3 directly above this!  Just go to your husband (being sure to avoid the 5 times to keep your  mouth shut) and ask him when y’all can have a discussion that is important to you.  If necessary, be sure to let him know that you need to discuss it with him within the next 3-5 days, or whatever your timeline is.  Be careful, though, be sure not to corner him with a “TODAY” demand!

Coming next Wednesday:

Part 3 of 5: Communicate kindly and clearly to him.




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