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COUNSELING

Communication and Togetherness

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
A woman's need for dialogue in the marriage relationship is very different than a man's.


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Counseling

Many men do not understand their wives’ need for meaningful communication with their husbands. Women desire not only to spend time with their husbands, but they want their focused, undivided attention as well. Husbands often do not know how to engage their wives in in-depth communication. In this fourth installment of a ten-part series on restoring marriage, Dr. Don Dunlap explains the elements of quality communication between husbands and wives.

The key ingredient in spending quality time with someone is togetherness. Proximity is not the same thing as togetherness. It is possible to be physically near someone and yet, remain emotionally distanced from him or her.


A woman’s need for meaningful dialogue is very different than a man’s.


The fifth way that many husbands damage their marriage is their failure to understand a woman’s need for meaningful communication with her husband. She desires not only to spend time with him, but to have his focused attention as well.

Many men who come to me for marriage counseling tell me that they do not know how to engage their wives in in-depth communication. They express to me that they generally do not have the same longing for conversation that their wives express. A woman has a God-given need, nonetheless, to talk with her husband, and to communicate her feelings to him. Every husband who wants to obey God’s command to live with his wife in an understanding way would benefit from an explanation of what constitutes quality communication.


Most men do not know how to initiate meaningful communication with their wives.


When husbands and wives enter into meaningful dialogue, they share their thoughts, their experiences, their feelings and their desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. They give each other their undivided attention and they listen attentively to what their spouse has to say. They do not allow themselves to be distracted by television, or by reading a book or newspaper.

They do not allow children to run in and out of the room to interrupt their conversation. They ask each other meaningful questions that demonstrate a genuine desire to understand one another’s thoughts and feelings. Their focus is on listening and understanding their mate, not on coming up with solutions.


When a husband talks with his wife he should try to understand her, not fix her.


They resist the temptation to give each other advice unless their spouse specifically asks for it, and they remember that “fixing” one another is not their job. Rather, they seek to communicate a loving and accepting spirit that says, “I care about the things that affect your life.”

One of the best gifts that a husband can give his wife is to invite her to sit down with him and talk about their day. This does not require long periods of time. Usually a few minutes – undistracted - go a long way toward meeting a wife’s need for communication.


He should look her in the eye and resist the temptation to watch TV or read the newspaper while he talks with her.


It may be helpful for a husband to consider these suggestions to enhance his communication efforts. He should maintain eye contact with his wife when she is talking. He should not try to do something else at the same time that she is speaking. It is a good idea to listen for and try to identify the feelings behind her words. It is important to observe her body language and not interrupt her. If a husband does not understand something his wife says, he should ask her for clarification.


A husband should try to establish a regular time every day when he sits down with his wife to share their day with one another.


It is helpful to remember that the goal is to discuss not only the events of the day, but also what he and his wife think and feel about them.

This will usually be much easier for a woman than for a man. Wives will be grateful for their husbands’ attempts, however, and it will become progressively easier for men as they practice and perfect their communication skills.

 




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