By David Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
How often have you tried to get important messages to your husband, only to find that he’s just not listening to you? Many wives experience frustration when trying to communicate with their spouses. But it is possible to get through – if you change the way you communicate.
It’s not possible to change your husband directly, but if you change the way you relate to him, you’ll change the whole dynamic of your marriage. As a result, your husband is much more likely to respond to you.
Here’s how you can get your husband to listen to you:
Communicate well with God first. Make a close relationship with God your top priority. As you communicate with Him in prayer, He will give you the wisdom you need to communicate well with your husband and other people.
Manage conflict effectively. Realize that conflict is inevitable in an honest relationship. Know that conflict doesn’t signal doom for your marriage; it can actually be a powerful tool for creating healthier communication between you. Treat it as a normal part of your relationship, and prepare for it by talking with your spouse about issues before your discussions become heated. Rehearse a strategy for how you plan to address the issues before you get into an argument about them. While you’re in the midst of a disagreement, try to lighten up and defuse the situation with a smile or a wink to keep things in perspective. Stick to the present. Attack the issue, not the partner. Listen to each other carefully. Refrain from name-calling or judging motives. Avoid saying "you always" or "you never." Don’t compare one another with other people.
Understand that men are likely to avoid conflict, are likely to be aggressive rather than assertive whenever conflict erupts, may struggle with effectively sharing their feelings, and at times don’t seek effective solutions. But forget about trying to manipulate, scold, or nag your husband to change – none of those tactics work. Instead, first work on getting his attention before plunging into a controversial issue.
Give your husband attention to capture his attention. Focus your attention on your husband and let him know how important your marriage is to you. Encourage him to place a high value on your relationship because he can see that you do so. Focus on your husband’s needs, and to decide to love him even when doing so is difficult. See your love for your husband as an expression of your love for Jesus.
Carefully choose a time to talk to your husband – not when either of you is angry, tired, or under unusual stress. Don’t talk if you want to win, get even, or put your husband down. Approach the conversation simply with a desire to make positive changes in your marriage. As you talk, don’t try to make any changes right away other than telling your husband that you want to be closer to him, and that you’re going to try to change the way you talk and listen to him so you can become a more effective communicator. Let him know that you want to discuss some issues with him in the coming weeks. Know that you’ve been successful simply if he listens to you, even though you haven’t yet dealt with any other issues.
Speak calmly. Don’t avoid problems in your marriage; instead, determine to approach them calmly. Check your motives before approaching your spouse about something. Make sure that you genuinely want to work toward healing and greater intimacy.
Face your fears about tackling hot-button issues and work through them. Be willing to own your spouse’s legitimate complaints about you by acknowledging them honestly and taking responsibility for them. Ask God to help you see your spouse from His perspective rather than through the distortions of anger and resentment. Deal with your raw emotions before beginning any discussions with your spouse, perhaps by talking about them with a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor.
Seek to understand your spouse before you seek to be understood yourself. When speaking with your spouse, keep your body language open, flexible, and attentive. Be specific, asking for exactly what you need. Monitor the tone of your voice, making sure that it’s calm. Find ways to empathize with your husband and build rapport with him.
Speak clearly. Say what you mean. Use simple and direct words. Clearly ask for what you need. Own your part of the problem. Make a clear resolution of accountability for change.
Don’t shy away from the truth. Realize that, while telling the truth may be painful, it leads to healing. Tell the truth about your life. Think about what this truth means to your relationships. Talk to your spouse about what is true for you and important to you. Know that clear communication lays the groundwork for an honest relationship.
Speak concisely. Don’t confuse your spouse with a flurry of words in a longwinded lecture. Instead, try to deliver your message as succinctly as possible. Limit your words; choose them carefully. Consider the heart of your message and focus on that.
Prepare by choosing the best time and location for talking to your husband. Rehearse your message in your mind or with a friend before your actual discussion with your spouse. During the discussion, know when you’ve made your point, and stop talking then.
Say it compassionately. Realize that compassion will let your spouse know that you care about him and want the best for him. It will lower his defenses to decrease his anger and opposition toward you. It will let him know that you can relate to him and what he’s experiencing. It will link your heart to his, creating a spiritual bond between you.
Ask the Holy Spirit to make room in your heart for compassion for your husband. View every marriage problem as a joint problem – not just something for which you blame your husband. Believe that you can remedy every marriage problem together. Rather than working toward the goal of proving yourself right, decide to work toward seeking a solution that will bless both of you. Rely on the Holy Spirit’s strength to choose to continue acting in compassion toward your spouse.
Say it consistently. Ask God to give you the courage to have the highest integrity in everything you say. Stay focused on your position without feeling the need to defend or debate it. Know that if you send your husband consistent messages, he will likely take you seriously. Think and pray about a personal mission statement, then create one to help you stay focused on what is truly important to you. Let your passions drive your message. When you speak to your husband, don’t waver, become distracted, or change topics. Follow through on what you say you will do.
Say it with conviction. Before you engage your husband in a serious conversation about your marriage, ask yourself: "Am I am utterly committed to what I’m saying?", "Do I really mean business?", "Am I really sure of what I want to say and why I want to say it?", "Do I have clarity in my thoughts about the particular issue?", "Do I feel compelled to follow through on this issue, even if doing so creates tension in our relationship?", "Do I know the foundation of my desires?", "Am I clear about what I must have as an outcome?", and "Am I clear about scriptural principles that may bear upon my desires?".
Take the time to really know what you believe and why you believe it. Take the risk of living out your convictions. Speak your convictions to those around you. See if your beliefs stand up to tests and challenges, and solidify them if they do. Realize that you have great power to influence your husband if you’re living by clear convictions.
Say it with conciliation. Understand that bickering won’t settle a dispute or bring you and your husband closer together. Realize when an issue is just a matter of preferences and that neither of you is right or wrong. Learn to negotiate a win-win solution that creates a bridge to one another. Display tenderness toward one another rather than maintaining judgmental attitudes. Seek to work things out in a way that honors God. Examine your motives before you speak. Make sure you’re motivated to be heard, understood, and to build a bridge to your spouse so you can enjoy greater peace and harmony. Be ready to acknowledge the desires of your heart that cause problems.
Be careful not to obsess about your husband’s "wrongs." Pray for the humility and wisdom to understand your own weaknesses and know how you have contributed to the problems in your marriage. Apologize for your own failures so you can stand before your husband with real credibility. Believe that both you and your spouse want to do the best you each can to improve your relationship.
Listen carefully and seek to understand your husband. Speak to build up rather than to tear down. Demonstrate respect by showing genuine concern. Allow for differences. Do your part and leave the rest to God.
Say it with courage. See things as they really are, accept life the way it is right now, and take risks to try to make things better. Follow your passions, even through adversity. Believe in yourself and God’s plan for your life – and your husband’s life. Ask God to help you think of creative solutions to your problems. Let the Holy Spirit guide and encourage you. Trust in God’s strength. Dream big dreams and anticipate that change will occur. Don’t settle for less than the best in your marriage; believe that God will help you attain the best.
Allow your husband to experience the natural consequences of his actions. Refuse to coddle him by softening the blow when he falls. Care about him, but don’t take care of him. Prayerfully consider your part in an issue, take responsibility for it, and separate that responsibility from his part. Say things with courage and clarity, allowing him to take responsibility for his actions. Remind yourself that discouragement is a normal part of life in our fallen world. When you become discouraged, talk to a trusted friend, journal about your struggles, read Scripture passages that offer strength, pray, walk and meditate, and set healthy boundaries (such as being around positive people rather than negative ones and saying no to unhealthy activities).
Create intimacy. Work on building a safe atmosphere in your marriage, in which you can say what you need to say, think what you think, and know what you know – without judgment. Achieve intimacy with yourself by setting healthy boundaries to care for your own needs before you care for others. Achieve intimacy with your husband by letting down barriers and allowing him to see you as you truly are. Achieve intimacy with God by spending regular time in prayer, building a relationship that’s honest and loving. When speaking with your husband, appeal to the intimacy in your relationship by conveying your messages in the form of emotional word pictures (images in stories that cause your husband to experience your words rather than just hearing them).
This is a report on the practical applications of Dr. David Hawkins book, Saying It So He’ll Listen: Getting the Message to Your Man, (Harvest House, 2005). Adapted from Saying It So He’ll Listen: Getting the Message to Your Man, copyright 2005 by David Hawkins. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
David Hawkins, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist. The author of several books, including When Pleasing Others is Hurting You and Men Just Don’t Get It – But They Can, David has been in private practice for 25 years and has a special interest in working with domestic violence, adult and family issues, and marriage enrichment.