Her Need, His Need-Rating Communication with Your Spouse

My husband and I recently watched Aloha, a movie we picked up at the Dollar Tree. It had an amazing cast, Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Emma Stone and Bill Murray. It goes like this: a military contractor (Bradley Cooper) goes to Hawaii on business. While there he reconnects with a lost love, now married. While sparks fly between Cooper and his lost love, he falls for his Air Force Watch Dog (Emma Stone). An interesting (and sometimes confusing) movie.

Cooper's lost love's chief complaint about her husband was that he didn’t talk…not because he couldn’t, but because he wouldn’t. A particularly interesting scene was when the two guys in the love triangle had a complete conversation without any words (the words were typed on the bottom of the screen). Guy talk. Fascinating!

What do I mean by that? I’ve been studying communication since 1977, 8th grade. It’s so interesting to me! I’m awed at how people’s communication often gets them into trouble-not on purpose, of course!

Did you know that most women complain that their husbands don’t talk enough? Studies prove that women talk as much as three times more than men in a day: her 20,000 words compared to his 7,000. Women need to talk things out. Unfortunately, our guys thrive on shoulder-to-shoulder time without talking (try it…just sit beside your man the next time you’re watching TV or he’s doing a project and don’t speak a word, unless of course he speaks to you. He’ll tell you it was the best time of his life!).

To complicate communication further, in my career as a therapist and marriage mentor, I’ve learned that men view eye-to-eye communication as threatening; it’s experienced by them as an over display of dominance and power. Women, on the other hand, see eye-to-eye communication as intimate connection, whether conflict or not. Do you see the problem? When we women want communication, we want the same amount of words as we give, AND we want eye contact.

My husband is like most men: not a lot to say when I ask him about his day and not a lot of eye-to-eye conversation. I'm like most women: desiring eye contact for intimate communication and getting hurt when I don’t get it. It creates quite a struggle!

During our last confrontation, we laid on our backs, eyes mostly to the ceiling. I observed the conversation, as we talked like that, shoulder-to-shoulder. But this went differently. What do you suppose happened? I’ll get to that in a minute.

So, the question was how do you rate communication with your partner? And here’s another one: Women, do you expect him to talk as much as you and engage in eye contact the way you do, especially during conflict? And men, do you expect your wives to just sit side by side and just drop it? Did these innate differences cause you to rate your communication low?

It’s quite interesting: she seeks to connect with words and eyes, he seeks to dominate with eyes. Do you see the problem here?

Of course there are so many aspect of communication: reflective listening, non-verbals, body language, “I” messages instead of “You” messages and so much more. We’ll focus on those in another blog.

Before I go, here are the results of our shoulder-to-shoulder conversation: he heard me better than ever before, AND neither of us got our feathers ruffled—he didn’t feel my over dominance, and I wasn’t hurt because he didn’t make eye contact. Huh. Interesting, isn’t it? After our shoulder-to-shoulder confrontation, I later asked my husband what that was like for him and how he felt. He gave it a cheery “fine” and volunteered that it didn’t feel threatening at all.

Write and tell me about your results as you discuss and experiment with this.

As for the movie? It’s worth the $1 I paid at the Dollar Tree, maybe a few more.

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