There's an App for that (or at least there should be)
Ever have one of Those conversations? You know, the one where you say something perfectly sensible to your husband... and before you know it, the 2 of you are spiraling into some kind of alternate reality where emotions run wild and nothing is as expected?
Let's try some samples out for size, and unravel the point where things start to go wonky.
Wife comes home from work and is frantically getting ready for Shabbos. Husband is in the kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee.
Wife: “Would you like to give Shloime a bath?”
Husband: (after thinking a moment). “Not really. I’m still drinking my coffee.”
[I don’t need to describe wife’s reaction, do I? Didn’t think so 😉]
What is at play here? Clearly, this couple could use an open discussion on wife’s expectations for household help, etc. etc..
But for starters, let’s take a look about what she thinks she said – and what her husband heard.
If you ask Wife, she will no doubt say, “I asked him to help, and he refused!”
But she’s forgetting a crucial difference between the way men and women communicate.
Men communicate for information: who, what, when, how, where, why.
Women communicate to connect emotionally.
What’s the difference?
Well, wife’s intention was clearly (in her mind – and ours) a request for help.
But what her husband heard was a request for information: “Would you like to?”
Now, should he empathize with his wife’s situation, intuit that she needs help, and volunteer his services regardless of her word choice? Absolutely.
But the wife could have circumvented this unfortunate interaction altogether by running her request through Google Translate for Female->Male©, and instead transmitted her request as, well, a request:
“Would you please give Shloime a bath for me?”
(and, if she’s particularly savvy, “…after you finish your coffee”)
Now that I’ve invented a new app, let’s run some other typical female/male disasters interactions, shall we?
Scenario #2: Husband and wife go out to a Shabbos meal. The food is elegant and delicious. Afterwards, when husband is raving about the food, wife says, “Do you like her cooking better than mine?” Husband, without missing a beat, says “Oh, it was much better! You should really get some recipes from her!”
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that our clueless husband has been married for a very short, infinitesimal amount of time. Still, what was his real mistake here?
Remember the Google Translate rule: Men communicate to get… information.
From the male perspective, what’s the point of asking a question, if the only acceptable answer is “no”?
But of course, the wife was not asking for information at all. She was asking for confirmation that her husband values and appreciates her.
Scenario #3: Wife has a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day at work. Her husband comes home and she tearfully tells him about the missed deadline that wasn’t her fault, the public humiliation from her nasty boss, and her fears for the future of her position in the company.
When husband responds with questions (how did you come to miss that important deadline?) projections (you really need to be careful – we can’t afford for you to lose this job) and advice (tomorrow, you should go straight to your boss and apologize), he is, once again, mistaking her tirade for an exchange of information…
…when really, the translation should have been, “I’m upset and frightened. I could use a listening ear, empathy and reassurance that you’re there for me.”
Well, you can download the app onto your husband’s phone (just kidding, it doesn’t actually exist… yet).
Or, at a quiet, lighter time, you can cheerfully and carefully try to enlighten him about the imponderable ways of women – and assure him that it’s not just you!
In fact, this is one of the few times that I would suggest that you might want to actually share this article with your husband - IF you think he will appreciate it!
In the meantime, keeping that awareness - along with a hefty dose of humor – may be enough to diffuse the intensity of those cultural Mars/Venus clashes.
Because when you remember that you actually speak 2 different languages… it sets the stage for better communication.