When you share a life with someone, there is a constant need for communication. You have to sync up your schedules, make sure the house is running smoothly, make sure those little people who make messes and eat all your food are OK. As you discuss these things, especially if you’re stressed, lines can get crossed and you might assume your husband is saying one thing when he really means another.
You know what happens when you assume? Well, yes, there’s that. But the other thing that often happens in marriage is a whole lot of unnecessary grief and fighting. Wondering how to stop assuming things in a relationship? Here’s how assumptions play out in my marriage and 3 tools for clarification that come in handy.
“Do you change those puppy pee pads every day?”
“Do we need to weed the garden?”
“Are you using Cascade or something else on these glasses?”
These were the kinds of questions from my husband that would get my teeth grinding. I assumed there was an underlying hint within each one:
You’re behind on changing the pee pads.
You need to weed the garden.
The dishes look dirty.
In other words, what I heard was: “You aren’t doing a good enough job.” And so, I did the chores right away, but with a bit of hurt in my heart. It is no wonder that later that day, the mood between us was a little off. When he asked why, I told him. He was shocked and said he didn’t mean to imply what I thought he did.
We learned 3 simple ways to clarify the situation and keep this problem from putting a wedge between us.
1. Ask for clarification.
I ask him, “Just to clarify, do you mean…?” and then I explain what I honestly think he’s saying. I am amazed at how often I am wrong! But this gives him a chance to realize the way it sounded to me and to clarify, thereby avoiding a long, drawn-out communication conflict.
2. Give him the benefit of the doubt.
When I first started asking for clarification, I wasn’t even sure I believed his answer. I thought he was just backpedaling. But over time, I realized there was really no hidden meaning 99 percent of the time. In part, it’s a trust issue. Ask yourself: Do you trust him? Do you trust his intentions and his feelings about you and the jobs you do? If so, give him the benefit of the doubt when his words seem harsh.
3. Address your own insecurities.
Sometimes the words people say to us seem a little sharper because we have tender skin. If you are feeling insecure about a job you’re doing or the person you are, then he’s not going to be able to say much right. Anything even close to criticism will feel like a direct arrow to the heart.
So how can you address your own insecurity? There are books to help, and sometimes seeking professional help is the right way to go. I like to go back to remembering who I am—I’m a daughter of God. And that’s unconditional.
When I’m feeling unsteady and insecure, when I don’t know if I’m measuring up, I like to read this Bible verse: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” When my soul is anchored, I can laugh in the face of criticism, intentional or not.
I wish my husband would just speak my language!
You may be thinking: Why isn’t it easier to understand each other? Why can’t he just speak my language, which is clearly the more logical and expressive one? Why do I have to get clarity for nearly everything he says?
The fact of the matter is that we are made differently—different genders, different backgrounds, and different styles. He probably wishes you spoke his language too. But if you work at clarifying, rather than assuming, you can move closer and closer to finding that language you both speak and understand.
How do you avoid assumptions in your marriage?