One Simple Way to Diffuse the Tension with Your Husband
by Cindi McMenamin
How often do you and your spouse end up at odds because you said something (or he said something) that didn’t come out quite right?
Ah, the power—and peril—of our words. We often have good intentions. But then somehow, it all goes south.
After nearly 30 years of marriage, I’ve learned that how we frame our questions or statements can make the difference between uplifting or upsetting our spouses.
Consider the following scenario: You are getting ready to go out for an inexpensive dinner with your husband. But you feel like showering first and looking nice—you want it to feel like a date and you are doing it for him. But he is focused on food. And he’s hungry. You put on a cute dress and fix your hair and makeup as he waits patiently for you.
You meant: “I dressed nicely. You didn’t.” He heard: “You look like a slob!”
So, you try again: “I dressed up for YOU.”
He hears “I dressed up for YOU” but doesn’t know how he’s supposed to respond. Is that an accusation that I didn’t dress up for her? Is she waiting for a ‘thank you’ or a ’you look great’? Is she expecting me to wear something else? What am I supposed to do?
He ends up opting for: “Is that new?” (thinking maybe it is and you’ll be upset if he doesn’t notice.)
Now, do you see where all of this misunderstanding and defensiveness can lead? Your man shouldn’t have to walk through a mine field to get out the door to have dinner with his wife. Yet the bombs can go off when we say something explosive that we didn’t think to carefully frame into a piece of encouragement instead.
Reframe Your Words
We can talk to our husbands without offending, confusing, or putting them on the defensive by framing what we say in a compliment and eliminating their guesswork.
Here are a few of the not-so-kind things wives want to say to their husbands, along with a better way to frame the statement.
Don’t say: “Are you going to go dressed like that?” Instead, try: “Why don’t you wear that new blue shirt? You look terrific in it.”
Don’t say: “Why don’t you open doors for me like you used to?” Instead, say: “I really like when you open doors for me. It shows me you care.”
Don’t say: “I tried all day to reach you. Where were you?” Instead, say: “Is everything okay? I wanted to connect by phone and see how you were doing today.”
Don’t say: “We’re $400 short this month.” Instead, say: “I was able to save $100 in coupons this month, which should help toward our deficit.”
Don’t say: “We need to talk.” Instead, say: “Let me know when you have a minute so we can talk about _______________.”
Did you notice that those original statements sounded like accusations? They were pointed questions that can put your spouse on the defensive. But by reframing, the question turned into a compliment, and what might have been perceived as an accusation turned into a form of affirmation or admiration. And husbands love that.
Speak to your man in a complimentary manner, rather than a negative tone. And make sure you watch your body language. (My husband does NOT like when I say something to him with my hands on my hips. For me, it’s just a comfortable way to stand. To him, it says I’m assuming command of the USS Enterprise!)
I believe we can get in the habit of framing our words well when we practice the instruction in Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
The next time something is on the tip of your tongue, stop. Ask yourself, “Will this build up my husband or tear him down?” Then consider how you can reframe it in a way that builds him up as a man.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of 16 books who has been married 30 years to a pastor and introvert. Her newest book, 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband, is already helping wives reframe how they talk to their husbands and experience more joy in their marriage. Grab it at a special introductory sale price today or find more resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, at her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.