There’s not a lot that a military man can’t do. A normal work day can push our bodies and minds past what others would think was their limit. To prepare for combat and the rigors of deployment, we run three, four, five or miles every morning. We go on hikes for miles in full loads – ninety pounds of gear – and our combat conditioning has us low crawling through mud and pulling ourselves over logs and walls on the obstacle course.
I knew one guy – a consummate Marine – who scored a perfect on all three of our metrics – Physical Fitness, Marksmanship and Combat Fitness – and who had a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Art as well. He wasn’t merely impressive; he inspired everyone that knew him.
But he was thirty years old, and had been divorced twice.
This isn’t an easy subject to broach with someone, but he and I got to talking one day, and he told me that it took him two marriages to figure out what he was doing wrong: He wasn’t communicating with his wife. His partner never knew what he needed, so he never got what he needed. And because he was so closed off, he wasn’t learning what she needed – and wasn’t providing it to her.
We can never take our wives for granted. A happy marriage makes both spouses happier and stronger – and creates a better, more loving environment for children. Our wives sacrifice greatly for us. They move every three years, wait for years through our deployments and raise our children when we can’t be there because of mobilization or field training. Marriage is service – each spouse serving the other. In order to best serve our wives, we’ve got to open up to them.
Here are 6 ideas to help you start communicating better with your wife today.
- Understand that men are usually more future-oriented, and women are usually more present-oriented. In other words, military men tend to be people of action. Our wives are also certainly go-getters, but on the overall whole, many of them will tend to focus more on the journey, not the destination. If you’re looking at your marriage as though it were a set of goals – have kids, buy a home, save for retirement, etc, you can lose focus on the present, day-to-day reality of your marriage. Oftentimes, she’s focused on the relationship: spending quality time together, strengthening your bonds and connecting with each other. You’ve got to learn to speak to her in these terms, as well. If all of your conversations are about saving money, wanting to achieve some goal or just plain talking about work, you’re not being present with her.
- Spend more time listening and less time talking. By shutting your mouth and letting her talk – especially when the two of you are angry with each other – you’re communicating something very powerful to your wife: You’re telling her that you think her concerns are valid, and that you’re interested in why it is that she’s upset. This is one of the single most important things you can do to end a fight more quickly. Instead of trying to score points, tell her that you’re hearing what she’s saying. By setting the precedent, you can then make sure that your side of the story is heard – without it escalating into an interrupting-and-shouting match.
- Set aside time to talk. Make a half hour available to her everyday to communicate about how your days have gone, things that are going on in your coworkers’ and friends’ lives and other casual topics of conversation. Also, be aware of your timing. If you have something really important to say to her, you might be burning with a desire to get it off your chest, but if dinner’s on the stove, the kids are running wild or she’s trying to rush out the door to get to her plans, she’s not going to be able to get into a serious conversation with you. Save it for when the time is right.
- Don’t dominate the conversation. A lot of us – especially those of us with some rank – get accustomed day in and day out to having people listen to us and accept our opinions. Your wife is not one of your Lance Corporals. She not only has every right to challenge your opinions, you should encourage her to do so, and do the same for her. That’s how we grow as human beings, and anyway, sitting around agreeing with someone all the time is plain boring. Also take into account that men are often in the habit of interrupting others much more than women, so when she’s talking, shut your mouth and let her finish. She’ll notice it – and appreciate it.
- Take interest in her interests. You don’t need to join one of her clubs or learn how to do her job, but if she’s coming home often and talking about subjects that are out of your depth, take a little time and research them. The Internet is wonderful for brushing up on a subject you’re not terribly familiar with; you’ve got all the world’s knowledge right there at the click of a mouse. Spend a half an hour on your lunch and instead of watching silly YouTube videos or playing FarmVille, read up on that new Zonta club she just joined, or pick up a book that she’s read recently that really grabbed her and knock out a few pages. You’ll stimulate your conversation with her and build common connections that will make your marriage livelier and more interesting.
- Speak honestly and from the heart. You’ve sworn to love and cherish this woman until the day you die. If you feel like there are things you can’t tell her, why are you even married? She’s your partner, and will be the one who sticks with you no matter what. Give her the trust she deserves, and the honesty that you would want from her.