The Illusion of Sameness in Marital Communication
Your husband or wife says something hurtful, you try to brush it aside for a couple of days but it’s eating you up inside, so you talk to him or her about it. And to your complete surprise your partner says, “That’s not what I meant! Why didn’t you ask me what I meant?” Sound familiar?
Misunderstandings like this happen all the time in married life due to the illusion of sameness. Spouses tend to assume that words and actions have the exact same emotional meaning to both of them. They assume that they understand their partners so well that they do not need any clarification whatsoever.
Misunderstandings are like small holes in a ship. They may not seem like a big deal at first but if left unattended, they will sink the ship or marriage.
This is why every couple should pursue a communication style that prevents and resolves misunderstandings effectively.
Your Partner is Your Ally
Don’t forget that your partner is not your enemy. He or she would not intentionally say or do something to hurt you so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Don’t accuse them of anything, just ask what they mean.
You don’t always have to seek clarification immediately but the sooner you do it, the better. If your partner is irritated, wait for a time when he or she is calm and relaxed and then bring it up.
Listen to what your partner has to say and be ready to believe them. Unless your partner has a history of dishonesty, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t believe them when they say that’s not what they meant.
If necessary, apologize for misunderstanding them. This is important because your spouse may be hurt that you think they would intentionally say or do something to hurt you. Do this even if you don’t get an apology from them.
Finally, let it go. Once you’ve cleared up the misunderstanding, don’t bring it up again.
These tips should help you clear up any misunderstandings but they won’t help you prevent them. To do that, you’ll need to let go of your preconceptions about your spouse’s behavior. Get used to asking questions and repeating what you hear back to them. This is the single most effective tool for communication in marriage.