Communication Disconnect: Why it Can be Hard to Understand Your Spouse

By January 3, 2018February 22nd, 2018Communication, Conflict

It’s an age-old discussion we’ve all heard, time and time again: men and women find one another difficult to understand. We have heard countless stories from married couples who regularly (and habitually) confuse one another through their differing communication styles. Those differences can create a true disconnect in our relationships with one another.

The good news is that even though we might be puzzled by our spouses from time to time, we truly can work together to develop a greater understanding of where they’re coming from. Solving the mystery of the “gender gap” isn’t impossible; we’ll show you why.

Men are analyzers; women are sympathizers

No, we don’t come from different planets; our motivations and goals through communication are just vastly different. And that can throw a wrench in an otherwise benign conversation, because our approach to communicating informs how we respond to one another.

Generally speaking, men tend to be highly analytical. They’re concerned with the cold, hard facts and laser-focused on problem-solving. Men also tend to be task-oriented and straight-to-the-point.

Conversely, women (in general) approach communication in a more sympathetic way. They’re intuitive and attuned to the emotional connections between themselves and the people they’re communicating with, and they tend to be more concerned with feelings before facts. (That’s not to say that facts don’t matter; but sometimes, it’s more important to women to process emotional realities first so that they can then tackle the facts).

Where’s the disconnect?

Communication between husbands and wives tends to break down when we try to impose our thinking pattern on one another. It’s easy to forget how differently we are wired, especially if we’re in the midst of conflict. The thing is, we don’t even have to be in the middle of a conflict to run across these issues.

For example, let’s say a wife approaches her husband to pour out her feelings…only to become frustrated that her husband tries to “fix” the problem. After all, she was probably looking for empathy and commiseration. She may have only wanted a listening ear so she could process her feelings verbally before deciding how to act next.

Naturally, her husband’s offer of a solution is frustrating because it’s not what she was looking for in the moment. And, to be expected, her husband is equally miffed because now, he thinks she doesn’t value his advice and problem-solving ability.

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Husband: “Don’t come to me if you don’t want help!”
Wife: “I wasn’t asking you to fix the problem. I just wanted to talk about it.”
Husband: “What good is talking about it if you’re not going to fix it?”
Wife: “I needed to process things, but this is why I can’t talk to you about anything! You never listen to me!”

Women often decode their husbands’ quick jump to a solution as impatience. They might assume their husbands don’t really care about what they have to say, when in reality the husband might have felt good about the solution he offered…only to come away feeling like his solution was brushed aside and devalued.

See how the cycle perpetuates itself?

Tips for bridging the gender-communication gap

Our Love Talk curriculum delves deep into communication dynamics between husbands and wives, plus gives you the tools you need to decode one another and build a greater sense of understanding in your marriage. For now, though, we’ll leave you with a few quick tips.

For women (from Leslie):

  • Men don’t tend to identify their emotions as quickly as we do, so we can’t expect them to
  • We tend to focus more on experiences, fears, and feelings, while men focus on theories, concepts, and ideas
  • Don’t expect your man to communicate like your girlfriends do; they just aren’t wired that way

For men (from Les):

  • Women tend to focus on the present and how they feel about it, while we like to think toward the future
  • We want the report; they want the rapport
  • Don’t expect your wife to detail “the plan” with all the steps if you’re not taking the time to connect with her emotionally.

Keep in mind, these are general guidelines. While men tend to want results, goals, and efficiency and women want harmony and sharing, sometimes, the dynamics can be flipped. Maybe you’re an analytical woman who’s married to an emotionally-driven man. Or perhaps you’re a sympathetically-driven man who has a more solution-oriented wife. Whatever the case, rest assured the two of you can decode your communication styles for more effective communication–and a more harmonious life together.

Do you and your spouse communicate well together? Why or why not? What solutions have made the difference in your marriage? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!


  • Sheilah says:

    We dont communicate because when i try to tell him how im feeling he blows up and starts calling me names, horrible names and tells me he wishes he would never have married me. He tells me to just get over my feelings because you cant live life off of feelings.

    • Wayne says:

      That sort of behavior has nothing to do with men being men and women being women. That is simply abuse and should not be tolerated. You do not deserve to be abused and certainly not called names (is he in 4th grade?).
      Your husband and marriage needs counseling. I would guess you need help regaining your sense of self and your confidence.
      I feel so sorry, after reading your comment. I rarely respond to comments but but I heard the pain in your note.

    • Jennifer Leaumont says:

      Sheilah I pray things work out between you and your husband. I have gone to counciling after me and my husband had a miscarriage and I learned from my councilor that it’s ok to FEEL a certain way. We just can’t let our feelings take us over. Even Jesus cares about how we feel and He wants to take our weight. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT) Jesus loves you and your husband. Remember you are not alone.

    • Patrick says:

      As a man that is in a marriage of forty one years, many of which have been very contentious, I can only say that I feel very sorry for you being subjected to verbal put downs. I have had to come to a place where I understand that I have value and must not listen to anything less, either from myself or my spouse. My prayers are with you, realize you worth in God’s eyes.

  • Steve B says:

    If he is willing to listen, you might also want to try Love and Respect a conference/book by Emerson Eggerichs. Deals with differences between the sexes and how we process things. Very insightful and similar to Les and Leslie’s Love Talk. My wife and I value both of them as we have navigated our way through 40 plus years of marriage. Might be very helpful for you both. Don’t give up, it is worth it in the long run.

  • Clarice Wilson says:

    I really appreciate you both for this article! Remembering that we communicate differently and we assign meaning differently is the challenge for me. Thanks for helping me along!
    Sheilah, I’m sorry that you and your husband are experiencing such difficulty. I pray God’s love and peace become more apparent to you both.

  • Carol Ann says:

    Sheilah, such wise counsel has been given by these folks who care about you and your husband! . I pray that you can implement some or all of it. Please do seek professional help most of all!

    Back to what my husband and I do well re communication……I have learned to tell my husband at the outset of a conversation that I just need to share something with him, to get it out and that he does not need to fix it. My husband tells me that when I say that, he immediately stops what he is doing, relaxes and just listens. It’s great!

    Another thing…..sometimes I pick the wrong time to talk. So being sensitive to what’s going on around my spouse and my telling him that I’d like to talk when he is free, offers a better setting for a conversation, allowing for a better outcome. Works for us!

    God bless!

  • Johnathen William's says:

    My wife and I have been married for 6 yrs and she blames me for everything and why she is the way she is…..she has been married 3 times before me and this is my first and hopefully my only but ut really seems like that us not gonna happened I have been caught cheating on her by looking at other women accuse of flirting with many women at almost all my jobs since I met her smh my heart hurts like crazy cuz when I actually try to open up to her and actually Express what I’m feeling and how she makes me feel its like I’m not allowed to have any emotions at all I wrk fulltime 40 hrs a week and it’s like it have to pull a double at home to prove my love to her I cant get her to trust me for nothing I’m really at my ends meet and I’m fighting a lost fight pla any advise plz I do have a anger temper and it gets the best of me at times but never will I ever lay a hand on my wife or any women I know I need help I really do and when we try to talk to each other and we cant meet in the middle or ahead blows my feelings off my anger gets the best of me I need help

    • salim says:

      Men are made to be patient; I don’t want to say that from beginning it was wrong marrying a third timer but all those men must have been fed up with her controlling nature. You can mold a fish to any position when its still fresh hence if you didnt do that before, you need to take step one y visiting a marriage counselor whom should sit both of you and listen to derive and sort out the issues.There should be something that made you decided to settle down with her and at the moment please focus on refreshing that commitment….

  • salim says:

    Men are made to be patient; I don’t want to say that from beginning it was wrong marrying a third timer but all those men must have been fed up with her controlling nature. You can mold a fish to any position when its still fresh hence if you didnt do that before, you need to take step one y visiting a marriage counselor whom should sit both of you and listen to derive and sort out the issues.There should be something that made you decided to settle down with her and at the moment please focus on refreshing that commitment….

  • Joe Flores says:

    My wife and I have been married 33 years and we’ve always managed our difference. Although I know our differences were the problem I still got over it ( unfortunately not real soon either). Here lately I’m having such a hard time being patient with her. I understand were wired different and that’s the problem I just get so irritated when I can’t get s straight answer from her. We have had counseling but hasn’t helped much. For one she forgets what to do in a situation as needed. After doing a lot of online reading it’s not anything that can’t be fixed but something I wonder. I have no desires to be single or look for another woman. I love my wife but wonder sometimes if I really do love her or just used to her because I can’t control the annoyance that’s affects me.

  • Herman says:

    I will not comment on anyone’s reply here but on the article itself. You nailed it for my spouse of 15 years and me. She is a wonderful and very loved partner, but her head is on another planet and for the life of me, I cannot find it or understand the language. I ask her a straight question to which she responds with a long, drawn-out, and emotional response with which I just turn off my ears and stop listening. She asks me her concerns to which I give a one-sentence answer, but then she gets huffy and walks away, upset. I am blessed to have her, but there really needs to be classes for men on how to understand something that is not even being said or expressed directly.

    • Dani says:

      This sounds like my husband …

      He says I don’t care about his feelings but at the same time will say I don’t express how I feel…how can I care about something you haven’t expressed? I open myself up to criticism every so often just because I know he hates initiating his feelings so I ask am I doing ok as your wife, is there anything you need from me. He says no I’m great I’m happy I’m good” but will say in an argument “I don’t care about his feelings, I’m stubborn, I’m set in my ways” but also say “I (he) will argue my (his) point down to anyone and not change how I (he) feel but you (me) on the other hand will call your mom and she has to explain how I feel to you and then you understand”…can someone tell me why that is a bad thing??

      He’s admitted to no liking to talk
      Not liking to communicate
      Not being a good communicator of feelings
      But then will get mad that I don’t understand him
      And says I’m wrong for changing my perspective after talking to my mom who I call
      To help me understand a different side, and see how/if I could be wrong?!?!

      Is he gas lighting me and am I really wrong?

      • Elizabeth says:

        Have you read about vulnerable (covert) narcissism? Your husband sounds as though he has some of those characteristics, and maybe this type of personality disorder is something worth looking into. (But he may just be hypersensitive, etc.) People with this time of “disorder” (narcissism) really don’t understand (nor genuinely care) about others’ emotions. unless they are impacted themselves. All their relationships and interactions must come under their CONTROL, even if it’s not evident to others. And problems or issues, even if he has caused them without your prior knowledge, will subsequently be blamed on you (or others). They have little accountability and will endlessly blameshift. Lots of white lies, lies of omission and denials. During a discussion about something the spouse has brought up, narcs will turn the tables and will dredge up every little thing the spouse may have not done to his liking in the past, even if he has never mentioned it before. There isn’t any closure to problems but if they seem to agree on a solution, they seldom follow through in a genuine manner. They often use phrases like “move on’ or “get over it” when they don’t want to answer to the pain they have caused. They really are in their “own minds” and expect that others should “know” what they want, but they are clueless about the needs of others. It’s crazy-making because they are not only manipulative, but their subtle lying to (and about) their spouses is demoralizing and trust-destroying. They are good, however, at controlling the public’s perception by presenting false selves when they are with others. People who don’t know them well will often see them as “nice guys”. But they are, indeed, wolves in sheep’s clothing. When you talk to your Mom about your problems and/or him, he loses control of the situation. And he may not really doesn’t want you to understand him because that diminishes his control as well. Again, your husband may have other issues, but this might be something to check into.

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