Monday, April 2, 2012

Don’t Take it Personal

That old saying we learned as kids, of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” has got to be one of the biggest lies ever concocted. At least the wounds created by sticks and stones will heal fairly quickly, but the wounds of words can last a lifetime. Many people’s lives have been ruined, to one degree or another, by the words that others spoke to them.

That’s why it’s important that we are careful about the words we speak, especially those words that come out when we’re angry, irritated or frustrated. All too often in those moments, we say things that later we wish we could take back. Yet, those words never seem to go away. We may say we’re sorry, we may try and make amends, but we can never make erase those words, once spoken.

Part of what makes those words so powerful is the intensity with which they are said. Let’s say that you’re having an argument with your wife, and in the midst of it you blurt out, “I can’t stand you when you’re like that.” Those words are going to go right to the center of your wife’s being, cutting all the way. She won’t hear it as there’s something that she does which bothers you. What she’ll hear is, “I can’t stand you.” That’s the painful, destructive memory which will burn into her heart.

After that, it doesn’t matter how many times you tell her you love her, the overpowering memory will be that you can’t stand her. The intensity of those words, spoken in the passion of a momentary loss of self-control, will be with her forever. No matter how hard you try, they can’t be erased.

I’m not saying that we’re the only ones who say destructive things like that; women do it too. I’d say that men and women are equally skilled at saying destructive things to each other, causing the same types of hurts. However, I think they typically have a greater impact on the women, because they are more emotionally oriented.

There is one important difference between men and women, when it comes to this type of negative communication. That is, women will express generalities in a way that makes it seem like it’s their husband’s fault. They turn the general into something personal. For example, if a woman is feeling unloved, regardless of the reason, she’ll express it as “You don’t love me.” Or, another case might be where she feels frustrated about something, say something at work, and jumps on you for something that you do which is frustrating to her.

Here’s where we can make a difference in this problem. That is, don’t take it personally. Just because your wife is expressing frustration at you or saying that you never take her out anyplace, doesn’t really mean that she thinks that. It means that she is feeling that way at that moment, nothing more.

If you have a business dinner in a fancy restaurant, which your wife has been wanting to go to, there’s a pretty good chance that she’ll say that you never take her out. You might be confused, thinking of the weekly date night which you’ve been doing for the last year. But, she’s not really saying that you never take her out at all, she’s saying that she feels jealous of your opportunity to go to that restaurant, because she wants to go there.

So, how to you deal with this? The first step is to realize that even though she’s directing it at you, she’s not talking about you. Then, forgive her. You don’t have to do that to her face, but you do have to do it. Finally, try and figure out what the true message is behind what she’s saying.

I realize that decoding “woman speak” is an almost impossible challenge. They have meanings for words and ways of putting ideas together that no man can fathom. Nevertheless, we can at least get some clues about what it is that’s motivating them to say what they are saying. When they say something negative, out of frustration, there’s always something behind it. Look beyond the words, to see where she might be hurting. That gives you a clue in how to love your wife better.

1 comment:

  1. It's important to listen to our loved ones with an open mind. Often, what we think we hear is not exactly what the other person meant. It's all too easy to be distracted by a word or a turn of phrase, when we should be thinking about the real underlying message. If your wife says, "You never take me out," the logical response, "I just took you out last weekend" may win the argument, but it won't win her heart. Instead, ask her, "Where would you like to go?"