I recently read a book called “A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future,” and as “academic” as it might sound – there’s a principle here that can make a huge difference in your marriage. The principle is about the power of “story” – how telling a story enables you to communicate in a way that your fellow humans – and your husband – can naturally understand.
However, in the arena of relationships – and especially in the years long, day-to-day of a marriage, telling a story rarely helps the situation! In fact, I advise my clients to steer clear of their story because it’s your story that’ll get you into trouble.
When you remove the story completely, you’ll have a far greater chance of being heard by your husband.
How Your Story Can Take All The Juice Out Of Your Marriage:
Guys often aren’t great listeners as it is – and when you launch into a story there’s more of a chance that he’ll hear it as judgment and blaming. You see, the problem is, even if you mean what you’re saying in your story, guys think that you’re “making stuff up.”
I recommend that you strip the story from your communication and instead focus on expressing your truth – cleanly and clearly – without the story.
Let’s look at a simple situation:
Your husband has agreed to fix that broken cabinet door for months. You’re worried that your toddler or dog is going to get in there and it could be potentially dangerous. Despite his promises to handle it, another weekend passes and it’s not done.
What might the story look like? It might include phrases like this:
“You’ve been saying for months that you’re going to fix it and still haven’t. I wish I could rely on you but I can’t.” (finger pointing and blaming), or…
“You know, your son could get stuck in there and get really hurt” (making stuff up), or
“Just like when you said you’d trim the trees and fix the pool – just another example of you not keeping your word. You’re unreliable.” (judgment), or
“How many times have we talked about this?” (guilt)
Your story is your attempt to build your case and in some cases justify your anger. In marriage, it feels like that’s what you’re supposed to do – hash things out. But the truth is, you don’t need to justify it – you’re entitled to your anger and your disappointment in him! The question is, how do you enroll him in making a change?
Not by blaming him.
Not by telling him a story about his past failures.
The only chance you have of shifting his behavior and helping him be a better dad and husband and making a real change in your marriage is by communicating your feelings in a direct, clear and non-judgmental way. That’s the only thing that’ll work.
Change Your Marriage Now This Way:
“Tom, I know you’ve been busy. And there’s something I need to share with you. I’m having a problem and I don’t know exactly how to express this. Is now a good time for us to talk?”
You’ve set the table that the conversation might be challenging, and you’ve asked permission to have the conversation now, or to find a better time.
You continue: “Tom, I really rely on you, I realize that. And when I need you to handle something in the house, and you don’t do it, I don’t know how to express it to you in a way that doesn’t start a fight.”
Do you see how this gets the conversation off on a completely different foot than if you told your story?
Then ask in a direct, clear way for what you want: “Tom, I’m not going to feel comfortable until the cabinet’s fixed, so I really need for you to fix it within the next couple of days. If you can’t please let me know so I can hire a handyman to do it.”
Forget the story. Speak your truth without blame and judgment.
From the Editors: Jeffrey Levine”s Good Husband Guide is filled with ways like this…really specific, unique ways that can make a huge, instantaneous difference in your marriage and the way your husband listens to you and reacts to what you say and what you tell him. You can get Jeffrey’s free newsletters and his great free report “The Good Husband Toolbox” to quickly learn how to turn your “story” into incredibly deep communication that will transform your marriage.