Cultivating Healthy Communication Amid Different Personalities

Another question today from our Facebook group. Again, search it online. It’s in the info of both the YouTube channel and the audio podcast Five Minute Fatherhood Facebook group for dads out there listening.

But we got a question from Matthew, or more like a comment, and he wanted us to chat about it, which I thought was really good. He says, “Sometimes I feel like communication is off in my family. I’m the type of guy that likes to address the issue immediately.” Oh man, Matthew, I am right there with you. I just bulldoze Alyssa because I just want to talk about it right now, right now.

And he says, “And I like to say what I’m feeling, whereas my wife likes to think about it for a good bit of time before she’s ready to talk. This is tough sometimes because I feel as though I have done something to upset her or hurt her in a way, and a lot of times it’s not even me or an at-home thing. What do you guys do to talk through things like this and improve communication in the home?” And then Jeremy, I love what you responded with him briefly, if you want to elaborate on that or what you’d say.

Yeah, so oftentimes, and maybe just broadening this, I’m going to talk directly to Matthew’s question, but it’s important to identify when there are patterns going on in communication between you and your spouse that are just not healthy. They don’t tend to lead to a good place. And so one of the things I told Matthew is, and just to give his example, so his wife is just… She needs to process, she’s probably more of an internal processor. She needs a little bit of time, and that’s just torture for guys like Matthew or like Jeff. Like let’s have it out, let’s talk about it, guys who are extremely verbal, extremely verbal processor.

I’m a little bit more probably like Matthew’s wife. I can process verbally if it’s about an idea. But man, if it’s about my emotions, I need to go into a deep well to figure out what the heck’s going on. And so what I encouraged him to do is, okay, first step, take a step back and actually have a conversation with your wife and develop a new process or a new pattern for how you want to handle the situation.

And I said I don’t know what that will look like for you. But an example, it might look something like okay, once this starts to happen, I’m going to take the kids. I’m going to give you 30 minutes to just journal, to think, to pray. And then in 30 minutes I’m going to come and then you’re just going to share with me what you processed. I’ll listen. I’ll reflect back to you what I heard you say. And then we’ll see if we can come to an easier agreement on things. And if not, I’ll give you some more time. When you’ve had time to really think about what I’ve said, what you processed, and then something new comes up. Okay? You want to take another 10, 15 minutes, process that.

That is a procedure or trying to basically interrupt a negative pattern, trying a new pattern. These look different depending on the situation you have with your spouse. But I think for a lot of people, they just want to wing relationships. And man, when you have a covenant with somebody and you’re going to be with them for the next 50 years and you have a pattern that’s not working, don’t try to wing it. Actually look at the pattern, study it, think about it, address it. Be creative, come up with new ideas. Be disciplined about leading your wife in this area and saying, “Hey, let’s sit down and talk and think about how this might work that’s better.”

And one of the things that will really lock you up is if you think there’s a right way. I think that intuition is really dangerous in a relationship. The right way to handle conflict is for us to have it out. Whoa, whoa, whoa. That may be native to your personality and that may be really healthy for you, but man, your wife’s different than you are and so you need to really think about, okay, what actually is healthy for her? And if somebody’s got to take a hit in terms of really changing for the sake of the relationship, dad, husband, take the first hit. Try to lean into how to help them process this in a way that’s a little closer to the way they feel and the way their personality and the way they tick and the way they’re wired. But yeah, Jeff, what are your thoughts?

Yeah, I’ll just give quick two thoughts there, because I think, yeah, I think you said what I think is the central part of it. But Matthew, for some practical things that we’ve done with this, because this is a very similar scenario to me and Alyssa, is we’ve gotten to the place where, first of all, you need a lot of trust and then we build things on that trust. And one of the things we’ve done is we’ve each kind of promised each other or given each other one kind of rule that allows us to play fair, per se, and play the game. And one of those is Alyssa’s promised me that she won’t leave a conversation just on a knee jerk this is who I am, I need time. She’ll stay in it, basically. She says she’ll promise me she’ll stay in it if she… And she’s in charge of her own emotional capacity until she can.

And then I’ve promised her that she can have an ultimate trump card, white flag, where I’ll never push her or say we need to talk about something. We used to have a code word. I can’t remember what it was now, and now she just says, “I’m tapping out. I’m done, I’m tapping out.” And I used to say, “No, no, no, we got to talk about this. We got to figure this out, blah, blah, blah.” But if she says that, if she says that phrase, I’ve promised her okay, I’m done. I will pause and you go do what you need to do.

And then usually she’ll give me a more actual measurable framework of 30 minutes or whatever because she knows that helps me. But those are two tiny little things that have super helped. I know that she’s going to come to the table and not just want to leave right away, and sometimes we can have that conversation because we’re in good spots, and sometimes if it’s a little longer or harder conversation, so she’ll in the middle say, “I’m tapping out. We’ll do this tomorrow or we’ll do this in 30 minutes.” And I’ve just promised, okay for the sake of our sanity I’m just going to, okay we’re good.

And that’s just one kind of quick little rule we’ve given each other that has just changed everything, and 99% of those problems have gone away because of that. So that’s what I would end with, Matthew, of just try to come up with what’s one way you can serve each other in how you each communicate. But definitely you take the lead as the husband of dying, of sacrificing, of leaning into that hard spot and you changing first, or leaning into that growth and leaning into that change.

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