Why Won't She Stop Talking...Why Won't He Start Talking

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 @ 1:12 PM

Why have this discussion?  Because your "big" discussions will go a lot smoother if you understand your partner's processing style.

Picture this:  a couple is talking about whether to help another family member financially.  The woman has been talking for about 15 minutes about all the pros and cons and her thoughts about how the rest of the family will react and whether the money will ever be paid back, etc, etc.  Suddenly she notices that her husband is just staring off into space.  She gets upset and asks him, "Are you even listening to me?"
Meanwhile, he is feeling very overwhelmed and starting to get angry because her talking is preventing him from figuring out a solution. He may even be feeling defensive because he feels like his wife expects him to listen to her and to solve the problem at the same time.

Women tend to be verbal processors.  This means that we often find it easier to think through an issue if we can hear all the different aspects.  In fact, often what seems like a good idea in our heads seems ridiculous once we actually hear ourselves say it out loud.  In the meantime, our husbands are going into panic mode because they are not sure which comments are important to hear and respond to and which comments should be disregarded.  They may also be trying to sort though all the information because they feel pressured to provide us (wives) with a solution.

Another scenario:
A man says to his wife, "I'm going to the dealership to get that new truck after work today."  She is startled and asks, "What are you talking about?  What new truck?"
"That truck I showed you in the paper last weekend.  We talked about it."  By now he is feeling irritated.
"You just said you might go take a look at it.  We never talking about actually buying the truck." 
The discussion dissolves into an argument from there because the husband really believes that he did discuss the issue with his wife.

How can this be?  Men tend to process internally.  So while he did say a sentence or two to his wife about the truck, he went through all the pros and cons and did some calculations regarding the financial feasibility internally and came to a solution.
This type of dynamic in couples can be a predictor of divorce, particularly if the wife feels that her husband does not accept her influence.

Like all gender discussions, this is a generalization. I have met a  few women who have difficulty verbalizing their thoughts and feelings and I have met a few men who are very loquacious.  Regardless of whether you match the gender sterotype or not, the liklihood is that you have chosen a mate with the opposite processing style.

So what is the solution?
For verbal processors:
First, set the expectation at the beginning of the discussion.  It can be as simple as:  "I just want to brainstorm something with you, we don't have to come up with a solution today."  That automatically takes some of the pressure off of the spouse because they know what you want from the discussion.
Second, give your partner some time to think about the situation before expecting an answer or a solution.  They probably have not been thinking about this issue as long as you have and it is unreasonable to expect otherwise.

For internal processors:
First, set aside time to talk to your partner about the ideas that you are considering, particularly the big decisions such as large purchases, job changes, etc.
Second, if you need time to think, say that to your partner in a loving way.  Try a statement like this: "I am really glad you wanted to talk to me about this.  How about if we talk about it again tomorrow at dinner?  That will give me time to think about what you have already told me and will give you time to write down any other ideas you might have."

Yes, I know, it's not easy to change those ingrained patterns of communication.  That's okay.  I can say from personal experience, it is well worth the effort.

If you have tried to change your communication patterns and find that something is not working, we would love to help. 
Take a look at the Therapist page.  Pick the therapist you would like to work with and give us a call.

Written by Angela Sarafin