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Episode 4 - Your Husband Doesn't Need To Tell You How He Feels




Communication is a hot topic when it comes to marriage and relationships.

And while improving our communication is always a value, this episode will help you challenge what you consider to be "good communication" and discover what major form of communication you may be missing out on entirely.

FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:



  1. Leonard Sax, 2005, p. 29 "In boys, as in men, the part of the brain where emotions happen is not well connected to the part of the brain where verbal processing and speech happens--unlike the situation in teenage girls and women. "

Hey, welcome back. Thanks again for listening in to the First Year Married Podcast. I have a story for you today before we get started. We just launched this podcast. It's been really exciting seeing everyone subscribe and sign up and listen. I literally didn't completely process that when you launch a podcast people listen to it. The first time that I went on our little anchor app that sort of shows you all the feedback about your podcast, it showed me how many listens we've gotten and you don't know who's listening. So it's like this really bizarre experience, but I've been hearing back from some of you and I am just loving the feedback, and thank you all so much for your encouragements and your support.

But one special experience that I realized when you go into business with your husbands, you should really have nerves of steel, especially if your husband's anything like mine and he likes pranks. He came home with a picture of our local shopping plaza and said like, "Check out this picture." It's decorated for the holidays and so I couldn't really figure out what he was showing me. He's like, "Look closer," and behind the big sign that shows all the local stores is a billboard with my face on it and the podcast. I really didn't know whether I should laugh or cry or throw up. I was completely shocked and it's now hilarious that I look back at it, but yeah, yup, have nerves of steel if you go into business with your husbands, definitely he brings something to the business that I would not, that's for sure.

One thing I would like to talk to you about today, which I'm not even going to try for a lead in ... That's not related. It's not related. It's just a story for you. What I want to talk about today is communication misconceptions. As you know, the title of this podcast this week is Your Husband Doesn't Need To Tell You How He Feels. This is one my favorite, favorite things because early on in my marriage, I didn't realize how much of a lens I was looking at my husband with of what I expected for normal behavior. Now I went to a school where there were boys in my class. I dated my husband. I don't know why, and I keep saying this, I don't know why it was that once we got married, some of these things seemed to bubble up more. I really think it's just because you're so much more concerned about everything working out when you get married that anything that doesn't seem to be going according to plan seems much scarier where before it was like, "Oh, yeah, that's cool. Don't worry about it. It's fine."

I experienced this myself very much in what I expected my husband to be like in terms of how he would communicate with me and share about his day and share about his feelings, but I see this even more with my clients and this is an area that just creates so much fear and anxiety. I'm so excited for my newlyweds to listen to this podcast because what I like to say about the work that I try to do is that sometimes what we're doing is we're peeking in your brain and we're doing self-coaching and we're really working on our thoughts and we're getting self-awareness and it's straightforward, but it's work and it's awareness and it's self-development and it's evolving and it's self-growth, and some of this work is just light bulb moments, like "Oh, I thought that was a big problem and it's not. I just lacked information."

What I love to do is just share the information that just makes the light bulb go on and makes those concerns, those fears just evaporate. If you've been worried that your husband and you aren't as close as you want to be because you're not having those deep and meaningful conversations the way you expected, this episode is for you.

I'm going to start with a book that I read in the last year or two called Why Gender Matters. It's by Leonard Sax. It's a phenomenal book. I'm going to link it in the show notes for you. He talks about the difference in development between boys and girls, and his goal in writing the book ... He actually didn't really set out to write a book in the first place. His goal in writing the book was to create a book that discussed gender without any political goal either way.

He said that when he looked to find books for the parents in his pediatric practice to explain to them why their boys weren't acting like their girls, the only books that were out there either were trying to argue the point that boys and girls are really exactly the same and everything is nurture or they were trying to prove the point that boys and girls are totally different and shouldn't be treated the same, and it was either coming from this very conservative perspective or this very liberal perspective, and it didn't feel like anything was just straight science. He set out to write a book that would really not have any ultimate goal except to shed light on the difference in how boys and girls develop. I know I'm talking about boys and girls. Trust me. This all relates as they grow up.

What he talks about is a story of how boys tend to struggle in English classes and where could this come from. There's a lot written about women and verbalizing and language centers of the brain and sort of how we're connected to them more. What he did that I though was so fascinating is he actually went to an all boys' school where the boys did very well in English. One of the teachers talked about how they accommodate the way that a boy's brain works in the assignments that they give. He says that the way the female brain works is that ...

And again, I say this all the time in my course, I need to make sure I'm saying it on the podcast also when I say male and female. We have male and female. We also have masculine and feminine, and all of us are totally unique and we're all kind of a mix up of the two. It tends to be that most women have more of the feminine traits and most men have more of the masculine traits. But sometimes you're going to hear something, that you're going to say, "I identify more with the masculine side," so that's fine. I get that. It's not a problem.

But generally speaking, in a female brain when there's a strong emotional experience, the language center of the brain lights up if you're watching it on an MRI, you would see the language center light up. That is not the case for the male brain. The language center is very tied to, if I'm remembering how he says it correctly, I want to get the quote and post it on the show notes for you, the male brain is more tied to spatial relations like other places that we know stereotypically boys are good at. They tend to excel in spatial relations.

You read a book and then you write an essay on how do you think this character was feeling or what would you have done in that character's position or how would you have felt if you were going through the same thing or name a time in your life where you experienced something like the character? That's a very traditional way of teaching, of discussing reading. What happens is that the girls are excelling because when they're experiencing the emotions of the story, they can articulate, their language center is tied in so they can articulate those emotions, they can articulate the emotional experience very naturally.

What they did in this boys' school is they had the boys read Lord of the Flies and they said ... If you've ever read Lord of the Flies, it takes place on an island and there are a lot of descriptions, long descriptions of what the island looks like. They said the boys should make a map of the island based on the descriptions. For instance, if at some point it says the sun set and the shadow went this way, then they should extrapolate from that information which way was west and then use that in how they illustrated the island. Now this required the same depth of reading, the same level of comprehension as describing emotions, but it was more in line with what would come naturally to the boys.

It's so interesting how politically charged this is because even just saying this, I'm realizing that's not going to be easy for some people to hear and that's fine. What's important to me is what works. What I have seen repeatedly is women expecting their husbands to communicate with them about their feelings in a purely verbal fashion, meaning your communication, any communication that I'm getting from you that's nonverbal isn't really as valid and until you sit down and you pour your heart out to me and you open up to me, I don't feel that same sense of connection.

I want to read you a quote from Esther Perel. If you know her, she's phenomenal. She wrote a book called Mating in Captivity and she talks about this a little bit. She says, "Interestingly, while our need for intimacy has become paramount, the way we conceive of it has narrowed. We no longer plow the land together. Today, we talk. We have come to glorify verbal communication." She goes on to talk about how she feels it's not a coincidence that as women have had more independence historically and being able to work and take care of themselves, and don't have to get married, so now they can have higher demands of a marriage and so now, the expectation is for more verbalization because they can have that expectation because they aren't sort of trapped in their marriages in the same way as they would've been if they couldn't provide for themselves.

I love the way she says that. She says, "the way we conceive of intimacy has narrowed." If it's not verbal communication, there can't be intimacy there. That is a thought that can be very harmful and very difficult. If what you're expecting from your husband again is that pour your heart out conversation, which I'm not saying that those conversations are bad. I'm not saying that they don't give you something that maybe you need, but to expect them of your husband if that's not what's natural for him and hopefully, you'll know what's natural for him at this point. If not, he can tell you, it can set you up for unnecessary disappointment.

What I think is even worse is that if you're only expecting, if you're only valuing that verbal communication, then again, you're not valuing any other communication you're getting from him. Is there something that he does that shows you that he loves you? Does he always make your coffee in the morning? Or does he always put his phone down when you walk in the door? If he doesn't, don't start getting annoyed with him. Looking for accurate and specific verbalization of every emotional experience is a more feminine trait. It doesn't mean that he can't do it. Again, your husband might have ... We're all this combination of masculine and feminine so if he might be more feminine in his verbalization, but generally speaking, you're creating an imbalance of what the relationships should look like. If you are a woman married to a man, it's not really fair for the expectation for a good relationship to be a feminine expectation.

But more importantly, and this is something we can apply in every area is you always want to question what you're making it mean. If someone comes and says to me, "My husband doesn't tell me how he's feeling," so what does that mean for you? He doesn't tell you how he's feeling so what? Does that mean you have more time to do other things? No, obviously, this is something you're feeling is negative. One tool that I give my clients a lot is to just flip the statement completely. If you're saying to me, "My husband doesn't me now he's feeling," I want you to start trying on the thought, "My husband always tells me how he's feeling," and how might that happen? Your brain again is going to go look for evidence to prove whatever you're thinking.

If you're saying, "My husband doesn't tell me how he's feeling," you're going to notice all the times that he's not telling you how he's feeling. But if you try on the thought, "My husband always tells me how he's feeling," then you might notice that whenever he's sad, he always asks to curl up and watch a movie together or when he's having a really good day, he touches you more. Suddenly, you might become open and start picking up on all the ways he is telling you how he's feeling.

I want you to question any other beliefs and any other thoughts that you're having about the communication between you and your husband. Maybe it's not he doesn't tell me how he's feeling. Maybe it's he doesn't listen to me. Again, the first step is what if you just flip that? My husband does listen to me, and just see what comes up. In what ways does he listen to you? Maybe you're going to keep getting all these reasons that he doesn't listen to you, but you'll probably find at least one or two ways in which he does listen. He always reads your text messages maybe. When you send him a Gchat when you guys are both at work, does he respond at some point? He's listening to you there.

When we start to kind of open that up, first of all, we feel so much better. I think a lot of the struggle of that first year of marriage is that because a lot of us experience that kind of insecurity, it's such an enormous transition that the smallest thought like my husband doesn't tell me or my husband doesn't listen let's say, it seems very threatening. It's my husband doesn't listen, but now I'm married to him and maybe that will mean this doesn't work, what does look like 10 years down the line and what about when you have children? All these other things come barreling on top of my husband doesn't listen.

When we can start to say, "He doesn't listen except he always reads my text messages," so now suddenly the charge has gone out of that thought. It's not as scary a thought and I'm not saying it's not something that you never bring up. I'm not saying that's not something that you ever try and improve that area of your relationship, but it can be very hard to try and make improvements or adjustments in your relationship if you are coming from a place of anxiety and fear and stress. Whenever we can kind of remove that charge, we can come at it from a place of funk, creativity and connection, and that can often get us much better results so that's always what we want.

Again, your homework for this week is to think about what beliefs you have about your communication with your spouse, to start to notice ways in which your husband might be communicating with you non-verbally and to start flipping some of those beliefs that you did have, that you did find. As you start to sort of dig them up, flip them and try on the opposite. I hope this exercise goes well for you. I would love to hear from you. You can send me messages @firstyearmarried on Instagram or put comments on the episode.

You can always find the episode notes at firstyearmarried.com and on there, I'm going to put a great article about how male and female brains really are built differently. They talk very nicely in that article about how historically, it's been used to create male-dominated environment and how this research is a little bit has to be treated very delicately because of the way it's been sort of used as ammo against women in the past, but that now, we're sort of getting to a place where we can look at it objectively and take what's valuable from it. I'm also going to give you a link to these two books that I brought up so Esther Perel's book, Mating in Captivity and Leonard Sax's book, Why Gender Matters.

Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of the First Year Married. I would love to have you join me on this podcasting journey so please subscribe to the podcast. It makes a huge difference in the very beginning because it really helps the show gain visibility and again, for those of you who have subscribed, we are beyond thrilled with the number of subscribes and listens we've gotten so far so thank you so much.

If you do want to take this work further, I have a free class on my website that teaches the basic tool that I use with all of my coaching clients. It's a self-coaching tool. You can take it and you can use it. You don't have to be in your first year of marriage. It's not really specific to that, but it's a tool that I'm just so excited to share with everybody. It has been really, really game changing for myself and for many of my clients. You can get that. It's completely free at firstyearmarried.com I hope you get a chance to check it out and enjoy. See you next time on the podcast.

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