Why Can’t My Spouse Hear What I’m Thinking?
Soon after I graduated from Ole Miss I began to date my wife. Still living in Oxford, I passed on the exciting news to my campus minister who gave me a little advice that took several years for me to fully appreciate. In so many words he said: be mindful of what your expectations of her are, as expectations can quickly kill relationships.
We live in a media-driven world. The media works hard to convince us that if we are with the right person, our significant other should be able to finish our sentences (or sandwiches…if you are more like a Disney Princess), anticipate our needs and intuit our desires without ever openly talking about any of it. I can think of very little that could be more damaging to a marriage than this popular belief. You might think it is a silly topic to write about. However, I frequently sit with couples who feel unfulfilled in their relationships. These couples point to all the ways their spouse is not what they had anticipated.
The media works hard to convince us that if we are with the right person, our significant other should be able to finish our sentences, anticipate our needs and intuit our desires without ever openly talking about any of it.
The Effects of Unspoken Expectations
What happens when we have unspoken expectations? The impact is subtle and prolonged in its effects. We barely notice it at first. After all, when you first get hitched you both make frequent blunders.
Unspoken expectations may form about issues like:
- Quality time
The list can become overwhelming!
Step one is creating a marriage where it is safe and encouraged to voice your desires. However, this step is a very large, complicated, and is best made with guidance. Healthy parent models or effective pre-marital counseling help some learn to communicate more easily. If these uncommunicated desires aren’t addressed in the early years of a relationship, resentment may begin to settle in and metastasize. What was once fondness for your one true love can grow into contempt.
How to Communicate Your Expectations
It is not far-fetched to begin to wonder if you married the “right person.” After all, your spouse is supposed to complete you, right? What can you do when your expectations have eroded your desire to be with your spouse?
First, acknowledge that you have expectations that you have not shared but that are important to you. This opens the door for a meaningful conversation as your desire is to be in a more intimate relationship with your spouse. Second, avoid using the word “you.” Instead, share your experience. Use “I heard”, “I thought” and “I felt.” Using “I” statements helps you to pursue intimacy with your spouse and seek growth in the relationship.
Seek the challenging but fulfilling work of learning to communicate lovingly and openly with your spouse.
Resist the urge to just vent. Give your spouse room to reply without interruption, especially if you disagree. When sincere, this sends a clear message that they are more important than your ego or position on a topic. Occasionally your spouse may have an insight to share that you have not considered, so listen graciously. We often must remove the log in our own eye before we can address the splinter in our spouse’s eye.
Express Yourself with Respect
No earthly relationship will fully complete us, and when we elevate our spouses to this level, we find that relationships break under the pressure. To heal and grow, couples must begin to grieve the time they spent disconnected and find healing in sharing their wants and needs with each other. Express your hurt feelings, but do not lose sight of the respect and dignity that your spouse deserves. They deserve respect not based on their own merit but because they bear the image of their Creator.
Remember, love is shown through ongoing actions, sacrifice, and daily kindness as it was first shown to us by our Father in Heaven. We love because He first loved us.
Learn to Communicate with Watershed
Begin your journey today by rejecting the Hollywood mold of the perfect mate. Then seek the challenging but fulfilling work of learning to communicate lovingly and openly with your spouse.
Watershed Counseling offers couples therapy for couples who want to learn to communicate effectively with one another. Contact us to make a first appointment.