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I had to learn the hard way, early in marriage, that my husband was incapable of reading my mind. As a sensor feeler, I could easily detect when something was off with him. I could see it written all over his face, hear it in his voice, or watch it walk in the front door with him.

But he does not see the world like I do. He needed me to explain it to him, to let him understand why I was upset. But instead of using my words, I just expected him to know, to correct, to change. It was unfair to him. It seemed so very obvious to me, and yet no matter how vigorously I cleaned the house and gave him the silent treatment, he just wasn’t getting it. (I miss that clean house.)

When I finally learned to communicate my expectations or clarify what he was saying by repeating back what I heard, life got so much easier.

He often tells me now, “Men need it spelled out for them, we cannot read your minds.” And they shouldn’t have to—not if we are communicating with them in a way they understand. No one understands pouting, mood swings, or the silent treatment—it’s just annoying. And it’s not a gender issue; men also pout, and women can’t read minds. 

It’s such an easy concept, this thing called communication. And yet, so often we shut down, close off, clam up, ignore, and distance ourselves from the person and the problem. I grew up in a household with terrible communication skills. We just didn’t communicate. Period. I am the proverbial deer in the headlights in a tough conversation. I’d rather crawl in a hole than have conflict.

But stuffing your feelings creates a snowball effect. You might simmer down and let it pass, but the next time it rears its ugly head, you’ll probably end up losing your temper, completely overreacting, or having a very unnecessary fight.

The person you are in a relationship with does not understand what you are thinking unless you tell him. This holds true for all relationships, not just marriage.

If you think about the way you’ve reacted or how someone you love has reacted to a misunderstanding, answer me this: 

Did it help when he walked away in a huff?
Stopped talking to you?
Pouted?
Distanced himself?

Did that make you want to chase after him? To figure it out? Or were you thankful for the peace and quiet? Did you head in the other direction hoping that whatever foul mood had befallen him would pass on its own? Has this method ever worked, for anyone, anywhere?

It is not fair to get mad at your spouse for not understanding what you want if you are not clearly telling him what you need.

If necessary, put one hand on either side of his face, look directly into his eyes and clearly share your expectations. Otherwise, you cannot blame him if he doesn’t meet those expectations. I’m assuming here that your expectations are valid . . . pick your battles.

If his behavior is bothering you and you refuse to talk it through, you better just learn to accept it and stop letting it annoy you or hurt your feelings. At that point, it’s on you. Remember, people don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know what you are thinking unless you tell them. No one can read your mind.

For some of you, this seems ridiculously elementary—but others may have been taught not to express feelings or have a hard time resolving conflict. Communication is a learned skill, and you can change how you react and learn to communicate your feelings loud and clear for all to hear. 

Some wives are still wondering why their husbands don’t understand them after 50 years of marriage. They are still hiding in their rooms, stomping around the house, playing silent victims, or bickering about it at the dinner table. How’s that working for you?

He cannot read your mind . . . even if you’ve been giving him pieces of it all these years. 

One of my favorite quotes is from the lovely and wise Brené Brown, from her book, Dare to Lead. She writes: “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”

It’s not rocket science. As we tell our kids, just use your words. 

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Kristin Schlegel

Kristin and her husband have been married for 30 years. She found writing to be very therapeutic after losing their son, John, to the opioid epidemic at the age of 24. She hopes her writing will help other bereaved parents know that they are not alone.

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