Ever get the feeling you and your bride speak different languages which use the same words but have different meaning for some of the words? Some of this is gender based, some is based on culture and personal history. However, beyond this, there may be some distortion because of some past injury.
- As a simple example – if she was called “silly” over and over growing up, and was made to feel stupid and useless by this, then you’re saying she is acting silly, or an idea she has is still, is going to be heard by her as something very different than what you wanted to communicate. For her that word is emotionally loaded, and unless your goal is to hurt her, you should avoid using that word.
- Another example – her dad would say “that’s not important” as a way of dismissing anything she wanted that he was unwilling to do. If you use the phrase “I don’t think that’s important” what she is going to hear is that what you think and want is more important than anything she might think or want.
- Third example – a previous boyfriend would compliment her appearance only when he was trying to get sex. Therefore, when you tell her she looks nice, she feels those old feelings, and likely wonders why you would want to use her.
The problem is you have no idea what words are distorted by her wounds, and once she is hit by one of those words she is not in a place to calmly explain it to you. She feels hurt, you feel defensive, and it spirals down from there. Often things quickly get to the point where you have no hope of knowing what word or phrase caused the problem, or even that the problem is due to how she heard something. That means it’s probably going to happen again – and again – and again.
If you suspect some of this in your marriage (and to some degree we all have it) you can play detective to find the secret words and phrases that you should avoid. When she reacts in a way that seems odd, try to make a mental note of it. Over time, you should be able to home in on words and phrases that hurt her. If you communicate well with her, take a more direct approach and ask her – when things are going well – what words and phrases she hates. Ask her what negative or mean things she heard growing up. Ask her to give you a list of ten words or phrases she would like you never using with her. Do the same with her – let her know the things that sting you because of what others have said in the past.