We Need to Talk…

July 29, 2015

in Uncategorized

I tweeted the following recently:

Wife says: “We need to talk.”
He thinks: “Red alert, shields to maximum, charge phasers, ready torpedoes.”

I realise “We need to talk” can mean anything from I want to tell you how wonderful you are to I’m running away with the guy who cleans our pool, but men ALWAYS hear this as a warning of impending disaster. We figure you’re about to drop a bomb, and this is our warning to dig a hole and hide.

We need to talk road block © Thomas R. | dollarphotoclub.com

Obviously, this is not the reaction you want. It means he will try to avoid the conversation, and it means he will not be receptive when you corner him.

So how do you arrange time to talk?

My suggestion is to set a weekly time for deep communication. If you have something difficult to discuss, do it then. If life is good, use your weekly talk time to tell him how wonderful he is. Compliment him on specific things. This makes talk time far less scary. 

If you can manage it, doing this while away from home is a good idea. Make it part of your date night, or agree to go for a walk together for your weekly talk.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I’m so very glad my wonderful wife doesn’t use that phrase!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynn July 29, 2015 at 4:12 am

Years ago someone told me to be careful about using the word ‘but’ because it cancels out whatever came before it. “I love you, but…” She said, try using the word “and” instead. It really does make a difference. “You did a great job on the yard, sweetie, and can you also trim around my rosebushes?”

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Paul Byerly July 29, 2015 at 12:44 pm

@Lynn – Excellent point!
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IntimacySeeker July 29, 2015 at 8:14 am

“men ALWAYS hear this as a warning of impending disaster” Why?

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Rosemary July 29, 2015 at 8:47 am

Any sentence that starts with “men always” or “women always” is overstating the case. (In school we were taught that on true/false tests the words “always” and “never” were clues that the answer was false.) However, in general, both men and women have been, to some extent, socially conditioned to think that the phrase “We need to talk” is likely to introduce something difficult or unpleasant. It’s a cultural cliche. If you watch TV or movies, you will see it used this way all the time. In real life, not all men (or women) will respond negatively to this phrase, especially if you are careful about context and tone of voice. But why take a chance?
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Paul Byerly July 29, 2015 at 12:45 pm

@Rosemary – In this case it’s really not overstating the case. There may be a man out there who does not feel this, but I have yet to meet him.
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Rosemary July 30, 2015 at 10:30 am

@Paul – Then i’ll introduce you to my husband.
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Paul Byerly July 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm

@IntimacySeeker – Rosemary is right about a cultural understanding on this. Beyond that, it’s not how men usually talk, so they don’t have a built in response. It’s unknown and therefore potentially dangerous.
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sunny-dee July 29, 2015 at 8:43 am

Does that reaction apply if the statement is specific? “Hey, we need to talk about how much to set aside for that vacation.”

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Paul Byerly July 29, 2015 at 12:46 pm

@sunny-dee – A much better and safer way to go.
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CSL July 29, 2015 at 10:44 am

“Honey, I need help understanding ….”
“Dear, can you tell me why ….”
“XYZ needs our attention….”
“Babe, can you clear something up for me?”

These and others are vastly preferred over the note to the principa vibel that “We need to talk” evokes.

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IntimacySeeker July 29, 2015 at 12:01 pm

@Rosemary – good points about “always” and “never.”
@ Sunny-dee – I was thinking part of the problem with the statement is its lack of specific content. The reason for the fear and angst is we leave them wondering and they figure if we can’t say what it’s about, it is probably unpleasant.

I suppose the statement implies there is something uncomfortable that has been on one’s mind for quite some time and she hasn’t found the nerve to bring it up. Kind of like an annual performance review at work, when there has been no communication about your work performance for an entire year, and now there is a formal appointment to discuss it. Trust is diminished when we leave things unsaid.

Yet, I think Paul’s choice of words are extreme: “We figure you’re about to drop a bomb, and this is our warning to dig a hole and hide.” Give us the benefit of the doubt, trust that we have your best interests at heart, rejoice that we are ready to share whatever we’ve been troubled by (if that is indeed the case), and know that we can face issues together, as a team.

Some of the “talks” I’ve experienced with my husband deepened our intimacy immensely, more so than sex. Even if we had to face something painful, we were stronger on the other side. When I have said, “we need to talk,” he responded, “I am here for you and want to hear whatever you need to share.” He acted in a mature way and treated me with respect. I love him for that.

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Jerry Stumpf July 30, 2015 at 11:22 am

Great discussion on communication.

Once dialogue is open and free-flowing, any and every issue in a marriage can be worked out. Sometimes, as others have mentioned, it depends upon how the conversation is brought to the other spouse.
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