DEAR AMY: Lately, when my wife asks questions, she is really dissatisfied with the answers. Can you suggest a book I could read that would help me listen better to her questions, and provide shorter, on-point answers without extra or extraneous exposition? Communicating with her using the speech patterns that I have always used will not work, as she doesn’t accept that anymore.
DEAR WONDERING: I give you props for realizing that if you do something differently, you might successfully change the current dynamic between you and your wife. I like the book, “Communication Miracles for Couples: Easy and Effective Tools to Create More Love and Less Conflict,” by Jonathan Robinson (2012, Conari Press).
Robinson is a couples therapist who offers a number of practical tools you could use to try to reset this dynamic. He believes that each person needs the “three A’s” to communicate well: Acknowledgment, appreciation, and acceptance. This means that you could start by “acknowledging” your wife’s position, even if you think it’s wrong: “I can see that you disagree with me because your experience has been different than mine.”
Another very popular book that has successfully ignited lots of thoughtful conversation between the generations in my giant family is “The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts,” by Gary Chapman (2015, Northfield Publications). This book will help you to reframe your own perceptions of how you and your wife communicate.
Communication is not only through words, but through behavior. Changing some of your nonverbal communication (and understanding hers) may offer you a useful perspective and deeper understanding of why you are in a rough patch.
I also need to add that it is not always necessary to have your point of view validated. If your wife asks a question and you answer it respectfully and to the best of your ability, then she should be free to accept or reject your answer, without you feeling that you have somehow “lost” a round in the communication sweepstakes.
DEAR AMY: We used to live in another state and were friends with a couple and their family. We had to move for a few reasons and things got a little strained. The daughter of our friend is 25 years old. She and her latest boyfriend came for a visit and stayed in my home, ate with us and used my car for about a week. The girl’s grandparents live in the area but they didn’t stay with them. I never heard from them or the girl’s mother after their visit. Recently, this girl and the boyfriend broke up. Then she lost her job. My husband is currently working out of the country. The girl contacted my husband to say she would like to get away and would like to stay with me in our house. I was a bit annoyed that she didn’t contact me but I called her and said it would be OK. She booked her trip and never contacted me. She stayed with friends in the area and went clubbing for four days before she contacted me and said her friend would drop her off the following day. I told her to keep in touch. Next day — nothing. Following day — nothing. Two more days went by — nothing. I sent her a text: “I thought you needed to get away and clear your head. I think when you are done with your friends you need to go home.” She sent the text to her mom who forwarded it to my husband (who is still working abroad). He called me, very upset. I have not heard from the girl or her mom. What do you think of this?
Hostess with the Leastest
DEAR HOSTESS: This young woman seemed to want to use your home as her in-town crash pad, and given her lack of respect during her time in your town, I think your response was completely appropriate. When your husband is away, it is your responsibility to run the household at your discretion, and he should have backed you up.
The good news is that you are likely permanently off of this family’s list of housing options.