Mean What you Say

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Big Man and I were watching a typical sit-com scene where the man asks his wife for permission to do an activity, she says “yes,” and later he gets in trouble for doing said activity. Big Man looked at me and said, “Well, he hasn’t been married long enough to know that when she says ‘yes’ she really means ‘we will talk about it later.’ See, when a guy says ‘yes’ he actually means it. Girls mean something different.”

Now, Big Man said this to me jokingly and we laughed about it, but it got me thinking. Is that really true? I know it is a common stereotype about men and women and marriage and it provides endless fodder for comedy sketches. Is it really so common that women say one thing and mean something completely different? And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is quite common.

I am not saying all women do this. Nor am I saying that all men “say what they mean and mean what they say.” But I am saying that men and women communicate differently and misunderstanding is bound to happen. One of the parts of a healthy marriage is living in understanding with your spouse and I think that includes speaking truthfully and clearly. So I have been thinking about my own communication style and wondering how many times I have told Big Man one thing while meaning something entirely different. And sadly, I’ve come up with a lot of examples. If I am really honest with myself, I can even find examples where I was intentionally manipulative or less-than-honest in what I said. And that is definitely not OK.

I shouldn’t be making it difficult for Big Man to understand me. I shouldn’t be playing mind games and making him guess my true meaning. I should say what I mean. And mean what I say. It’s not really an optional thing. Jesus was pretty clear on “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for I’m fine when I am really not, or I don’t care which restaurant when I really do. It definitely doesn’t allow for Yes honey, go have fun and then the cold shoulder when he gets home. I’m trying to get better at saying what I mean. Speaking clearly and honestly and not engaging in half-truths or double meanings. I don’t want Big Man to feel wary every time I say something and wonder what it is I really mean. I don’t want to say one thing and mean another.

I know we will still have misunderstandings and times when we don’t communicate well. We’re both human and there are inherent differences in communication style. But if I do my best to let my yes be yes, that can only improve things.

Courtesy

We’ve been in a busy and stressful phase for the last few weeks here. Little Man has been potty training, and Little Lady is completely in the “I’ll put everything in my mouth” stage, so she needs to be watched pretty much all the time. Plus, she has just recently decided that 2:30 a.m. is Baby Party Time, and she doesn’t party quietly. Those things, added to the normal everyday life of work and family commitments, take their toll after a while.

I’ve found that the more tired and stressed I get, the easier it is for me to overreact to little things and get frustrated. And when I’m stressed and frustrated, I’m not the greatest person to be around. I get impatient, snap at Big Man, and I’m not very gracious about little annoyances that I should just ignore or let go. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be a better wife and mom even during the stressful times.

The first thing I know is that I have to continue making my quiet time with God a priority. I let that slip for a couple days, and I can tell a big difference (and not a good one) in my thoughts and behavior. So as much as it feels counter-intuitive sometimes when I have a zillion things to do, I need to make sure quiet time goes to the top of that list because without that, everything else suffers.

Secondly, I’ve been finding that the quickest way for me to get over being frustrated and acting badly toward my family is to purposely be extra-nice and courteous. On a day when Little Man has had lots of accidents and I’m sick of doing extra cleaning and laundry, I get frustrated with him. If I let that frustration take its course and become impatient or angry with Little Man, it doesn’t help at all. The only result is that I feel guilty. So instead, I’ve been trying to purposely be extra kind to him. Give him a back rub while he snuggles with me, read him a couple extra books, play Fruit Ninja with him on the iPad, or give him airplane rides on my feet even if my legs are already tired. And the result is that I not only feel good about making the right choice, I also find that my frustration goes away much more quickly.

I’ve been trying to do the same with Big Man as well. Too often, I let myself take out my stress and frustration on him, and I don’t want to be that kind of wife. So if I’m feeling annoyed or angry, I try to be extra courteous. Just little things, like getting him a drink, giving him a quick shoulder rub, or telling him that he is a great dad and husband. Purposely choosing to do courteous and loving things when I don’t feel like it really goes a long way toward keeping the peace, and it also calms me down quickly. It’s hard to keep feeling frustrated with someone when you are going out of your way to be generous and kind to him.

I’m not trying to be fake, or sweep things under the rug. If there is a serious discipline issue with Little Man, or a legitimate disagreement with Big Man, then those things have to be dealt with. But those are rare compared with the little things I overreact to when I’m stressed. In most cases, I’m just getting upset about silly stuff, and the conscious decision to be generous and kind instead of grumpy really helps. There are definitely still days when I blow it and let my emotions take over, but hopefully I’ll get better as I continue to be purposely courteous, especially when I don’t feel like it.