Relationship Basics

The Definitive Guide to Communicating with Your Lady

After hitting Publish on “The Definitive Guide to Understanding Your Man”, I had a bit of a moment: It’s not right to expect only women to dig deep and try to see things from the other side, is it? And to be fair to the men among us— it’s not that I think women do all the work in every relationship. I’ve seen couples held together by the male counterpart just as often as I’ve seen women bending over backwards for their man. Doesn’t it make sense to create a guide for the men too? I know there are men out there who want to listen harder, understand better, and put the time and focus into being the best mate they can be to the women they fall asleep next to every night.

Like my other guide, this one pulls together psychological research, advice gleaned from therapy sessions with Dr. Crane, and my own experiences with my husband, all for the purpose of giving you a no-bullshit resource for better communicating with your main squeeze.

Are you ready?

If you’re a man reading this, prepare to take notes, because I’ve poured my heart and mind into giving you a resource jam-packed with tips and actionable steps to better communicate with your leading lady! And ladies, this might be the perfect article to print off and suggest—nicely!  to your husband or boyfriend. This could be the spark you need for beginning a new, deeper conversation about how the two of you relate.

My hope is that these two guides will help us all on our quest of learning how to love and understand the one we’re with. We can’t change that we’re different (and would we honestly want that?), but we can change how we navigate those differences.

Okay, gentlemen, are you ready for some communication tips you can start implementing today? Here we go:

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1. Let her know that you want to understand.

We all know the stereotypes about men and women: Women are driven by emotions and talk, talk, talk… while men are driven by logic and want to get to the point. Of course that is generalization but whether your lady does or not, it’s important to remember that your partner is not just any woman, she’s your woman. You don’t have to understand the entire female species, but it will take your relationship to the next level if you show her that you want to understand her.

So how do you let her know that you want to understand her? That you want to be the one person in the world who really knows her? For starters, make sure you clear your mind of distractions and really tune in when she’s pouring her heart out to you. But whether you’re in the midst of deep conversations or daily chitchat, start asking clarifying questions like these:

  • “How does __________ make you feel?”
  • “What do I do for you that makes you feel most loved?”
  • “What do you wish I knew about you?”
  • “What can I do to help?”

 

Watch her face light up

You might feel silly at first, but watch her face light up when she realizes that you’re serious. That you want to get her like no one else does. Look at her when she’s talking to you— for goodness sake, if you’re being distracted by your TV or phone, turn them off! Sometimes it might feel like she’s talking in circles, or she brings up the same topic 3 nights in a row (guilty!), but remember that just because you have different communication styles does not make one better than the other!

“When a man can listen to a woman’s feelings without getting angry and frustrated, he gives her a wonderful gift. He makes it safe for her to express herself. The more she is able to express herself, the more she feels heard and understood, and the more she is able to give a man the loving trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement that he needs.”  ― John Gray

In the end, the lady in your life simply wants to feel connected to you. Simple, right? She wants to know that you are trying to understand her. She wants to know that she’s worth that effort to you. So next time you’re sitting across the table and find yourself tuning her out but nodding your head as if you’re listening— my hubby is so guilty of that move!— catch yourself. Take a deep breath. Lean in. Ask her to repeat herself. Ask her to clarify. Show her that you’re listening and that you want to know her more. I can guarantee that if you make active questioning and listening a regular part of your relationship, you will see her open up to you in ways she never has before.

“Take a deep breath. Lean in. Ask her to repeat herself. Ask her to clarify. Show her that you’re listening and that you want to know her more.”

 

2. When she has an issue, let her talk it out.

In my article on men’s communication I talked about how my husband likes to retreat to his “cave” for a while before he’s tackling a problem (which is like every other day but who’s counting). Women often deal with conflict in the opposite way (‘cuz life can’t be too easy, right?). John Gray talks about women’s reaction to stress in his book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus:

“A women under stress is not immediately concerned with finding solutions to her problems but rather seeks relief by expressing herself and being understood.” John Gray

This difference is probably my biggest hurdle with my own husband. When a relationship issue stops me dead in my tracks, I want to talk it through now so I can feel better by processing out loud— he, on the other hand, wants time. What usually happens is that he stonewalls me when I dive in immediately, and we know that’s never good. Sure, later he’ll approach me to say he’s worked through it and is ready to talk, but at that point? I’m hurt or angry… or both.

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Patience is a virtue…

A few years back, HuffPost did a piece on gender differences. The article explained how women want to talk through a tense moment between zero and ten minutes after the incident. It went on to say that men usually want at least 5-10 hours to join a rational discussion. This part stuck with me for days:

“As a woman, learning to momentarily drop a subject is a truly valuable skill. Now, should women constantly be the ones to compromise? No. However …  both in this case and generally, developing patience is probably one of the biggest gifts a woman can give her partner — and herself.” — Shannon Oliver Leyko, Huffington Post

As a woman, I can tell you that patience in the midst of tension is difficult stuff. I try to let my anger cool before bringing it up, but my gut reaction— and most women’s gut reactions, it seems— is to tackle the discussion ASAP. While it’s helpful for the woman in your life to work on her patience, one of the biggest gifts you can give her is to let her talk it out when she needs to… At the very least, agree to a set time when you can talk rationally, so that she doesn’t feel like she’s waiting indefinitely.

All these tips can be overwhelming— I get it. Changing habits is hard to do and never happens overnight. It takes time and for many of us, will take some kind of coaching. I know dudes aren’t easily swayed in the direction of seeking help but honestly, it’s proven to help your life and you can do it in secrecy— nobody has to know!

That’s why I love e-therapy from Talkspace. E-therapy is the new modern take on counseling and allows you to connect with your chosen therapist via chat, anytime, anyplace. That means you can have a session in the privacy of your own office. A quick 30-min catch up to get some tips on how to handle certain situations. Remember what my therapist, Dr. Crane says? Couples come to see him 7 years too late. Talkspace will only cost you $32/week. Seriously? Give it a bash, you’ve got nothing to lose!

3. She wants to feel worth your time.

This piggybacks off of the last one, and is crucial to cultivating intimacy in your communication. If the woman in your life doesn’t feel like you value her enough to set aside time for her, she will wither inside.

“When I sit with my wife and give her twenty minutes of my undivided attention and she does the same for me, we are giving each other twenty minutes of life. We will never have those twenty minutes again; we are giving our lives to each other. It is a powerful emotional communicator of love.”  Gary Chapman

I get it— you men are the warriors of the household, focused on worrying about how to make ends meet and fulfilling your dreams of success. At least this is what my husband is like. We have been on both sides of the financial spectrum in our lives, and to be honest, whether he’s near or far from reaching his goals, he is a very distracted fella. My hubby doesn’t usually realize when he’s withdrawn from me, so I have to ask him to snap out of it. Men, as women we crave uninterrupted time. I need my husband’s time. I need his attention and his engagement in whatever is going on in my life. I also need him to show me that he values me enough to slow down and share with me what’s going on in his.

It’s not complaining, it’s venting

Guys, here’s another thing you should know when your woman wants to spend time connecting through talking: If it seems negative at first, it’s because we need to vent. It’s not because we want all of our communication to center around complaining. And it’s not an underhanded critique of you. Trust me, we would just come out and say it if it was. This is a tough one for stay-at-home moms especially. Think about it for a second—  If you spent half your day picking up after little ones, making meals without a hint of gratitude in return, and generally performing menial tasks, wouldn’t you need to vent for a few minutes when you see your first adult at the end of the day?

The explanation is actually quite simple. Science tells us that women have a bigger language center in their brains than men, which means that, “Women have this huge need— much greater than men, even though men have it, too— to vent their frustrations, their disappointments and problems” (Huffington Post). Please, please, please don’t take our venting as criticism! It’s not! We’re simply wired to let go of stress through language.

John Gray suggests having a “Venus Talk”— a ten-minute time for women to have a chance to reduce their stress through talking— at least three times a week. This doesn’t mean men can’t have a say; it’s simply a way to acknowledge the ladies’ need to “talk it out” on a regular basis.

Please, please, please don’t take our venting as criticism! It’s not! We’re simply wired to let go of stress through language.”

 

4. Emotional connection first, sex second.

Oh boy, here we go, right? Sex can be a hot-button topic in relationships. Love lives differ wildly, but there’s one thing that I think most women can agree on: We focus on emotional needs first, sex second. Notice I’m not saying sex never! The truth is, gentlemen, if you focus on connecting with your lady emotionally, any sex that follows will be so much better. Why? Because she will feel more relaxed. More confident. More loved. More sexy.

“Men are motivated when they feel needed while women are motivated when they feel cherished.” John Gray

Have you ever heard of the term “Habituation?” Verywell.com describes this as “a decrease in response to a stimulus after repeated presentation.” This is like when you buy that shiny new tech toy that you can’t stop looking at, or thinking about, or using. After time you become desensitized to it. It loses its allure. See where I’m going with this?

Women need to feel that they are still special to you. Still attractive to you and cherished by you. My husband and I have been together for years; and now with kids in the house, it’s even more difficult to feel cherished. I know my husband loves me, but I still crave affirmations of his attraction to me and need to not feel taken for granted.

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Mark Twain

Compliments are key

This isn’t foreplay. This isn’t an affirming smack on the booty (though those can have their place!). It’s important to tend to your lady’s emotional needs with no strings attached. Will sex sometimes follow? Of course! But not every time, and that shouldn’t be the point. You love your wife, right? She’s the person you chose to stand by forever, and she deserves to continue feeling like you would choose her today.

“Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love.”  Gary Chapman

Compliments are key, but there are other ways to help meet your wife or girlfriend’s emotional needs. Only you know the things that make her feel most cherished (because you had that conversation in section #1, right?). As I’ve said before, there’s nothing like intensive study on the one person you need to know how to love best: your partner.

There are many ways to make a woman feels cherished, and every woman is different. Here are some ideas to start:

  • You can support the leading lady in your life by encouraging her to reduce stress and feel special through sensory stimulation, like a massage or a warm bubble bath.
  • You can take walks with her because you know she loves nature.
  • You can take her to a comedy club for your next date night, since you know she loves to laugh and laughing is a great stress reliever.
  • You can compliment her in written form, through a love letter or frequent texts.
  • Sometimes her emotional needs are best met by someone else, and that’s okay too: you can encourage her to go out for a girls’ night, or call her best friend and chat.

The sky’s the limit here, gents! The point is this: To truly connect to the woman in your life, you have to know how to make her feel cherished.

 

Let’s wrap it up here.

It may feel like you have a long road ahead of you when it comes to communicating well with the woman you love. The truth? Yes. But remember why you love her in the first place. Remember what sparked that attraction, what keeps you wanting to get closer to her, and what makes you want to spend your time in her presence.

The efforts you make to communicate better with her may go unnoticed at first. Before long though, if you’re truly trying to understand her, talking through your issues, setting aside time to talk, and meeting her needs (letting her know she’s cherished) you will start to see her face light up like never before. This might not come naturally to you, but it will be worth it!

In the end, remember that communication with the one you love only gets better with time and effort. Navigating your communication and love language differences with respect and affirmation will work wonders on your relationship. Get started now, and enjoy feeling more connected with the one you love.