How to Understand What Your Spouse is Thinking

“I don’t know why Ed doesn’t get it,” Nancy complained to Karen. “I simply don’t know where he is coming from! I try to explain my thoughts and feelings to him and it is like he is living in a different world!!”

As Karen intently listened, Nancy continued. “I am worried about him not caring about us anymore. Maybe there’s another woman. Maybe I just don’t get it. I don’t understand, I am totally confused, Karen!!”

Karen thought for a moment and replied, “Everything may be different for Ed than it is for you. His world is different, everybody’s is. Jerry and I had a similar problem until we took the time to listen to one another. Then I was able to see how he felt from his point of view. I am wondering if you are aware of how Ed sees things.”

Are you experiencing a problem similar to Nancy’s?

Karen is on to something. A couple may share their home, their lives, and their love.But they do not share everything and they experience their worlds in different ways. It is important to understand these differences to foster a healthy marriage.

The Truth is Hard to Come By

The truth is a moving target and depends on whom you ask and how that person feels about it. The truth varies as the experience varies.

The only person that can judge the truth of their experience is the person whose truth it is.

It is important to understand your partner’s reality and perspective as he or she has experienced it. Being human, you cannot truly determine if your understanding is correct or not, but you should put forth an effort to do so. A person must accept the limitations they have concerning the extent of understanding someone else. You need to allow that you may be misinterpreting what your partner tells you.

When there are problems and conflicts in a marriage, most couples get into trouble when they try to establish what is the truth. There is no way to know what the truth is unless you have the actual video tape. Even if you were reviewing the actual tape, you could still disagree about what happened. You could each just focus on different aspects of the experience to create differing opinions.

If there is an incident involving you and your spouse that later leads to an argument, you each have your own perspective about what happened. You want your spouse to agree with your view of what happened. If you are like most couples, you get into an argument trying to convince the other about the truth, when in reality there is no single truth.

If you want to learn how to start understanding each other, here are some guidelines.

Techniques for Understanding Your Spouse

If you have been reading my posts, you already know how important it is for you to move from being adversaries to being friends. Most couples can’t just turn a switch and start acting as friends. I suggest you plan how you can be a best friend to your spouse, and practice thinking of your spouse as a best friend at times when there is no conflict.

Whether together or apart, you should practice thinking of your spouse as a friend when you are not arguing. You want to be conditioned to thinking “friend” when you imagine your spouse so that the thought becomes an attitude. Then, when there is a potentially contentious situation, it can be diffused, as you will be thinking as a “friend”.

Here are some guidelines to better understand your spouse:

Guideline 1: Listen like a friend. Set aside the idea of the truth as you see it and listen to understand your spouse’s experience. You probably won’t like your partner’s view. You don’t have to agree with it, but it is important that you understand it thoroughly and completely as best that you can.

Guideline 2: Demonstrate your understanding of your spouse’s truth by explaining it out loud. Your explanation should sound good to your spouse.

Guideline 3: When you speak about emotionally laden topics, keep your points short. When emotions are aroused, there is a general human tendency for the listener’s memory span to become shortened and to remember mainly the latter part of what is said.

Guideline 4: Speak your partner’s language when possible. When you are the listener, use your partner’s words and ideas as you explain your understanding of what was just conveyed. If you use a term that your spouse doesn’t agree with, you should be ready to throw your word away and try again to use a word that fits your partner’s experience.

Guideline 5: Express a sincere interest in learning your spouse’s perspective. If your spouse thinks you have a history of not listening or not understanding, you could explain you are trying a new approach, and ask for another chance.

Guideline 6: Even if you think you know exactly what your partner is saying, explain your understanding of what was said. Listen carefully for any problems with your understanding. Continue to check with your spouse, “Is that right?” so your spouse has the opportunity to decide if your understanding is complete or not.

Guideline 7: Some cautions:
. Refrain from saying, “I understand.” If you really understand, prove it by explaining back.
. Keep your interruptions to a minimum when your spouse is speaking.
. Watch your non-verbal messages and don’t roll your eyes or scowl.
. Avoid interrogation sessions.
. When you are talking about “feelings” you should not end up with an accusation. An example would be, “I feel that you don’t do enough around here.”

An article like this can only hit the highlights. Some people can make major changes using highlights like this, and others need more help. Seeing the world through the eyes of your spouse can move you toward a successful marriage.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson


Marriage Sherpa

P.S. How are you doing rebuilding a friendship? I’d like to hear what you’ve been able to do to reestablish your friendship. Please scroll to the bottom and post your comments.

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