Communicating with your Husband

When I hear from the Engaged Marriage community, I have noticed two interesting trends that are very consistent.

First, around 75% of those who reach out are female, and almost every one of these great ladies has said they would like more posts related to Communication in Marriage.

Well, be careful what you ask for! 🙂

Download This One Powerful Tip to Instantly Deepen Your Commmunication

While I noticed that many women cited Communication as a huge issue, it was not a top response for the men I’ve spoken with.  It occurred to me that I needed to write a post (many actually) to help bridge the disconnect.

To start, I thought I’d deal with an issue that has popped up in our marriage repeatedly over the years.  Honestly, it is still an issue, but we are certainly getting better at dealing with it.

So, what’s the big secret?

Wedding Ring Equals E.S.P.

Doesn’t it seem like your husband or fiance should just know that the laundry needs to be done and your sweater can only be washed on the delicate cycle?  It should be obvious that helping out with the kid’s science fair exhibit is priority number one the night before it’s due, right?

And if you have to tell him that you really like the Russian White paint color for the shelves worlds better than that putrid Eggshell White option, he just doesn’t even know you.  I mean seriously, how can the man you love be so darn thick sometimes?

Ladies, I am hear to tell you that he really doesn’t know!  Men cannot read minds.  And not only can we not read minds, we are oftentimes very inept at picking up on subtle (and not so subtle) hints.

Most of the time, we really do intend to please you and help out with all of the many family duties that we share in our households.  And we are happy to do so if we are made aware, very clearly aware, of what is expected of us.

So, What’s a Gal to Do?

Whether you have your own kids are not, you are probably aware of how direct you have to be when communicating with children.  I am here to tell you that when you really want something to be done correctly and to your exact specifications, your best bet is to take this same approach with your husband.

I am not saying that you treat your husband like a child.  But I am telling you that many times your husband perceives and infers with the effectiveness of a child.  And we very rarely do a good job of reading your thoughts.

So, you now know that men are thick sometimes (news flash, right?).  To get what you want, your best bet is to communicate your desires clearly.

This could mean that you write things down with specific instructions when necessary.  You can make a real honey-do list, which we actually prefer because we can check off all the great things we have accomplished as we get them done.

When you tell your husband something, make sure he really hears you.  If you have something important to discuss, maybe you should bring it up during your 15 minutes as a couple that day to ensure you are fully in tune with one another.

Not So Fast, Gentlemen

Sorry guys, you are not off the hook here.  You really need to listen to your wife when she speaks to you.

That’s listen, not just hear, as there is a huge difference.

And by all means do some things for your wife and family without being asked.  I like to keep a mental checklist (yours could be an actual list) of things that my wife has asked me repeatedly to do over time. I am far from perfect, and my own thickness causes me to forget or overlook opportunities to serve my wife better.

However, I strive very hard to remain plugged into her needs, even if they seem menial to me (Russian White?, I mean seriously).

When you take a proactive approach and get things done before your spouses asks, you look like a real gentleman.  Trust me fellas, an empty kitchen sink can be a very romantic sight to a busy wife.

Okay, so I need to work on that one.

Now That You Know…

For most of you, this post was not necessarily filled with earth-shattering revelations.  However, with something as fundamental as good communication skills, I think we can all use a friendly reminder from time-to-time.  The important thing is that you actually take some action as a result of reading this stuff.

Ladies, the next time you “wish” your husband would do something, just tell him rather than expecting him to read your mind.  It may seem like he should just know, but many times he really does not and getting frustrated about it doesn’t help either of you.  Show him the way and he will learn what you expect of him more clearly.

Gentlemen, just know sometimes.  Give some conscious thought to something that you could do for your wife without being asked.

And do it…tonight.  You don’t have to tell her that you read some dude’s post on the internet.

Just do it and don’t say a word.  When your wife notices and questions you about it, just tell her “I love you, babe, and I know I need to help out more.  Please just let me know when you have something you’d like me to do.”

Photo by CarbonNYC


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. Great Post Dustin!

    Communication is HUGE for my marriage. I like to tell my wife “Start with the punchline”…to help keep me in the conversation. Sometimes if I know where the conversation is going to end, I can then enjoy the story of getting there.
    .-= Stu´s last blog ..What Happens When You Expose Yourself? =-.

  2. Hey Dustin-
    Great post.
    One of my favorite books about this issue is Deborah Tannen’s book “You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation.” My husband and I listened to it together early in our marriage and laughed as we heard our very selves unfold in her words. She does a fabulous job shedding light on how profoundly different men and women communicate while providing easy adaptable techniques.
    A must read on this subject.
    .-= Stephanie Baffone´s last blog .. =-.

  3. Thanks, Stu! I really like your approach to communication with your wife. It sounds like you guys really know what makes each other tick.

  4. Thank you, Stephanie! Thank you for the great book recommendation. My wife and I attended a marriage retreat a few weeks back, and it was very focused on the differences between masculinity and femininity (and embracing them). They touched on the implications for communication, but it sounds like Ms. Tannen’s book really gets to the heart of the matter. It’s really fascinating stuff!

  5. First off well said, as we all know communication is key. I honestly believe our wives don’t expect us to be mind readers it really boils down to our way of communicating. Let me give you an example, my wife will often state while working on something ‘boy I am thirsty’; what she expects I have heard is ‘Honey I finished my drink but I’m up to my elbows in something could you please get me a refill’; what most men hear is ‘boy I am thirsty’ to which we think that’s nice, I wonder when the game starts and go off to find out.

    Now no mind reading was necessary, a follow up question on the husbands part might have at least shown you were listening. More clarity on the wife’s part also could have helped. But it is the these little miscommunication that leave our wives fuming and us oblivious to the problem.

  6. Thanks, Brad! You are definitely right in pointing out the differences between what we say and what our spouse hears. And this seems to be more of a “wife says, husband doesn’t hear it right” issue than the other way around. Men tend to use less hints and are more direct in stating what we think, sometimes to a fault. 🙂

    There’s definitely room for improvement on both sides. And given the importance of good communication, we must do our best to keep these differences in mind so we don’t let them affect our interaction negatively.

  7. Communication is everything. I used to have a boyfriend who told me constantly, “I can’t read your mind!” I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I found my husband (and I did!) when he pretty much could read my mind almost all of the time. What I didn’t realize is that he was working like crazy to be able to be that attuned to me, and that’s not fair. In the past two years we’ve been working on saying what we are feeling instead of leaving it to the other to figure it out by non-verbal clues. It is sort of a tough skill to learn–both to express it and learn how to hear it–but I think it is absolutely key to building the foundation of a strong marriage.

    So I found a guy that could read my mind and that doesn’t work either. Haha. Thanks for re-posting this one. I really enjoyed it.

    Happy New Year to you!
    .-= Mrs. Levine´s last blog ..A Happy New Year =-.

  8. I can’t help but think that for at *least* two out of four of these, ESP should not be required. Laundry and child-rearing are not women’s work. They’re household work, and I don’t see why it should be expected that I have a laundry list (no pun intended) of chores to be done around the house and be solely responsible for household management and delegation of chores. Why should it be any more obvious to me than to my husband that the laundry needs to be done? By extension, our children are both of ours, why should it be expected that it’s solely my responsibility to raise them, know their science fair deadlines, and assign helpers. We’re both parents, it’s not like my husband is a babysitter– so expecting him to act accordingly without instructions doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    Sure, if a sweater he hasn’t washed 8 million times before needs special care or I have a paint preference, that needs to be communicated, but the fact that the larger two of your four examples really stem from gender stereotypes and don’t involve taking full responsibility for your actions is disturbing to me, given the amount of thought you’ve put into this.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tanya. I really think that you are reading a bit too much into the specific examples used in this post. I thought these were pretty obviously a bit sarcastic and only meant to serve as a few possible areas where men can struggle to “get the message” from their spouses.

      Perhaps in your household you typically take the lead in lawn care, changing the oil in the cars or feeding the livestock each morning. The actual tasks are not important, but the fact is that in most households we all tend to become the de-facto contributors in different areas of the household management. I’m sorry if you felt like I was somehow making the statement that women should be minimized and automatically assumed to take full responsibility in particular areas. That was not at all the intent, nor do I actually feel that way (which I think would become quite evident as you read many of the other posts here).

      It sounds like you can’t read my mind (about my intent) any better than I can read my wife’s! 🙂 Just to be clear: I love women. I value their role as equals. I would never assume that women as a whole should fill any particular role in the household. And I would love to have you as a regular reader, contributor and challenger here at Engaged Marriage.

      Does that help clarify my intentions and the actual purpose behind this post?

  9. Dustin, speaking as a lady I have to admit I can see both sides of this discussion. I know of many of my lady friends who will say something to me about their hubby and I’ll ask them, “Have you said something to him OUT LOUD about how you feel?” and she’ll say, “No, but I GLARED at him. He has to know.” No he doesn’t. I love my Dear Hubby (as I’m sure you can tell) but he has to hear me say something out loud and just does not pick up the hints and glares. I find that using the WTFS Method is great! “When you… I Think… I Feel… So I would ask that…” See what I mean? It’s direct and assertive, and asks for exactly what you’d like so your hubby doesn’t have to guess and get it wrong.

    On the other hand, I do somewhat agree with Tanya. If Dear Hubby and I both walk into the same room, we can both see the dirty laundry overflowing the hamper, and both of us are parents to our children, not just me. It would be inappropriate for Dear Hubby to be so uninvolved that he doesn’t know what his own children are learning, when things are due, etc. For example, we are spouses and committed to loving for life, but to place that burden on wife alone is just not cool. If he were a single dad would he rise to the occasion and know when things are due? Then he should put forth that same amount of effort when he has the good grace of a life partner to help him bear that duty. Now bear in mind this is my own personal opinion only! And I do know that some partners have talents/skills in different areas. Still…I do think that BOTH should see the laundry and think “There is laundry to put in the wash” and maybe carry it and load it together (as an example). Likewise, it would be utterly appropriate for the hubby to know the kids’ project is due and they’ll need orange paint, and to stop on his way home from work to get it for them…because HE took the initiative to be as involved as a single father would be.

    1. Thanks, Cindy! Please don’t get me wrong, I totally see the point made about the specific examples that are included. I’m thinking I should have used some different examples to get my point across since a few do hit a little too close to home for some folks. I don’t think it’s right, but certain household responsibilities are common areas where men demonstrate irresponsibility (and oftentimes women exert too much control in these same areas which can also be a problem). I had a good email conversation with Tanya, and I think we both have a better idea where we are coming from on this point…no harm, no foul I hope! WTFS is a great idea, Cindy!

  10. Keep it up, Dustin – another great post!

    This gulf in communication between men and women may have something to do with the fact that we’re from different planets (which explains a lot about women, if you ask me). But I digress…

    The funny thing about communication is that this is the most basic exercise and demonstration of a willingess to serve our spouses. If I don’t even want to TRY to have productive communication with my spouse, how will I ever understand her needs, hopes, fears, and desires? I can’t, it’s impossible.

    I’ll admit, I’m overly sensative to my wife’s non-verbal cues. I have a knack for taking a shift in her tone and blowing something way out of proportion. However, I’d rather tend toward that end of the spectrum than be disconnected entirely. With a truly “engaged marriage” you learn what matters to your spouse – whether it’s a clean sink or folded laundry or no piles of three-week old mail – so how much can we communicate by simply taking care of those things without being asked? I think it says a lot.
    .-= Derek Sisterhen | Past Due Radio´s last blog ..100 Past Due – The 100th Episode! =-.

    1. Thanks so much, Derek! This is actually one of the earlier posts from the site’s archives, but I wanted to dust it off and share it with the new readers via Twitter. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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  13. Ok here is my issue,i know men are not dumb in anyway,but my man and i have been together for 8 years and i know he is not a mind reader.he helps with everything and works hard to keep me happy but the thing is,is that like he will make me mad i mean like off the wall mad and he knows he did.but then later he will ask me what is wrong why am i mad at him i mean he cant be that dense can he?and then he will get mad when i wont tell him. because i know he i in the wrong?i just feel i should not have to tell him and if cant figure out why, then i am not going to elaborate. what should i do? but i would like to add that this is really our only problem that i see.we have an amazing relationship,we communicate,play,flirt,sex is awesome,but this issue really bothers me.

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  16. Great post Dustin! Alisa and I talk about this all the time on our podcast,, that husbands and wives are unable to read each others minds. It just doesn’t work.

    I have to agree that the little things that are in the house that need to be take care of should fall on both spouses. The problem that I have seen when working with couples is that they don’t see themselves as servant lovers. You need to serve your spouse each and every day.

    How do you do this you talk/communicate with your spouse on these topics. It was one of these times when I found out that Alisa really didn’t enjoy washing dishes. She loved making dinner, but washing dishes was not one of her things.

    This conversation allowed me into her mind and after that conversation I took it upon myself to make sure that I’m the one washing the dishes.

    We have had many talks over the years and each time we learn more about each other and how we can be servant lovers.

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  21. Honestly guys just don’t get married far simpler why do we have to decifer women’s needs when every bloke you have ever known is open source. We are completely rational they are a bag of irrational hormones it’s not worth it. We can and have lived fine without them without their written instructions I’m not your child nor am I your butler your biological right to birth children does not mean you control all men.

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