The secret world in your head is not a secret to your spouse and in fact your family knows it pretty well too! Don’t get me wrong there are still some places you have all to yourself in that head of yours. However, generally speaking your spouse knows your growth edges better than you. That is because they have to constantly look them glaringly in the face and still live with you. Let me even go a creepy step further. Your kids well know of some of those growth areas also! Parents regularly think their kids don’t know what’s going on in the marriage because they “don’t have adult conversations in front of the kids.” I find that 100% of the time the kids have an accurate assessment of what is going on when I ask them what they think the problem is. They are of course missing some key details but their understanding is always shocking to the parents as it used to be to me.
I am trying to make the point that although we are effectively psychologically naked to our family, and some others, we like to pretend we are not. The problem with all of this is simple. We don’t listen. That is to say we don’t actually accept the criticism of our spouses. We don’t like to be told to “stop saying it like that” we like to think “how I said it was fine.”
It is quite a scary thing to realize you are indeed naked when you believed yourself to be well dressed. But why would you want to be the cliché’ emperor that has been made fun of for years?!? It is time to trust your mirror…your spouse. That being said it is also true that criticism (likely out of much frustration due to you not listening) can be too harsh and hard to receive. So spouses love on your partner. The “sandwich technique” an age old rule of thumb can be helpful in a pinch. Positive truth (bread) criticism (meat) positive truth (bread) i.e. “Honey I know you didn’t intend to sound mean but in fact you need to adjust your tone. I want everyone to see why I married you.” Forgive the “syrupy sweetness” but you get the point. Criticism alone is very dangerous to your marriage. You must communicate through love. However, being defensive is also just as dangerous to the marriage. Moving away from these two things renders us vulnerable which is where the good stuff of relationship happens
The reason we don’t have an inclination to trust our other half about our inner thoughts is mixed somewhere between self-absorption, fear and habit. We grow up with the ever constant inner voice in our head that is always there affirming, questioning, analyzing. That voice is shaped mostly by our parents and/or friends. It is our friend and closest confidant to reject it would mean to reject ourselves! So we enter a dilemma reject ourselves or our spouse.
At some point you will need to realize that your spouse doesn’t even want to have most of these conversations with you. Most people stridently avoid conflict so why would they start one with you? They are connected to you and they understand, at least somewhat, how they are connected to you. They want others to connect to you too. So two things then: listen to your spouse more openly and, if you want them to do their best at hearing you, when you criticize use love and/or the “sandwich technique.” I have included some links throughout that focus on partnering, what men and women need and other tips of communication.