June 9, 2014

How to Talk So Your Spouse Can Hear

Gary Thomas — 
30 Years

Sandy and Tom


Have you ever experienced hurt, confusion, and loneliness as a result of a communication breakdown with your husband?  This is a guest post from author Sandy Ralya offering some suggestions based on a chapter from her book The Beautiful Wife.


Several years ago, my husband and I were driving down a country road when he spotted the convertible of his dreams—a 1952 MGB replica. This dream car was sitting beside the road with a “For Sale” sign taped to the windshield. Twenty-four hours later, we owned it.  

Over the next several years, Tom spent hours reconditioning the MGB to showpiece status. We also logged thousands of miles in it, exploring the back-roads of Michigan.

We savored good times and great conversations riding in our “date car” with the ONADATE license plate. That is, until my neck, back and hips started giving me serious problems.

I wish I could say I used good communication skills to share my problem with my husband, but I didn’t. As a result, Tom and I experienced hurt, confusion, and loneliness. Working through this ordeal was painful, but necessary to learn the following skills for healthy communication.   

Skill #1 Be Direct

Have you ever noticed that your husband doesn’t pick up on subtle hints? I knew that riding in the MGB was the cause of my physical pain for a full year before I spoke directly about it. Instead of being direct, I dropped hints like:

                        The strong winds are really beating on my head today.

                        Do you ever notice how the whole car shakes when we go over a bump?

                        I don’t think my neck would tighten up if we had a heater in the car.

                        It’s hot today . . . Don’t you wish this car had an air conditioner?

                        How do you feel about other convertibles?

On and on it went. For a whole year, I hinted at what I wanted to say—that the car hurt my back, neck, and hips.

In an attempt to put out the fires I’d started, Tom

                        Installed new shocks

                        Added a headrest  

                        Replaced the old foam in the seats  

Sadly, nothing improved my condition.

Because I was indirect, Tom had to connect the dots himself, and the dots formed a false message: I wanted a new, more prestigious car. He reacted to this stubbornly. His stubbornness caused me to feel he valued his car more than me and my health. We experienced a classic communication breakdown because I was afraid to be direct.

Skill #2 Be Kind

Do you know anyone with a direct approach void of kindness? In the matter of the convertible, I failed on a number of levels to be kind, which strained our communication.         

By the time I blurted out directly the real reason I was unhappy with the convertible, my communication was void of kindness. I said, “I’m not riding in that car one more minute because it’s hurting my back!” Tom’s reaction wasn’t what I’d hoped for. My unkind words closed all lines of communication.  

Skill #3 Choose the Proper Time and Place

When I did tell my husband that I was no longer willing to ride in the convertible, I chose the worst possible time! Tom had been planning a week-end driving trip with some close friends who also owned convertibles. He had made all the preparations including a planned route and accommodations. All that remained to be done was to have a pre-departure party with our friends, pack our bags, and put gas in the car.  

When I finally made the leap to communicate with my husband, it was the week prior to our departure. I’m wincing right along with you as I recall my words: “I’m not riding in that car one more minute because It’s hurting my back!”

By now there was an icy silence between us, so I was unaware that Tom was still planning on taking the trip whether I went or not. Continuing with his original plans, he invited our convertible buddies over for his presentation of the trip while I sulked in the corner waiting for the right opportunity to announce to our friends that I wouldn’t be going. What should have been discussed privately a year before suddenly became public, causing needless pain for Tom, our friends, and me.

In the end, Tom went on the trip alone. Our friends, who didn’t want to take sides, made other plans. I stayed home and cried. Choosing the wrong time and place to communicate can leave you hurt, confused, and lonely.

Tom continued to drive the convertible. It was important for me to keep busy at home when he was off driving. When he’d return, I’d ask him about the drive and share his excitement for all he’d seen and experienced. 

In 2006, Tom made his yearly trip to the auto show with our sons and some friends. Unbeknownst to me, he planned to investigate convertibles which included the protection I needed for my back.  

Now we’re travelling in a Mini-Cooper convertible and have logged thousands more miles on the back roads of Michigan and beyond. We’ve savored many good times and great conversations using better communication skills.

Even though we‘re back on the road again, the memory of our communication breakdown still causes twinges of emotional pain, so we continue to dialogue about it. Many marriages carry with them vivid snapshots of past hurts. If you haven‘t communicated to the point of resolution, continue opening the lines of communication by being direct and kind, choosing the proper time and place to speak, and listening carefully to your husband.

You may be the tool God uses to unlock your husband‘s soul. What a privilege to be used by God in this way!


Sandy Ralya, speaker and author of The Beautiful Wife: Focused on Christ, Fulfilled in Marriage, is the founder of Beautiful Womanhood, an organization that encourages wives, trains mentors, and equips churches for healthy marriages. Find out more at www.beautifulwomanhood.com.


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