Marital Miscommunication, Part 1

So much of the pain we go through with loved ones is down to communication failure — to each person assuming that the other speaks and thinks in the same way that they do. I thought of that today as I had a rerun of one of the top ten conflicts I have with my husband…

So much of the pain we go through with loved ones is down to communication failure — to each person assuming that the other speaks and thinks in the same way that they do.

I thought of that today as I had a rerun of one of the top ten conflicts I have with my husband. He is from another country, but as I know from friends, family and clients, this kind of thing can happen equally well between people who assume that their shared culture, language and experience makes them completely attuned to their partner’s signals.

It goes like this. “Get me a coffee” he says, with a kind of whining intonation which to me spells some kind of emotional manipulation, or concealed frustration at my having obstinately insisted on not getting him a coffee for the past two hours. Which isn’t the case, by the way. I immediately feel myself getting angry and defensive. “If you just asked me” I say, with all my own cultural assumptions in the just, “nicely! If you just asked if I could get you a coffee, please, I would be happy to!”

Could you please?” he says, “that sounds terribly cold and official and patronising. I wouldn’t speak to you like that!” I know by now of course that this tone I hear as whining is the way in which he shows me respect, his form of politeness. But my whole organism reacts differently.

Hopefully one day I will be able to treat myself lightly enough to notice the reaction, remember what I know, and not rise to this totally imaginary bait. But today, I’m wasting my time a little longer!

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