Posts tagged misunderstanding

That thing you do (when conflict occurs)

This blog post appeared on The Crucible Project blog and is used with permission.

She’s upset … again. And I don’t have a clue about why.

Six years of dating followed by 26 years of marriage and I still don’t have her figured out.

After working with struggling couples for years, I know that I am not alone. Sometimes, the “relationship problem” is a surprise to us men. Other times, we know exactly what we did to cause it.

In my experience restoring relationships — and in my personal marriage experience — I have observed four patterns of reacting to relationship problems we engage in that actually hurt more than they help. They seem “good” because they keep us from feeling or dealing with the issue. But that temporary relief fades quickly when the issue recurs. And these always end up getting in the way of having the relationship our hearts’ desire:

  • Talking about it to others rather than talking to her to about it. When we talk about it to others and they take our side (such as friends) then it further galvanizes our position and vilifies her, widening the gap of misunderstanding.
  • Hiding what you truly think and feel about it from her. Emotions do not just go away. We damage the relationship when we “power up” and tell her off. When we hide, repress and deny, our emotions end up coming out sideways.
  • Withdrawing to your man cave, work commitments or other stress-relieving hobbies. We assume incorrectly that if we avoid her, the issue will go away. In reality, the issue remains unresolved, only to pop up unexpectedly another day.
  • Refusing to see your contribution to the problems in the relationship. We deny responsibility by blaming and making excuses.

The difference between couples who make long-term relationships work and those who do not is what they do when conflict occurs. I believe men are especially empowered to make the first move to resolve conflict (1 Peter 3:7). Men of integrity step into that power by taking responsibility to engage the problem head on with the following action steps.

  • Invite God in through prayer.
  • Focus on your long-term desire to have a trusting, deeply-connected loving relationship.
  • Make room in your schedules for an uninterrupted period of time to have the conversation.
  • Help her share the “movie playing” in her head about the situation until she is fully heard. Give her “full body” attention focused on understanding what it is that she is saying regardless of whether you are in agreement.
  • Check to see if you heard correctly by mirroring what she shared back to her. “What I hear you saying is…”
  • Share the “movie playing” in your head about the situation in a way that she can hear you. Own and speak your truth, including your feelings and judgments about the situation by using “I” statements.
  • Take full and complete responsibility for all the ways you contributed to the problem … even if it was unintentional. Offering an apology for your part is powerful.
  • Commit to action. Ask what she wants or needs in the future. Ask for what you want from her in the future. Make temporary commitments in an attempt to build the long-term relationship you desire.

In my quest for being a man of integrity in my marriage — and in strengthening relationships — I am always searching for what works.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just finished reading “That thing you do (when conflict occurs)” on the FamilyLife Stepping Up men’s blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat helps you resolve these relationship conflicts when they occur? What from this post could help the next time?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHear Tim and Joy Downs talk about the source of marital conflict in the “Seven Conflicts of Marriage” broadcast series.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this blog post with another husband. Better yet, practice the principles with your wife the next time you fight.


Roy Wooten is the Executive Director of Shield Bearer Counseling Centers in Houston. Roy and his wife Devra wrote The Secrets to Lifetime Love: Speaking and Hearing Truth. Roy also has been a longtime Houston-area leader of The Crucible Project, a not-for-profit Christian organization committed to create a world of men who live with integrity, grace and courage, fulfilling their God-given purpose. Follow Roy at


Say again? Men talk as much as women?

The news couldn’t be more shocking if it had been declared that the sky was green. A recent article by the BBC pointed out that the myth that women talk more than men is just that … a myth.

In Prattle of the sexes: Do women talk more than men?, BBC writer Claudia Hammond challenged the assertion repeated by a number of media outlets in connection with another story. Last year, neuroscientists revealed that they had discovered hormonal differences in the language centers of four-year-olds, which could explain why girls pick up language more easily. Mainstream media outlets ran from there, tying it to a much-quoted statistic rooted in mystery.

Men talk about as much as women

The BBC article also cites dozens of other studies that indicate no real difference between the number of words used by males and females. The most important and extensive was done a few years ago at the University of Texas. Researchers led by Psychiatry Department Chairman James Pennebaker learned that men and women use the same number of words during a given day. All these findings are vastly different from the widely-accepted rule of thumb that a woman uses 20,000 words daily compared to just 7,000 for her male counterpart?

So, aside from the obvious anecdotal evidence that women seem to spend more time interacting socially, how did this rumor start about women being three times more talkative than men? It seems the 20:7 figure is attributed to a dust jacket note from the 2006 book, The Female Brain by LouAnn Brizendine, a pioneering neuropsychiatrist who founded the University of California, San Francisco’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic. Since then, she’s backed off the numbers and agreed to remove them from subsequent printings.

Back to the University of Texas study. While there is little difference in the number of words men and women use, Pennebaker indicates that there seems to be a difference in the content of their speech.

He does point out that women tend to jaw more about other people, whereas men are apt to hold forth on more concrete objects — so the stereotypes of ladies as gossips and guys engaging in car talk can live on.

Just as Brizendine’s book prompted the University of Texas study, Pennebaker’s work has spurred new research to settle the score about men and women and conversation. Here are some questions I’d like to see answered.

  • Do men spend more of their communication oriented on tasks (like at work) than in social settings?
  • Is the word count higher among women-only conversations than men-only, and do women dominate mixed gender conversations?
  • Are verbal interactions between husband and wife divided equally?

Maybe you could even ask yourself a question: How is your communication with your wife, or if you’re single, with your girlfriend or fiancée? It’s likely that you have very different communication styles, and are likely to talk about completely different things when you’re apart. Generally speaking, men tend to focus attention on ideas and activity, and women on relationships (report-talk vs. rapport-talk). But when you’re together, can you find enough common ground to communicate well and on the same plane? Are your communications the kind that build each other up and build toward a greater connectedness?

Communication is such an important aspect of the marriage union. Good communication almost always goes hand-in-hand with a good relationship.

One really helpful article I’ve found is by our friends at Power to Change (formerly FamilyLife Canada). You Make No Sense lays out the importance of listening and clarifying, recognizing communication differences, recognizing clichés, and learning to go deeper as you dialogue.

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