A few months back, (before the Polar Vortex became a thing) Jake decided he would buzz his hair. It would be cool during the summer, easier to deal with on his upcoming missions trip, and it would avoid a trip to the barber, something Jake has always hated to pay for.
He shaved most of it himself and then asked Melissa to, “Come out and do the back.” Melissa quickly stuck the baby in a pack ‘n play, strapped our son into his high chair, and came out to help. She was hurried, but tried to do exactly as Jake asked. The resulting “do” ended up as the picture on your right. We very quickly realized we had two different definitions of the phrase “do the back”. Jake had meant the edge of the back, whereas Melissa thought he wanted her to buzz the entire back of his head on a lower setting.
Most marriage resources say that communication is a key component to all relationships, but not many deal with semantics. You can agree on an issue, yet still fight about it because you’re each talking about it in a different way! Both spouses have a specific personality, background, vocabulary, and manner of speaking that play into how they communicate.
We deal with this semantic game all the time:
“If I copy and paste this text into a new document, will the formatting stay the same?” It took us ten minutes of bickering to realize we were using the term ‘formatting’ differently…Melissa was asking about the documents formatting (i.e. margins, page size, etc.) where Jake was thinking text formatting (i.e. font type, font size, etc.).
“Can you cash this check and get $35 so I can pay the babysitter?” Jake cashed the $25 check and got an additional $10 to bring home a total of $35, where as what Melissa needed was a total of $60.
“Can you hand that to me? That thing over there! You know what I mean.”
As you communicate with your spouse about day-to-day things, as well as deeper marital issues, it’s totally normal to be on different pages. Especially if you have kids! It’s understandable to get frustrated with one another about what is being said, or not said. When it comes to communication, here are a couple of questions for you and your spouse to consider together:
- Are there ways that I could be communicating more clearly with my spouse?
- When we start to bicker or get frustrated, are we using a certain term the same way? Do we mean the same thing?
- How can we learn to laugh about miscommunication instead of being frustrated?
- What am I trying to say?
- What exactly does my spouse really need to hear? (Ask them, they will tell you!)
Jake and Melissa / @marriageismessy