Ask TFH: Arguments With My Wife Often Get Ugly. How Do I Communicate Better?

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Dear TFH,

I’ve been married for 14 years with three kids. My relationship with my wife is generally good. But our disagreements often spiral way out of proportion due to my lack of communication skills. I speak like a caveman and my wife is more switched on and thoughtful. Do you know any good resources to improve in this area? I was wondering if you guys could point me in the right direction?

BT, Sydney


The anger management specialist

“It’s a generalisation, but men often use logic and common sense (left brain) to understand a situation, while women rely more on intuition and empathy (right brain). This can result in a lack of communication, because your partner can tell by your body language that you are not happy and think you’re not communicating your feelings, whereas, you think everything is OK.

“When your partner discusses a topic or a negative feeling, sometimes you may think she is looking for advice or a logical answer, when really she just needs emotional or physical support. If you’re unsure, then ask, “How can I help you with this?”.

“Sometimes you both have different needs and these are not clearly stated.

“A good resource to understand this better is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. An example of a love language is that you may think your partner wants “acts of service”, whereas she really wants “quality time” with you. So you may think you’ve been supportive by working on the house all weekend, while she thinks you are ignoring her needs.

“You’ll know things are getting out of hand when you both start to make negative personal comments to each other or bring up the past in a critical way. To overcome this try and stay focused on the topic and don’t make it personal.”

Robert McInnes, Anger Management Specialist,


The relationship expert

“Sometimes we need to rethink or reset the way we communicate. It can be helpful to go back to basics.

“Set aside a time to have an honest and respectful chat with your partner. Explain that sometimes you feel like you’re not communicating with her in a way that lets you get your message across and focus on the issue at hand.

“Discuss how you communicate with your partner, what works and doesn’t work. It’s important to try and keep this conversation really constructive.Focus on how you talk to each other, rather than what you’re talking about to avoid conflict arising from the discussion.

There are a few simple things you can do to help communicate clearly and calmly. Check out Relationships Australia Victoria’s simple communication tips or read their communication tip sheet here.”

Dominic Alford, Project Coordinator Relationships Australia Victoria

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