It's been a long day of work, and I come home wanting nothing more than to kick off my shoes and stretch out on the couch. As soon as I enter the door, my wife gives me a welcome home kiss and immediately I realize there is something wrong. Being the loving husband I am, I decide to ask her what's wrong. She replies shortly with those ominous words, "I'm fine."

If I was as versed as I should be in male/female communication, I would end it there. Instead, I push the point until she explodes into a rant of frustration. I listen intently, or at least I think I am. In actuality, I am processing every word as if I am about to diagnose an ailment. When she is done, rather than giving her words of encouragement, I start into an intellectual assessment of the situation, recommending the proper remedy as if I were a qualified psychologist. This results in her storming off with even more frustration as she demands that, "I never listen to her."

I am left, holding my once inflated vision of being the perfect husband, wondering what went wrong. For men, communication in marriage is a minefield we all fear to tread lest we misstep. Inevitably though, we must brave this no man's land. For those that find themselves as clueless I have been in the past, here are five ways to understand and communicate with love:

Check yourself

When entering into communication with your wife, be aware of your heart. Is it open or closed? Ask yourself, "Am I concerned with her needs or my own?" If you can answer in the affirmative to the former, then proceed with caution. If not, then back up and re-evaluate. A closed heart is a non-communicating heart.

Realize there is more to communication than just words

We communicate with our whole being. If you're having a bad day, it will ooze out in everything you say. The same goes for your spouse. Discussing sensitive topics while in a negative state is not a good idea. Wait until you are both in the right mindset.

Do not assume that every negative response is directed to you personally

If your spouse seems to be short with you, it may not be you she is angry at. She may still be fuming from an interaction with the kids or the lady from down the street. Trust her intent and see her in the best light, not the worst.

Give them space

Everybody should be allowed a little space every now and then to process their emotions. Being human is a hard thing, and few, if any, seem to be good at it. Let your spouse be human and allow them to work through their feelings.

Don't try to fix the situation

This is a major difference between men and women. If a man tells about his problems, he's either complaining or he wants actual advice on what to do. When a woman tells her problems, sometimes it is also just complaining, but often it is because she wants comforting feedback. Men aren't used to this, so they resort to fixing. Women see this as being judgmental and not attending to their needs. The bottom line: listen, don't fix.

In the end, there is no perfect formula for communicating in marriage. The only real way to assure good communication is through being understanding and loving with your spouse. Accept their short comings and be willing to cut them some slack.

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