“I Can’t Believe You Said That!” A Quick Guide to Overcoming the Relationship Language Barrier

Written by Jacqueline Joyce

August 26, 2021


At some point while pursuing a meaningful relationship, one can’t help but stumble upon an old and forgotten truth: men and women do not speak the language.

While we might use the same words, the meaning is often different. The sooner we stumble upon this peculiar, albeit crucial piece of information, the better.

From a purely speculative level, I like to imagine this barrier came into existence Post-Fall. Perhaps once upon a time, men and women communicated harmoniously, complementing each other, and admiring each other’s dignity, but after being booted out of Eden… “Huh? What are you saying about me?!” It all went haywire.

The more intimate and serious the relationship, the trickier the communicating can become. Which also might seem outrageous, but it makes sense. The greater the attachment, the easier it is to interpret the opposite sex’s words through a hyper-personal lens.

Imagine how much more confusing this can be in a marriage: spiritually, the two have become one, but emotionally… not so much. That takes time, patience, and lots of love.

Here are some simple tricks to help overcome the language barrier, respond with love, and meet his needs:

“Although love is a gift, it must be learned.” — Alice von Hildebrand

When anyone feels unheard or unaccepted, it’s easy to slip into the dark pit of defense. It’s crucial not to capitalize on someone else’s defensiveness. Instead of getting annoyed or more aggressive, this is your cue to disarm your man. No one likes feeling defensive, and in a relationship it can mean that your guy feels inadequate or criticized. Nothing productive or healthy will come of pursuing an argument at this point. Instead, your role is to help your spouse get to Heaven, so take a time out and respond in love. Ask yourself, “How can I make him feel accepted, respected, and not attacked?”  This simple pause can do wonders, and it will safeguard you from turning your spouse into your opponent.

Avoid unsolicited advice. Men have a healthy desire to be the hero or knight in the relationship. This is good. You do not want to snuff out that flame. In doing so, your man will feel discouraged and not accepted as who he is. Eek! Instead, offer advice when he asks.

Plus, if you let him be your knight in shining armor, (i.e. make him know that you need and trust him) you’ll find that he is excited to sweep you off your feet.

Healthy men have the natural desire to protect and sacrifice for the woman they love. Unsolicited advice can easily be misconstrued as a lack of trust and respect. Basically a quick punch to the gut, “yeah, dude, you don’t know what you’re doing. You are failing.”

Many women freak out when they hear the Ephesians 5:22 “Women be subject to your husbands.” They fall into the trap believing they are called to be doormats, which is not true. Don’t forget that just below in Ephesians 5:25 husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church.  …Christ died for the Church. Your spouse is called to love you to the point of dying for you. And he will rise to that kind of heroic love, but you need to give him the space, respect, and trust to do so. 

A good marriage mantra by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is to be the first to “seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:11)”. And sometimes, this simply looks like a quick pause to remember that many of the (seemingly colossal) issues boil down to the challenging fact that you and your guy might speak English, but it’s really not the same language. This mindset can help you be more forgiving, pause, and choose words that heal and cultivate love. Seek first to understand then to be understood. 

As women, we love to give and support, but just because we may desire to do so doesn’t mean we don’t have to learn how to do so.

Lastly, always, always practice reverence. Honor your dignity as a woman who was wonderfully made as well as your man’s dignity. Recognize the nobility and immense value of the other, and never, ever fail to treat him with gentle and devoted respect that is due.

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