Professor's House

I Know How to Dress Myself My Dear

What happens to people once they get married? Does the wedding ring seem to permanently cut off circulation to the part of the brain that is responsible for reason, respect, and rational thinking? It seems that once a couple gets married, they become prone to somehow secretly undermining one another. For instance, let’s say that you have just finished showering, shaved, did your hair and came down the stairs. Your spouse takes one look at you and says, “Are you going to wear that?” You look behind you because you imagine that they MUST be speaking to someone else. After all, you picked it out, put it on, and are wearing IT – doesn’t that pretty much mean you are planning to wear it? At first, you wonder if your shirt has a big stain that maybe you overlooked. Then, you realize that your spouse is simply trying to micromanage your life in a condescending manner?

And while the “I know how to dress myself,” scenario seems like a minute blemish in the scope of a marriage, the truth is that this type of behavior plays itself out over and over again along the course of a marriage. For instance. Suppose you gave your 3-year-old daughter a sliver of your apple. Your daughter is holding it, biting into the juicy apple. Then your wife comes in the room and says, “Did you just give her an apple?” “Don’t you know she could choke to death and die?” Or, let’s say that you left the bread sitting out on the counter as you were making your children sandwiches. Then your trusty husband walks in the room and says with a pensive tone in his voice, “If you don’t CLOSE the bread, it won’t stay fresh!” The wife is left irritated, thinking sarcastically – “Really, is that how it works?

There are perhaps millions of examples of this annoying marital behavior. The question is how do you stop it? And how do you stop your spouse from treating you like a child and asking these rhetorical questions?

Psychologists say that marital communication is often blurred by underlying feelings of resentment or anger. So while your wife may be asking if you are ‘really going to wear that,’ the truth is she upset that it took you too long to get ready. Or that you are going somewhere. Or for some other reason that is completely unrelated to the clothes that you picked out to wear. It is also common for people, especially those in close relationships to utilize their partners as avenues for expressing anger or discontent in other areas of their life. In other words, they pseudo create an issue to pick a fight or get upset about because the truth is they are feeling dissatisfied by some aspect in their life. Fair? Absolutely not. Common? In nearly every single marriage!

In the psychological world there is something called the The Closeness-Communications Bias, which is essnetially egosentrical view of how partners ‘think’ they communicate with one another. In one study group, wives told their husbands, “It’s getting hot in here,” while driving in the car. What they were actually saying was that they wanted their husband to turn down the heat. However, the men didn’t see it that way and around 87% interpreted it as something else. Studies were performed for married couples and close friends, and in nearly every case, it was found that people who are very close to one another, often have no real idea how to simply SAY WHAT THEY MEAN. In fact, in some instances, it was proven that people communicate better with perfect strangers than they do their spouses.

Plus, relationship experts believe that married people say directive coomments towards one another with an ‘illusion of insight’ that seems to assume their partner knows exactly why they are saying what they are saying, and what exact response they want to illicit from their partner.

No wonder couples can rarely disagree.

Unfortunately, the nagging comments and obvious rhetrocial questions that relate to such common issues within every day life, are not just miscommunications with one another, but also non-constructive ways to express how couples are truly feeling. The best way to end this type of nonsense comunication is simply to start saying what you mean. And in the case of your spouse asking you, “Are you really going to wear THAT?” To say with affirmation, “YES DAMMIT, I am!” This way they get the message that their tone, line of questioning or commentary is simply undermining and unnecessary. In other words, bring it to their attention when they say condescending things. Chances are, they have no idea how their questions are being perceived by their spouse. A little wake up call never hurts anyone.

When the consciousness of communication between married people can be reawakened, couples can gain a better understanding of one another and become better listeners. Married people tend to spend a lot of time trying to decipher remarks, commentary, questions and non-verbal forms of communication – which plenty of research has shown has the odds of a crap shoot in being effective.

Additionally, couples need to work to be able to separate what they feel and think from what they believe their partners feels and thinks. Opinions are just that, and it isnt about being right or wrong – especially when it comes to ridiculous things like picking out clothes, or how to put bread away.

Even in the best of marriages, where communication seems to go off without a hitch, there are going to be mini control battles over meaningless things. Rather than let them get the best of you, try to overlook the rhetoric and get down to what is really going on with your spouse at the time. What many people forget is that just because two people wed, doesn’t mean that they become one person. Communication is as much about embracing your differences as it is about saying what you mean.

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