The Perils of Giving Advice–to Your Wife
Most husbands, even though they know it will create a problem, still can’t resist giving advice to their wife. He just can’t help himself–it’s really a “man thing” to give advice. It’s interesting that when a man gives advice to another man–no problem. The same is true when a woman gives another woman advice–no problem. But when it comes from a man to a woman, or even from a woman to a man–big problems.
In a marriage, marital satisfaction goes higher when there is less advice-giving. And marital satisfaction diminishes when there is too much advice-giving. Believe it or not, people actually research things like this. But the researchers also found something else that is important. It’s not how the advice is given that makes the difference in terms of the marriage. It is how the advice is received, or heard, by the other spouse.
What typically happens when a wife gives her husband advice? Why does he react like a hurt little boy? There could be two reasons: 1.) His wife is giving him the same advice his mother used to give him, and/or 2.) She’s said the same thing over and over and now it feels like nagging.
What does a wife experience when her husband tries to give her some advice? To many wives, it feels like: 1.) An attack on their own competency, and/or 2.) The advice feels condescending, as if it is coming from “a superior being.” In either situation, for both the husband and the wife, it often comes across as criticism, which is never constructive in a marriage.
The root of the problem is that advice is typically given too quickly. It’s as if we think we can read our spouse’s mind and just know what they need from us. And we are usually wrong.
To solve the advice-giving dilemma, focus on listening! As you listen, ask questions that help you better understand your spouse’s dilemma. If you just can’t resist giving some advice, at least slow down enough to ask, “Do you want some advice?” And if the answer is “No,” don’t give the advice. Just keep on focusing on listening. If you are the one receiving advice and it wasn’t invited, simply respond by saying something like, “Thank you, but I wasn’t looking for advice right now.”
I’ve found that listening is a lost art. Couples think they know each other well enough that they don’t need to listen. But when we stop listening, we start talking. And when we start talking in any tense situation, what we say typically isn’t going to help. And it is almost guaranteed to be taken by the other person as negative.
Question: How are you on the scale of “listening skills?” Would your spouse agree?