Thursday, November 30, 2006

Strengthening Marriages: Alien Advice!

This is the final post in a series by Greg Wells.

Principal Two, continued: Fight fair. No hitting “below the belt.”

Yesterday, we looked at couples who are Screamers. Today's tip is for couples who are Aliens. Psychologist and author John Gray wrote a book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, that speaks to this very principal. That is, it often seems like our spouse is speaking a foreign language when we talk. They use the same words we know, but those words don’t seem to communicate what we think they are communicating.

Often one of my jobs during a counseling session is interpreting for one spouse what the other spouse really means, as opposed to what it sounds like they mean. If you and your spouse ever feel like you could use a translator, the next time you need to communicate something important, try the following technique:

1) Spouse #1 states what they want to say, while Spouse #2 listens without interrupting.

2) Spouse #2 then says to Spouse #1, “So what you’re saying is…” and then proceeds to restate in their own words what they just heard Spouse #1 say.

3) If Spouse #1 needs to clarify what they said to make it understood clearly, they will say so, clarify their point, and then Spouse #2 will once again say, “So what you’re saying is…” and try again to restate Spouse #1’s position. The process should continue until Spouse #1 agrees that Spouse #2 understands what is trying to be communicated, at which time they will reverse the process, with Spouse #2 speaking first.

4) Continue the process alternating back and forth until the conversation is finished.

While I’m not going to tell you that the techniques described in this series will assure you and your spouse will never again be at odds with one another, I can tell you that eleven-plus years into my marriage, my wife and I are communicating better than ever. You too, with some practice and commitment, can improve the communication in your marriage, and have a relationship that is thriving, rather than simply surviving.

Greg Wells is the Director of Counseling Services at 121 Community Church and the counselor at 121 Counseling Services. An ordained minister, Greg is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for eleven years, and work together raising their two daughters. Greg counsels on variety of issues, including trauma/abuse and intimacy in marriage.

You can contact Greg directly at:

(Photo on left by trekguy. Photo on right by claudecf. See for restrictions.)


dave said...

I really liked your article. Gave me a lot to think about.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Hi Dave!

Thanks for your comment. Greg did a really great job for us. He says there's a lot of marital strife over communication issues that can be fixed with some of these simple therapies. He'll be back from time to time to answer questions, so please let us know if there's anything else you'd like to see addressed.


Jamey said...

Ok, If I have to categorize I think that we are aliens. (Brian only screams at the TV during football games.) However over 16 yrs of marriage our planets seems to be getting closer together. Over the years we have gotten better at "reading" each other. What are you really saying and what are you 'not' saying but really mean. It so helps me to remember when I am frustrated that this is the man that has a heart full of love for me and our children and desires the best for our family. At that point all the little things seem to lose importance.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Jamey... really wise counsel on the "little things." I know of an older couple with an incredibly solid and loving marriage. Two people who practically glow with adoration for one another after more than forty years of marriage. The wife told me this: "The first ten years, I thought it was all about me. The second ten years, I thought it was all about him. The third ten years, I realized it was all about God."