Q. When we were dating, we could finish each other's sentences. But now that we are married, I feel like I don't even know what is going on in his head most of the time. We're having a really hard time understanding each other. What happened?
A. In a general sense, women prefer to relate and talk about feelings, while men want to solve issues and offer solutions. This pattern, barely evident during the dating years, becomes increasingly blatant after the wedding. So if you are feeling like you don't "understand" one another the way you used to, don't despair. You simply need to learn the art of communicating as a married couple.
The lesson begins by recognizing your various levels of conversation. In Rock-Solid Marriage (Word), Robert and Rosemary Barnes explain that once a couple gets married they tend to talk on three different levels. To have a growing and fulfilling marriage where both partners feel understood, a couple needs to move to "Level Three."
"Level One" is the most shallow level of communication, what the Barnes's call the Grunt Level. It involves obligatory responses: "Hello" and "How ya doing?" Words are exchanged but the communication is far from deep. Unfortunately, many couples approach each other at this level. They get home from work and "talk" a bit about their day but neither really listens.
"Level Two" is just a step above the Grunt Level of communicating. It is the Journalist Level where talking with one's spouse involves expressing opinions but only on mundane facts. The conversation involves politics, other people, the church, but it stops there. Nothing is said about each other's feelings. That's reserved for the next level.1