Have you ever had a conversation with someone that went so badly you wondered if you spoke the same language?
You try to explain your point of view, but the harder you try, the more your words get twisted into something else.
It’s like you’re living in two separate realities.
The worst part?
The person twisting your words is your spouse!
I’ll unpack why your husband might misinterpret what you say, and what you can do about it.
Men and Women Have Different Communication Styles
There’s a reason Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus sold over 50 million copies.
Research shows that men’s and women’s brains are wired differently.
Men tend to communicate through actions, rather than words. They like to prove their worth via doing and fixing.
But women aren’t necessarily looking for that. They want to be heard and supported. It doesn’t mean, however, they want to be rescued.
Sometimes the difference in how we approach problems and what we need from our partners in the face of them causes miscommunication.
What one partner intends to come across as helpful gets received as insulting and condescending.
But what about those deeper, more troubling communication problems?
What do we do when it seems like we don’t live on the same planet as our partner?
Why does my husband misinterpret everything I say?
There are many reasons why your husband might misinterpret your words – some of them intentional, some not.
The simplest explanation is that he’s a terrible listener.
But communication problems are rarely simple.
A lot of things impact how we communicate, including how we were raised, the way our parents communicated (or didn’t), how we view our relationships, and how we view ourselves.
We just need to unpack your husband’s specific communication issue.
Reasons Your Husband Chooses to Misinterpret What You Say
Let’s start with a list of reasons your husband might actively choose to misinterpret what you are saying to him. Some of these reasons are more benign than others.
They all have something in common; they prevent your relationship from working.
1. He doesn’t listen
Sometimes people don’t listen because they simply do not want to hear you. Other times, they’re trying to process their emotions and become distracted.
You’ll have to figure out where your husband lands with that.
Human beings, generally speaking, are bad listeners. We think we listen well. In fact, 96% of us say so, but, in reality, we only retain about half of what others say. HALF.
Combine that with an emotionally charged conversation, and it’s a recipe for not hearing each other in profound ways.
What’s going on with your husband?
- Does he tune you out?
- Does he shut down and stop listening?
- Does he get overwhelmed and miss what you’re saying?
- Try to jump in and dominate the conversation?
Whatever the reason, it prevents the two of you from getting on the same page.
2. He’s emotionally immature.
This is a biggie. Emotionally immature people are fundamentally bad communicators.
They cannot have a serious, productive conversation. They’ll either brush the entire experience off with jokes or become defensive, deny they’ve done anything wrong, and refuse to engage in the conversation.
If your husband is emotionally immature, he may be choosing to misunderstand you as a way to avoid a conversation he’s not equipped to handle.
Maybe he didn’t learn how to express himself appropriately growing up or was raised by emotionally absent parents.
Some people shut down and disappear in the face of confrontation. It’s why ghosting has become so popular.
And because emotional maturity can affect both parties, here’s an excellent video from a relationship expert on how to deal with emotional immaturity within a marriage:
An Important Caveat on Emotional Immaturity
Emotional immaturity can cross the line into emotionally abusive territory.
If your husband also has a habit of bullying or name-calling, reckless behavior, abusing alcohol after a fight, or denying things occur when they did, you should seek help and safety away from him.
This is a bad situation for you.
3. He’s easily offended.
If your husband gets angry easily, he might take the slightest whiff of criticism from you as a full-on attack and react accordingly.
That is 100% his problem and not yours, by the way. You can’t fix that for him.
Sometimes, in the face of an overly reactive partner, we temper our own feelings and walk on eggshells to avoid setting them off.
It might feel like a good solution at the moment, but this is like putting a bandaid on a bullet wound. It will not hold.
Marriages are difficult. There will be times when you have to have uncomfortable conversations with your spouse.
He has to learn how to do that maturely and productively.
4. He’s lashing out.
It could also be that your husband is lashing out at you. Maybe he feels attacked, or maybe he’s hurt and wants to reject you before you can reject him.
Either way, this is a red flag.
If you catch yourself in this situation, step away and give each other space to cool off.
Don’t try to argue with him. Just walk away. Give yourself time to calm down and come back later.
Once the dust settles, talk about what happened with the conversation itself.
“Hey, I feel like you lashed out at me when I tried to talk to you the other night. Can we talk about it?”
At the bare minimum, your partner has to be open to that conversation. If they aren’t, where does that leave you?
5. He’s overly sensitive.
There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive. Sensitivity can be a good thing.
But if your husband is overly sensitive, he might misinterpret things you say and then blow up over them.
He might even make up stories about you and your words to justify his anger.
Instead of interpreting your conversation as a way to gain clarity and strengthen your relationship, he’s imagining a full frontal attack on his self-esteem and reacts accordingly.
Again, with the eggshells.
Eventually, he has to learn how to manage his sensitivity and overcome the impulse to react so emotionally.
For more insight into dealing with a “Highly Sensitive Partner”, check out this video:
6. He doesn’t feel appreciated.
Appreciation is a powerful emotion. If your husband doesn’t feel appreciated, he might interpret every negative interaction as a personal attack.
When we don’t feel appreciated, it can color how we interpret our interactions with other people in major ways.
He might start to believe you don’t care about him. That you don’t appreciate him. That you don’t love him.
And that makes him feel worthless, which is the lens through which he might start viewing your conversations with him.
If you suspect your husband falls into this category, he will need reassurance from you.
Where does that come from? Do you do a bad job showing him appreciation, or is it more of a self-esteem issue on his part?
Figure out what it is so you can work on it together.
7. He’s upset with you about something else.
This happens a lot. Your husband is mad at you for something else, and instead of talking to you about it directly, he projects his feelings onto this seemingly unrelated topic.
We’ve all gotten into a fight so infected with pent-up feelings and grievances that it stopped being what it was about.
Nothing productive or good comes out of those conversations.
It’s best to pause the conversation and just call it out.
“Is this about something else?”
Of course, this only works if you are receptive to hearing what he’s saying in the moment. That’s hard to do sometimes.
It requires setting aside our own feelings to make room for our partner.
8. He’s just pretending to misunderstand you.
It’s possible your husband may be afraid of conflict, or he’s avoiding the topic because he knows it will be hard.
Maybe he thinks he’ll lose control and yell at you. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to deal with it.
Whatever the reason, he’s trying to avoid the conversation by pretending to misunderstand.
Again, this ties back to emotional maturity.
When somebody willfully misunderstands you for a psychological advantage, every alarm bell in your brain should go off.
That is a form of emotional abuse and you don’t have to take it.
9. He wants to pick a fight.
Sadly, some people like to pick fights, even with their loved ones. Is it the adrenaline rush? A protective behavior to keep from getting hurt?
No matter the reason, this behavior is a major red flag.
Harley Therapy in the UK has a great perspective on why people pick fights. Here are a few of those reasons:
- We don’t have control of our emotions.
- We’re codependent.
- We don’t know how to communicate.
- We’re avoiding something.
- We’re self-sabotaging.
This is where healthy boundaries and counseling come in handy. Don’t brush off this behavior. You can’t forge ahead in your marriage cycling through fights.
10. He can’t admit he’s wrong.
Sometimes people intentionally misinterpret what we’re saying because they don’t like being wrong.
No one likes to be wrong, but some people are positively allergic.
So it becomes a mind game.
People like this have extremely fragile egos. They insist they are right out of what is called “psychological rigidity” – a subconscious feeling that if they double down on being right, it will be so, and they can avoid any consequences of being wrong.
Your communication woes with your husband will not be resolved until he works on this.
11. He’s unpersuadable.
Is your husband extremely stubborn? He may resort to intentionally misinterpreting your words to stick to his guns on a particular topic.
This is related to never being wrong.
If I’m being honest, stubborn people rarely change. (They’re stubborn, after all.)
You’ll have to decide if this character flaw is tolerable or not.
12. He enjoys arguing.
This one goes along with picking a fight. Some people genuinely enjoy arguing.
But argumentativeness is a defense mechanism, not a fun game.
People argue to avoid conversations that may be emotionally difficult for them. Again, this harkens back to emotional immaturity.
You have to help them work through that, or, encourage them to connect with someone like a therapist who can.
What you can’t do is tolerate this behavior forever.
He’s gaslighting you.
Gaslighting is when someone tries to make you doubt your own memory or perception of events. It is a form of emotional abuse.
If your husband is doing this, he’s trying to get away with something. If he says things like, “You must be mistaken,” or “That didn’t happen,” then he’s lying.
He’s also trying to manipulate you into thinking that you’re crazy. This is an attempt to invalidate your feelings and opinions.
If your husband routinely does this, don’t take it lightly. Reach out to your support network and start thinking about your next steps.
At the very least, your husband needs to get counseling to resolve this pattern of behavior. If he’s not open to that, it’s time to leave.
You are not obligated to stay married to an emotionally abusive man.
Reasons YOU Might Cause Your Husband to Misinterpret What You Say
Communication is a two-way street. It’s possible you are culpable in this problem, too.
Let’s examine a few things that you might do that lead to your husband misinterpreting what you say.
Are any of these familiar? If so, you may have some stuff to work on, too (and that’s okay).
13. You are indirect.
Do you have a habit of talking around a subject?
When it’s time to talk to your husband about something serious, do you get a little tongue-tied or try to sugarcoat the difficult part?
Men are not mind readers.
None of us are.
If you have something important to address with your partner, be direct about it. Don’t beat around the bush.
The more direct you are about the problem, the less chance for misunderstanding.
14. You aren’t being clear.
This is related to directness. Are you sure your point is clear?
When you’re having a difficult conversation, it is easy to let your feelings drive the conversation.
This is why good communication skills require us to process our emotions first before we address something with our partner.
But how do you do that?
Write out the main points you want to cover ahead of time so you don’t get off track or come across the wrong way.
Do some journaling or talk through your feelings with a friend.
If you want to be clear, you have to find a way to get your feelings out and your thoughts organized before stepping into a serious conversation.
15. You’re complicating the conversation with too many details.
If you have a tendency to ramble and go off on tangents (like I do), it’s time to fix that.
Plan what you want to say ahead of time and take notes. Again, you may even need to rehearse your points with a close friend first to make sure you’re being clear, concise, and on-topic.
This is also helpful if you are the type who likes to pile on in a conversation.
Stay on topic.
Even if there are numerous avenues you want to go down, stick to the primary issue when you talk to your husband.
16. Your timing is bad.
Before you start a conversation with your partner, be mindful of your timing. Consider giving him a heads-up so everyone has time to mentally prepare.
“Hey, when you get home today, I’d like to talk about XYZ thing that happened.”
Now some people find a heads-up more anxiety-inducing.
If your spouse is that way, you can skip the heads-up. But at least choose a time when cooler heads have prevailed and there is time to have a reasonable discussion.
Bringing up a touchy subject in the car on the way to your in-law’s house is not ideal.
17. You are escalating things.
Do your conversations get heated? If you have a habit of escalating them, get ready for all kinds of misinterpretation from both sides.
We do not listen well when we are angry.
Anger makes us less logical and impacts our brain’s ability to process information.
If you and your husband are both angry during a conversation, chances are neither of you is understanding the other.
It’s time to pause the conversation and come back to it when tempers settle.
18. You’re trying to pick a fight.
Are you trying to pick a fight? We talked about husbands who pick fights, but wives do it, too.
Women suffer from emotional immaturity as well, with equally toxic effects.
If you want your husband to stop misinterpreting what you say, you must find a way to talk about difficult subjects without picking a fight.
You may feel furious, sad, hurt, or even betrayed by something he’s done, but if you can’t express your feelings in a clear, concise way, nothing will get resolved.
This is why it’s important to process your emotions and cool off before talking about certain things.
19. You’re not listening either.
Conversations involve two people.
That seems obvious, but when you think about it, a lot of us spend time talking at people, not with them.
This is especially true when strong feelings are involved.
You have to learn how to hear what your partner is saying, too. Active listening is a critical life skill, but it is especially valuable for relationships.
This short video gives a good explainer of how to talk to your partner effectively:
20. Your approach puts him on the defensive.
If you come in guns blazing, be prepared to meet an opponent.
We know when our partner is about to go off on us. If your body language, tone of voice, and aggressiveness communicate “I’m ready to fight,” then you will find a fight.
Remember what I said about anger?
We cannot listen when we’re angry. Our brains do not process information well when we’re mad.
If you want to have an open, honest conversation with your husband about something, your body language and approach have to convey that.
If your entire vibe screams, “Get ready!” you’ve already lost.
21. You argue to win, not fix the problem.
Arguing to win is a losing strategy for everyone involved. Ironic, no?
This is problematic for a number of reasons.
For one, life doesn’t work that way.
Most situations aren’t black and white. You have to consider nuance and perspective, including your partner’s.
If your attention is laser-focused on being “right,” you won’t hear anything your partner has to say. You’ll be too busy crafting the perfect comeback or “gotcha” trap.
And for what?
Even if you get the last word or land a proverbial punch, nobody wins.
Access should not be a barrier to help.
Reasons You Are Both At Fault for Miscommunication
It is not uncommon for communication troubles to be a mixture of column A and column B.
Sometimes misinterpretation is a team effort.
Consider the following issues that may prevent you from understanding each other:
- Neither of you knows how to communicate effectively.
- You’re both stubborn.
- You aren’t discussing the same thing.
- You have unresolved issues.
- Neither of you wants to compromise.
- This is a power struggle.
Sometimes we’re both to blame. It’s important to admit that, too.
Learning how to communicate well is essential for a healthy marriage. It takes deliberate practice and two willing participants.
But if your husband is intentionally misinterpreting what you say and playing mind games with you, it may be time to move on.
At the end of the day, your happiness and well-being come first.