We Process Differently (and that’s ok)

How to navigate different processing styles and speeds in your marriage.


When we first got married, whenever we would have a fight, I would want to talk about it immediately. Straight away I’d want to sit down, talk it out, work it out and move on as quick as possible. This did not work for Beck at all. She wasn’t able to do this. She couldn’t talk about it yet and, for a few days, she would brood and be distant. To me, it felt like punishment. Later on, I realised that was never her intention but at the time, it was really hard!

Even I was hurting, I’d still want to talk it out. If Beck was hurting, she couldn’t. It would frustrate the life out of me. Why couldn’t we just get it all out into the open, apologise, commit to doing better and move on in our marriage?

It just didn’t make sense to me.

One of the frustrations we had early in our marriage was that we couldn’t work out how to work things out! We couldn’t get on the same page about HOW to get on the same page together! Our repairing and resolution skills needed development. We were immature. And we didn’t properly understand each other.

After a few years, we began to realise something. We process things differently. And that’s OK. Honestly, learning this was a game-changer for our marriage.

There are 2 main ways of processing and you’ll lean more towards one than the other. There are lots of variation inside each one but the principles are simple.

Some people, like me, process externally. They talk things out to process their thoughts and feelings and work out what they want to do and should do. They say things that might morph and change a little because they’re processing externally. They’re processing by talking. I almost need to hear my own voice to work something through properly.

Others process internally. This is like my wife Beck. They need some time to gather their thoughts, work out what they think and feel about the thing, collate their solutions and ideas, think about what they’ll ask and formulate their plan for moving forward before they’re able to talk about it. This might take a day, a few days or a week or so.

For external processors like myself, the time gap between the argument and the repairing, resolving conversation can be excruciating. You can feel disconnected from each other, distant in your hearts and fearful of not resolving the problem.

Here’s what we learned:

  1. You can both be kind and loving in the gap.
  2. Neither of you needs to feel like you’re being punished.
  3. Scheduling a day and a time to revisit the problem is an excellent idea.
  4. Communicating any hurt is important which gives your spouse the opportunity for an early apology.
  5. Agree on a gap that works for you both.
  6. Make sure you revisit it on the scheduled day and time and begin the process of resolving, repairing and forgiving

Also check out my post on How to have an Important Conversation for how to re-engage and begin getting on the same page again.

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