On a scale of 1 to 10 (worst to best), how do you think the communication is in your marriage? We see poor communication as one of the biggest issues we see in our offices. The good news is that with effort, many times it can be remedied with small, intentional changes. This week, we’re discussing ways that poor communication can sabotage a relationship of any kind, but specifically a marriage, and how to fix them.
To Undermine Your Marriage Connection:
1. Communicate as little as possible, or give the silent treatment
When you don’t talk very often, there are so many opportunities for miscommunication errors. Perhaps you only talk about the kids’ schedules, your schedules, and what household tasks need to be completed. This is a surefire way to zap any intimacy in your marriage.
Also, when you shut down communication, you leave no room for resolution. How is your spouse supposed to break through that wall of silence? How can you find a solution if no one is talking? Intimacy is for grownups and grownups do not give each other the silent treatment. The verbal shutdown also happens to be my passive aggressive movement of choice and a hard habit to break. But I did it and so can you!
2. Communicate in anger or by bullying
Do you or your spouse raise your voice in anger when talking? What about speaking in passive-aggressive statements? Like telling your spouse you are “FINE” when your actions say otherwise? Stop and think if you fall into this category. No one likes to be around an angry bully. Even if you get what you want, you aren’t winning. There will be payback somewhere along the road. Most bullies in a marriage don’t think they are bullies. So ask your spouse if they feel you get your way most of the time. And be open to what they tell you even if you don’t like the answer. If your spouse says he/she feels you are often angry or threatening in some way, believe them. Then talk to us because we can help with this.
3. Make your to do list more important than the people in your life
Our society glorifies being busy, and having a full calendar. If you’re running from activity to meeting to sports practice, your to do list may be taking precedence over the people in your life. Most everyone will list their families as the most important thing in their lives, but answer this question honestly for the real answer.
Where do you spend most of your time, energy and resources every day?
Do you like the answer? It may be time to make adjustments. Not having enough time with your spouse means there isn’t much opportunity for communication or intimacy. I once worked with a client who spent 15 hours a day working…six days a week. He felt he was providing security and wealth for his family so it was a good trade off. His wife left him because she was lonely. She tried to tell him for years but he just couldn’t or wouldn’t get off the hamster wheel. Now he would give anything to turn back the clock, but for his wife…it really was too late.
4. Be inconsiderate about how someone feels
Feelings are never right or wrong…they just are. Do you minimize your spouse’s feelings when they try talk to you about how they feel about a certain topic? You may be minimizing and not even realize it. Here are certain things people say to be “helpful” but their partner often feels they are being disregarded in some way.
- “Don’t dwell on the negative. Focus on the good things.”
- “Just take my advice and this will all work out.”
- “You stress and worry over everything.”
- “What do you want me to do about it?”
Most of my clients aren’t trying to be dismissive. They just don’t want their spouse to be sad or anxious. But that’s about YOUR feelings and anxiety. Sit with your partner in their feelings for a moment by simply acknowledging what they say they feel. One simple sentence can change everything. Are you ready for it?
“Honey, I’m so sorry you feel this way. It must be awful. I love you.”
Ok..I lied. I couldn’t stop when I got rolling. Three sentences is a bonus!
Try These Actions Instead:
1. Communicate often
Is there a time you can set aside to talk through the day with your spouse? It doesn’t need to be long, but if you start with 15 to 20 minutes each day, you might be reminded at how much you enjoy talking with your spouse. Happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin, recently published her latest book, Better Than Before, about the power of cultivating good habits. Gretchen’s husband, Jamie, suggested that they make a point of discussing their days each night after their daughters go to bed. After putting this practice into place, they were both pleasantly surprised at how much they enjoyed this evening ritual. Try it. You might be surprised, too. For me and my husband, our best times of intimacy come with our evening walk. We get 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to just download the day. Priceless! And…we burn calories at the same time. An added bonus.
2. Communicate patiently
If you find yourself escalating to anger during a conversation with your spouse, try and take a time out and let them know that you need a few minutes to cool down before continuing the conversation. If you are hurt, angry, sick or tired, the probability of having a positive conversation is slim. If you can, set aside a time where you know you will most likely both be in better moods to discuss the topic at hand.
3. Prioritize People
It is easy to fall into the trap of checking things off your To Do list, rather than to spend time with people. If you are a Type-A planner, perhaps you could set a time or activity that you and your spouse could do together. This way, you’re carving out specific time for each other, and you get to mark it off your list. If you are just a very busy person, are there things you could remove from your calendar, or volunteer positions that you could say no to? Take a look at your schedule and see what could go, and then take the necessary steps to free yourself from those commitments.
4. Acknowledge Emotions
When your spouse comes to you and says, “This makes me angry,” or “I feel really bummed about this,” take time to acknowledge what they’ve said. By simply saying, “Yeah, I can see how that would make you angry,” Or, “Gosh, I’m bummed for you, too,” you’ve just empathized with them. This can go a long way in breaking down communication and intimacy barriers.
Do these issues resonate with you? See if you can make a concerted effort to identify one way you may be sabotaging your marriage, and make a point to react to your spouse differently this week. If this is just one of many issues in your marriage, I would recommend getting some outside help for your marriage. Make an appointment with The Marriage Place today.