Communication in marriage can become painful communication very quickly when you don’t feel heard by your partner. When you feel your partner just isn’t getting it, paying attention or isn’t concerned with the feelings you are expressing you likely feel hurt and disappointed.
You can improve your marital communication. Read on and discover 6 mistakes that can destroy your relationship communication and discover the 6 tips which can transform that painful communication into a productive discussion.
Mistake #1 — Bringing up an important or potentially conflictual issue out of the blue. A potentially difficult or important conversation is not likely to go well if your partner feels blind-sided with “I am really angry about….” If they are like most people they are going to get defensive right away and either respond with anger or shut down. No one likes an ambush. Increase your chances of being heard and getting your point across by setting a thoughtful tone.
Tip #1 — Make an appointment. Let your partner know you have something you want to discuss and ask if now is a good time. If he/she responds with a no, then ask when would be a good time. Get a specific time frame.
Mistake #2 — Bringing up an important issue at a bad time. Asking for an appointment to discuss something serious as soon as your spouse comes in the door after a busy and stressful day at work is going to stand in the way of your gaining the cooperation and response you would like.
Tip #2 — When making an appointment make sure you use good timing. Avoid bad times like when your partner is in the middle of an important task, is distracted or preoccupied with some concern or in a bad mood. You want to stack the cards in your favor not against you from the outset.
Mistake #3 — Starting with a harsh or angry tone. This is certain to get your partner’s back up before you finish your first sentence.
Tip #3 — If you are talking about something that has upset you, calm yourself down before you actually start talking about it. Go someplace quiet and take a few deep breaths, talk yourself down or into an open and collaborative frame of mind. You will get much further this way.
Mistake #4 — Blaming your partner. If your partner feels blamed it is more likely that they will either get defensive (which will annoy you and it will only sound to you like they are making excuses) or they will go on the offensive and start verbally attacking you (which will add to your hurt and pain).
Tip #4 — Own what you can. If there is any part of the situation you can own or take responsibility for then do it. Tell your partner how you think you have contributed to the issue. Start off with that. It will let your partner know from the get go that you are not interested in “winning” by “destroying” him or her but that you are interested in moving forward.
Mistake #5 — Assuming your partner’s motivations. Often we think to ourselves, “he or she did this because he is mad at me about the other week” or, “he did this because he just doesn’t care about my feelings at all” or “she is just trying to make me feel guilty so I’ll to x, y, or z. ” We are often wrong when they try to ascribe motivations and agendas to our partners.
Tip #5 — Approach your partner with an attitude of open curiosity. If they have done something to upset you try to get them to talk about what was going on for them. They probably were not trying to hurt you on purpose. An assumption of good will goes a long way to helping your partner be able to listen to you.
Mistake #6 — Talking too long. People can only stay attentive for so long — especially if it is an emotionally charged conversation. Expecting your partner to have a very long conversation — especially if its about something they’d rather not talk about — is unrealistic.
Tip #6 — Limit the discussion to 20 minutes. If at the end of 20 minutes one or both of you don’t feel finished then set up a time to talk again. If you are both eager and willing to continue then go ahead but FIRST set another time limit and then when the time is up check back in with each other about continuing or stopping. If your partner is ready to end after 20 minutes then make another appointment to continue when he or she has had time to process and have some space.
I invite you to put these tips into practice and improve your communication with your partner. You may just find yourself getting more of your relationship needs and wants met.