How can you talk and actually communicate with your partner or spouse so you can convey your thoughts, needs and emotions across effectively and clearly?
One of the biggest and most complicated problems that partners and couples in crisis face is the inability to genuinely communicate with each other. They might have communicated well one time, but that is no longer the case. And we come across this a lot.
I call this growing trend “damaged communication” for a good reason. Because 99% of the time, attempts at communication often result in emotional breakdown or some other form of aggression, resentment or estrangement. So the wish to communicate takes you and your partner to places where you feel even worse.
Putting it plainly, we can say that if you dread the idea of starting a normal conversation with your partner, it’s possible that you or both of you are suffering from the effects of damaged communication. And that feeling is no fun!
Damaged communication can drain the very lifeblood of a relationship until both parties feel like dry, lifeless husks. A formerly loving relationship can lose all meaning if one or both parties stop communicating or doesn't know how to communicate.
Why does damaged communication occur?
In the world of longtime partners or married couples, harmony is everything. When the natural harmony of two loving people is lost, things go awry – usually quite quickly.
Damaged communication is often a reflection of how things have been going for the past few months or years.
This type of communication is actually the manifestation of the poorly designed and executed defense mechanisms that people use to ‘protect’ themselves from emotional attacks, emotional blackmail, aggression, etc.
In short, damaged communication happens because people have a natural aversion to being hurt, even if the hurting is happening within a romantic or intimate relationship. If a relationship is on a rocky path, one or both parties may resort to communication strategies that may be doing more harm than good.
How can you begin repairing your relationship with your partner or spouse through better communication?
Absolutely. In fact genuine and quality communication is the only fuel that keeps a relationship going, alive, and positive. When your methods of communicating with your partner are working, you may be in a less-than-perfect relationship but you’re both happy, content and most of all secure with the relationship.
It’s very true that a loving relationship can act as a powerful and strong pillar that you can lean on in times of personal turmoil and distress, but it really may not be sufficient for the long term. Because when the relationship itself is causing the turmoil in your heart, then there’s something wrong and without communication channels you can't go very far!
Below are some important but not so simple to execute ways that you can begin improving your relationship through better communication. This type of behaviors are not easy to correct especially when there is a great deal of disconnection already between you and your partner. but make sure to eliminate them as much as you can. It's all about your mind set. If you try to remember these points before you start to talk, it'd be easier to stick to them during the communication:
1. Steer Clear of “Attack Words” – Attack words are terms that people use to make people feel bad about themselves. People often use words like “lazy”, “selfish”, “self-centered” and “obsessed” to chip away at another person’s self-confidence. This is usually done when one or both parties are upset, angry and resentful.
If you want your relationship to last, you have to find ways to express your thoughts and feelings without using “attack words”. They have no use in your relationship and they will never contribute to the rebuilding intimacy, romance or love between two people.
2. Avoid Negative Tags – I hope none of our readers are at this point in their relationships but we see more and more people using this kind of behavior during so called communication attempts.
“Negative tagging” is a behavior I’ve observed in partnerships and married couples who seem to have taken a liking to calling each other really strange, inappropriate and even quite awful names.
I’ve heard my fair share of words like “sexist pig” or “witch” to know that somehow, this unacceptable mode of communication can become commonplace in a once “loving marriage”.
If you find yourself exclaiming negative tags like the ones I’ve already mentioned, you can be sure that you are hurting not only your partner who might seem to have become accustomed to your negative behavior, but also and more importantly your relationship, your respect for one another, and your capacity to love.
3. Avoid the Accusatory Finger – Using an accusing tone is your express ticket to the escalation of arguments. Your start is already negative and there is no way you can end up in a positive place with your talk.
So it's crucial to catch yourself before you let the bombs drop! The major indicator of an accusing tone is using constantly the word “you” in your statements. Catch yourself and stop you'ing when you do!
“You” is usually followed by hurtful accusations or generalizations too such as “you’re never home early, the kids are forgetting what you look like!” or “you are always spending hard-earned money on useless things!” Even if these things might be true, the way you communicate these things to your partner will put his guard up therefore not allow him to understand you and your point of view.
To avoid this fatal, relationship-killing scenario, you have to re-frame how you express yourself, even if you’ve already reached the end of your rope. Focus on your feelings and express those to your partner instead.
When expressions come form the heart, it will be much more meaningful to your partner and he will have to drop his defenses in return. We have to get him to answer with his heart not via his defense mechanism that we know is super strong by now.
Instead of saying “you’re lazy”, say something like “when I have to take care of so many things around the house, I feel very tired and when I feel like that I have little interest and energy in interacting with you or the kids”. Say it gently, calmly, as-a-matter-of-factly!
How can you make communication work again in your relationship?
It’s no secret that partnerships and married life can become a true test of a person’s character.
At certain points in married life, every fiber of your character can be strained to the point that you may feel like being impatient or even aggressive with your spouse.
Is it normal to feel this way?
Thankfully such experiences are normal, so in that sense you're not alone and it's not only happening to you. It's a miracle for two people to be in a partnership or in a marriage. It's simply not easy to live with another person every single day.
It’s normal to feel impatient or angry at times when some things just don’t work out. However, what’s not normal is using words to attack, undermine, look down on your partner. Don't feel like you need to dominate him and “win”.
This is not a battle. This is a relationship and there is no right or wrong. there is only the wish to find a common way to live together loving, respecting, understanding and supporting each other.
What’s the “tipping point” that you should be wary about?
When you reach a point where you view your spouse as an enemy, I’d like you to immediately stop and take a step back to review what has happened so far to your relationship.
I know for a fact that this can be a tough challenge because it’s always difficult to examine something that is charged with emotions. However, it’s essential that you hold yourself accountable to examine your relationship, so you can assess the ways to repair it.
Can communication save your marriage?
Good communication is the strongest possible support for a troubled relationship.
People often say that talking gets people nowhere. Pap talking may not but sincere, heart-felt, intimate sharing will!
Genuine communication is a two-way interaction, with both parties actively listening, providing feedback and compromising to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
In order to make communication work, we are suggesting the following guidelines to keep in mind, at all times:
1. Don’t Use the Rake of History – Using another person’s past errors and misjudgments to bolster your position during a dialogue will only make the other person miserable and defensive at the same time.
No one likes being reminded of poor decisions and if you habitually rake up “ancient history” just to stay in control of a dialogue, you’re not helping the relationship at all.
Don’t get me wrong – a person’s past experiences can be used to improve his behavior. However, there is an ideal time and place to talk about past experiences for future enrichment. Using the past for “mudslinging” is a complete different scenario and is not a good tactic in getting the communication gear running.
2. Strive to Convey a Clear Message Every Time – When a person feels hurt or upset, the tendency is to mix negative emotions and various lines of communication in a single, impenetrable message that is very hard to understand by the other party.
For example, if a woman feels left out because her husband is always out drinking with his buddies after work, she may say something like “you’re sure relaxed every night!”
The husband, who may not be as receptive or sensitive to the current issue, may dismiss the statement as a simple observation. Of course, the statement is not merely an observation but a very vocal statement that she disapproves of the behavior.
However, the actual messages that the wife wishes to convey is lost in the jumble of the single, impenetrable message.
This would be a much better way to express the wife’s frustrations at her husband’s chronic drinking: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been going out with your buddies past few months (factual observation). These outings have got me thinking that you don’t want to spend time with me and the kids (personal opinion). When you go out every night, I feel a bit depressed and lonely (negative emotion). We would love it if we could all spend more time together, at home (statement of need).”
What if you don’t feel like giving a clear message?
When I try to help out couples and partners in trouble, invariably, one party would state that the other party should be sensitive enough to “catch the signals” and understand what’s actually being said, even if the message itself was muddled or unclear.
I always tell these folks that in the interest of saving the relationship, such beliefs should be suspended no matter how true they may seem. Why? Because no belief is more important or valuable than a relationship on the mend.