by Melissa Chapman
Ever feel like you have the same arguments with your spouse around and around for years and years? Here are 5 communication tweaks you can make to help you break this cycle and make some progress in your relationship!
Incompatible and incommunicado
When you got married you knew you and your spouse had very different personalities. Even your disagreement styles probably became apparent early on: While you would prefer to hash out every last detail of your argument until you feel satisfied you’ve arrived at a solution, he is more than happy to retreat to his corner of the house and bottle up his feelings until they reach a boiling point.
According to Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT Psychotherapist and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage, it is quite typical that spouses are not matched in their communication styles and that they often have to learn navigate this hugely important dynamic within the relationship.
How does your past impact your present?
One of the easiest ways to understand your styles, notes O’Neill, is to discuss and reflect with your own spouse on how you related in your family of origin; whether you were more like your mom or dad, what have you evolved into, how do you feel about being more like, for example, your dad who shut down and what effect did it have on the household. There is much to be learned in this way that will help guide you to who and how you want to behave in this realm of life.
“The best thing to do is to become aware of what didn’t work in your family of origin and watch for the moments in your own life when you go down the same negative path as your parents,” says O’Neill. ”In my work with couples, I always suggest that the couple become a team and help each other to be more aware. Discuss situations after family gatherings and come up with ways one spouse can signal the other the next time they start to take the old path. Often, however, this work can be fraught with much emotional discomfort and is best worked within a therapy office.”
Most common problems spouses have when it comes to communicating
The most common problem is the inability to really hear what our spouse is saying, says O’Neill. Good listening is not simple, it is not easy. It takes serious attention, being able to be in the moment rather than using energy in planning your next comeback/response/argument. It also takes being able to “suspend” your negative emotions to instead engage in productive dialogue and brainstorming. Additionally, spouses are often not aware of how their vocal tone and body language can so immediately push their partner’s buttons and shut down any possibility of sensible discussion.
“The ultimate goal is to become aware of each other’s style and have appropriate steps to take that assure your partner, that they will be listened to and genuinely heard, “says O’Neill. ” A partner who does not feel heard is most likely unhappy in the marriage.”
Effective communication will help your marriage in the long term
There are two parts to intimacy in a marriage — dialogue and intercourse — they are the means by which partners stay connected, over the long haul, through the good times and the bad. If either type of connection is compromised, a marriage will deteriorate, slowly and insidiously, when one or both partners wake up one day and feel terribly alone. It may not be so much about finding a style that fits you both, but rather about implementing small, adjunct behaviors that “take care” of each of your needs.
5 Ways to better communication
#1 Don’t lash out
Understand that finding the best way to dialogue can open up strong emotions and knowing about all those buttons that can be pushed to hurt your spouse. It is critical that you agree to stay above it and not “hit below the belt.”
#2 Practice, practice, practice your listening skills!
In most instances listening will be more important than anything else you can do in communicating.
#3 Make sure basic, human needs are fulfilled
Before doing the difficult and dirty work on fulfilling your emotional needs, consider that – unless it is an emergency – a hungry, tired or sick spouse is really disabled in their ability to communicate well.
#4 Utilize eye contact always with your spouse.
That and maybe a kind touch can do wonders.
#5 Keep it real, but keep it kind
Monitor your voice, your tone, your loudness, your sarcasm, your curtness, your annoyance, your disinterest, your impatience, etc. Be aware, don’t let yourself off with excuses!