I have a confession to make: I am not very good at communicating, especially when I am upset. I know I’m not alone – how many of you out there have lashed out at your husband when he asked a seemingly innocuous question? You wish you could take it back right after you did it because you know that it will probably start a fight, but at the same time, you’re like, “Bring it! I just feel like yelling right now!” So, then this big argument starts, you and hubby have a serious discussion (with raised voices and defensiveness, mostly on your part), then you eventually shut down and listen to him talk for an hour because you didn’t even want to be having this conversation in the first place. He takes your one word responses and head nodding as agreement when you really just want this whole thing to be over. Both you and your spouse agree to end the “argument” and neither one of you are really sure what started it at this point. Raise your hand if you’ve been there… *raises hand guiltily.* Now, raise your hand if you want to know how you can effectively communicate so this doesn’t happen anymore… *raises hand enthusiastically!*
We don’t often have these serious discussions, but when we do, we know it is because we have not done as good of a job of communicating with each other as we normally do. Maybe one or both of us is stressed out, tired, or feeling a little down or maybe we just haven’t made time to talk to each other lately – whatever the reason, having one of these conversations means that we need to evaluate the past few days or weeks and see where the miscommunication or lack of communication has occurred. We have noticed that when we follow these 5 rules, we are happier and more in sync with each other, and when we let even one of them slide, the communication starts to break down. Following are these rules we try to live by every day:
1. ACCEPT THAT YOU CANNOT READ EACH OTHER’S MIND: I mean, if we could, that would be awesome, right? But, we are not psychics or empaths, and we know that we actually have to TALK TO EACH OTHER to find out the other’s thoughts and feelings. If I want my husband to do something around the house, I need to actually ask him to do it, rather than look longingly at the dishes in the sink, then to him, and hope he gets the message. If I want him to know that I have had a bad day, I tell him I have had a bad day and explain why I feel upset, instead of snapping at him and taking out my bad day on him.
2. ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT: Sometimes, there is just too much on your task list to finish in one day. You have meetings to go to, school events for your kids, and oh yeah, that pesky laundry needs to get done and the baby is almost out of diapers, too. Rather than trying to do it all and resenting your spouse for not offering to help, ASK HIM FOR HELP. It’s as simple as, “Hey honey, on your way home from work, can you swing by the store and pick up some diapers?” Pretty simple to ask, he’s probably not going to say no, and you were able to cross something off your to-do list. This rule has a lot to do with the one above – you’re not mind readers, so communicate what you need verbally and you’ll most likely get it.
3. DO NOT USE GENERALIZATIONS OR EXAGGERATIONS: This is a hard one for me, as I tend to have an “all or nothing” point of view about things. If I start to say, “EVERYONE is doing this and we aren’t,” or “I’ll NEVER be able to do this,” Dustin reminds me not to generalize and I try to realize that things are not black or white. Generalizations and exaggerations can start to hurt a marriage when one of you says, “You NEVER do this for me,” or “I waited 4 HOURS for you to get ready” (I hope that’s an exaggeration – otherwise, we have a whole different story!). Unless it’s an absolute fact, try to remove the words “everything” and “nothing” or “always” and “never” from your vocabulary. It’s hard to do, and I am still working on it, but it will help your relationship if you can do it.
4. DO NOT ACCUSE OR NAG: You know when you ask someone to do something and then they don’t and then you get kinda mad about it? Have you ever said something along the lines of, “See, I told you to do this and you didn’t! I kept reminding you and reminding you and you just couldn’t be bothered to do it.” After this accusation, you know what usually comes next, right? “You NEVER do anything I ask you to do!” Oh, boy, a generalization. Then, “I don’t even know why I ask you, I might as well just do it myself!” This is dangerous territory – you’re using accusations and generalizations to vent your frustration. You may have “reminded and reminded”, but have you ever thought that it could have come off as nagging to your spouse? There is a difference between asking for help and nagging – if you’re telling him, sending him an email, a text, putting it in your shared Google calendar, hiring skywriters to write it in the sky, and putting it on the stadium megatron, you’re probably reminding him a little too much (you do know those last two are ridiculous, right??). Bottom line: ask nicely (and usually just once) when you want something done and if it doesn’t get done, don’t jump down his throat. It’s probably not life-or-death, and I’m sure he will make it up to you. You’re not perfect either, right?
5. SAY “I LOVE YOU” AND MEAN IT: This rule is so important!! We make sure to say “I love you” multiple times a day, whether it is verbally or through text, just as a reminder that we are in this together, we’re on the same team, and nothing is going to stand in our way of being happy and healthy in our relationship. Yes, times get hard, arguments occur, life happens – but it’s important to say we love each other and to show it in our actions and body language to each other. When people forget to do that, they can forget why they got together in the first place. Reminding each other constantly that you love each other is extremely important and must be done!!
I hope these rules help you to communicate with your spouse better – communication is so important in a relationship, and if you’re in this with your partner for the long haul, communication is a vital skill to learn.
What rule do you think is the most important for you in your relationship? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!
- Learn How Spouses Can Achieve Intimacy Through Communication (losangeles.cbslocal.com)
- 7 Ways to Destroy Your Marriage (sethsoasis.wordpress.com)
- Information on Effective Communication (sherealphy.wordpress.com)