Learning How To Communicate And How Not to Botch It Up!
The right kind of communication in your marriage is crucial.
Poor communication in marriage can be a very serious problem but the good news is that the problem is fixable. Communication at best can be a tricky endeavour especially when your own feelings and beliefs get in the way.
Fred and Doris, who came in for some counselling, have been married for over 10 years. They have become increasingly frustrated with each other and have grown apart. This couple once happily married no longer feels love for each other. Where they used to laugh and play together now they avoid each other and when they do speak to each other negative emotions cause them to misinterpret each other. They speak to one another in an offended manner assuming that that the other partner is out to hurt them. They are now calling each other names and are becoming abusive to each other. The conflict grows worse and love turns to hatred and resentment. Doris frequently doesn’t say what she means and Fred is often avoidant and can be explosive. They both love each other deep down inside but are too angry to want to kiss and make up. The long held and repeated hurts along with their poor communication skills leaves them feeling sad and hopeless. [These are fictitious characters in a fictitious scenario to illustrate common communication issues that are clinically presented].
Couples counselling begins
So many couples that come into my office resemble this couple with heightened emotions. They feel unloved, invalidated and possibly even betrayed. They no longer trust each other and begin to consider the possibility of a permanent separation or divorce. Is there hope for such a marriage? The answer is yes! But, it is a conditional yes. Yes, if both people in the relationship choose to take ownership and responsibility for their part of the troubled marriage. It takes humility for a marriage to work. If you are waiting for your partner to change before you will then it will never work. Waiting for your partner to change is a lack of humility that will result at in a relational impasse resulting in more of the same. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results then you are fooling yourself.
At the onset of the first session I have with couples I inform them that anger is not an indication that the angrier partner is more right than the other. Anger exists for a reason but no emotion is above truth or fact. I continue by telling the couple that most marital problems are not the result of just one of them causing the problems, rather the “blame” is predominantly in equal proportion to each person in the relationship, mostly 50/50, then sometimes 70/30 but never 100/0! You have to be committed to your marriage and to your spouse or you won’t be able to ride out the storm and heal the relationship!
For good communication to start you have to understand that communication skills are not something you are born with. A talker is not necessarily a good communicator anymore than a quieter person is a poor communicator. Communication is a skill that is learned and developed through coaching and practice.
Setting time aside
Start by creating time and a space that is emotionally safe for you and your family and where the two of you can have private time for communication. Possibly setting up the children in another part of the house where they know and understand that mom and dad are having some private time while they are safely enjoying a recreational activity. If you are feeling emotionally raw it would be prudent to begin by seeing a counsellor before engaging in anymore conflict.
Balance of communication
Balance of communication can be a tricky thing because all to many have inhibitions about how or what they want to say. Feeling heard is important, if you don’t feel heard or validated first and foremost begin by owning your own emotions and then tell your spouse that you need some reassurance from them based on your own feelings. Tell them in a respectful but clear and assertive manner what it is you desire and need from them in that moment. Remember no one can read your mind or know your needs in the moment. You can’t blame them for your lack of communication. Plus, you may need to respectfully spell it out to your partner, so they can better understand you and your needs. The partner who is doing the listening, after hearing their partner, should be making clear eye contact and make clear verbal acknowledgement of what they just heard in a positive affirming manner.
Take a step back
Before talking slow down mentally and emotionally and notice what you are feeling, and ask yourself what it is that you are looking for from your spouse. Ask yourself what is the desired outcome you are looking for? How can you communicate this? Notice any fears, inhibitions, performance anxiety, shyness, or timidity that you may be experiencing and while acknowledging that reframe your thinking to look at your goal, your desired outcome of the conversation you wish to engage in.
When we are calmer and less upset and understand that our feelings are our own, we can more clearly think through our struggles. Again, always ask yourself, “What is it that I want to communicate?” “What is it I need from my spouse?” “What do I need to feel validated?”
1. Be assertive and clear but calm with a well modulated voice.
2. When you are starting to get upset with your partner set up a time to communicate.
3. Always affirmatively acknowledge your partner’s communication.
4. Own your own emotions. Remember you are the one feeling what you are feeling no one can “make” you feel.
5. Recognize your own trauma and how it affects your reactions to your spouse.
6. Meditate on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 daily personalizing it and embodying the words. Give the God of love space in your heart.
7. Always kiss and make up before the day ends.
8. Give up all hope for a better past.
Love as a feeling and love as a virtue
Love is not only a feeling, but it is also a virtue! Once upon a time our society “loved” based on virtue and family values, they stuck through their marriage though possibly unhappy. Today we have the polar opposite happening. Today we have relationships that are solely based on feelings where virtue is practically all but absent. All too frequently when someone no longer “feels love” they opt out of their relationship with no understanding that love is much more than that. Love is both a virtue and a feeling state. We need love in marriage to be both feelings and virtuous.
Virtue should not just be about tolerance and sweating, struggling, agonizing perseverance in a relationship, it should be much more than that. Virtue is the moral, ethical, mature adult position that one is to take in a relationship. Virtue is the gold standard of love that can move the relationship to the state of feeling love in a marriage again. Virtue is about preserving your investment. Virtue is about fixing the relationship. Virtue is about doing the honourable thing. Virtue is about preserving your marriage for your children’s sake if you have children. Children have a right to a happy healthy home where mom and dad love each other. Virtue is about humbling yourself and becoming a responsible adult that is committed. True virtue is not just about tolerance, because it isn’t passive rather the virtue of love is actively doing something to fix the relationship. Did you know that only about 1-2% of married couples who have troubled marriages pursue counselling? The vast majority quit! Don’t be a quitter! Fight for your marriage, fight for your family and children!
Solutions that are worth it
Professional therapy is a viable solution, yes it costs money but divorce is far more expensive and not just in monetary ways. Divorce is expensive emotionally in that it causes more harm than good! I do realize there are exceptions but 99% of those getting divorced does not represent the exception, it represents a lack of humility, lack of action and a lack of commitment.
For some who are not spiritual or as termed by some, “religious” what I am about to share may be upsetting to you, but sometimes truth can be upsetting so hear me out before you stop reading. In marriage compassion is key. Love is a selfless act that both should be engaged in and dedicated to, after all it takes two to tango as the saying goes. Compassionate understanding should be the underlying motive and attitude which works best when communicating. To become more compassionate is to become better acquainted with what God has to say about love and relationships. The God kind of love is a selfless love that sacrifices and sees the best of every person in spite of the strife. I adamantly urge you to regularly read and mediate 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Engage in the practice daily, repetition of love and goodness is the best medicine. This repetitive practice will help keep your mind in a place of compassion and selflessness. When both of you practice this meditation your marriage will begin to take on a bit of heaven on earth.
Written by James A. Miklos, Ph.D.
Written by James A. Miklos, Ph.D. - Clinical director and therapist. James is the clinical director of New Hope Counselling Centre in Burlington, Ontario and has been counselling and providing mental health therapy for over 25 years. James is a Certified EMDR Therapist. His specializes in Trauma Therapy, Psychological Homeopathy and is a holistic practitioner.. James has numerous publications and periodicals, he has also self-published the book, “The Biblical Art of Dream Interpretation”. He also is available for speaking engagements as well as conducting workshops and seminars as well.
© 2017 James A. Miklos. All rights reserved. To copy or quote any of this material this entire citation and credit must be posted.
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