Both men and women communicate very differently. This is because most women find talking and sharing thoughts, feelings and emotions as a form of intimacy. While most men, on the other hand, treat communication as a tool for solving problems, or “getting to a point“.
I bet the light bulb went on just now. Especially for those who have a difficult time communicating with their significant other.
So, we all can communicate – we just individually learn to do so in a different manner. And it’s important to understand that your expectations affect how you communicate with your spouse! We can’t expect our spouse to communicate the same way we do.
Maybe you say, “Well – that may be true and all – but my SO use to communicate openly so well in the beginning. Now it’s like trying to talk to a brick wall. So what’s changed?”
I was in that boat once. Unfortunately, that change can be impacted by two reasons.
The honeymoon phase: everything that was once grand and seemingly effortless in the beginning – then turned dull or sour over time – is from the “in love” euphoric phase of new relationships. As we like to call it – the honeymoon phase. It may also be known as the period where many “win the affection” of the other. In marriage there is also considered a honeymoon phase (hence, when after the honeymoon is considered the slow down period).
Over time, complacency sets in – as it does with every couple. It is likely a natural occurrence. It isn’t supposed to be a bad thing, but it should be treated as a motive for change in the relationship. The determining factor is whether couples acknowledge and initiate for improvement, and work together in getting out of complacency.
A shift in the tides. He, you or both have changed in a way that has dramatically drifted your relationship from the efforts you once instilled. This can be anything from infidelity, emotional disconnection, personal changes and hardships within the relationship. Figuring out that change is the name of the game – addressing it, determining the value of the relationship and mutually coming together in improving the relationship is a start. The key is both parties must be open and remain transparent.
[Related Read: 4 Ways Transparency Creates Thriving Relationships]
Maybe your relationship started off on the rocks. Again, we all communicate, verbally and non-verbally, but we each communicate differently. Yet in relationships it serves it’s own unique purpose, and the best way to communicate effectively with our spouse is by learning and observing. If we started off every relationship focusing on learning how one another communicates – imagine the foundation more relationships would have.
the best ways to
COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY WITH YOUR SPOUSE
Before I delve into how we can improve that communication, I want to share with you a few reasons why talking to your spouse may be like engaging with a brick wall.
- Communicating, or communicating unnecessarily, is not a “need” for him as it is for you
- He’s not interested or engaged in what you have to say
- He’s trying to avoid a fight; avoids confrontation – period
- He doesn’t understand what you’re asking, wanting or needing
- He’s not actively “heard” by you, or is interrupted when he does speak
- He just doesn’t like confronting his problems or feelings, or dealing with yours
- He feels “attacked” by your confrontation, or constantly feels in the “wrong” (which causes him to go into “defense mode“)
I know I’ve experienced every single one of those traits in my past relationships. I do feel the experience of that caused me to shift my priorities in finding someone based on “communication compatibility“. I also focused more on how to better communicate in my relationships, and try to adapt to how my SO communicates early on.
I would consider myself extremely lucky that I have never once experienced any bumps in the road of communication with my husband thus far – as we continue to practice these vital skills I am going to talk more about.
With that, communication, in a sense, is learned. So if it is learned, then how we communicate can also be altered and adapted.
It’s as simple as this: my husband communicates in a unique way, just as I. In order for us to fully understand one another, it’s important for us to mutually come together in learning how we each communicate to benefit our relationship. Compromise often weighs heavily in that aspect as well.
Is that always easy with each relationship? I think we usually end up kissing a few frogs before realizing the true value in a decent relationship – a commitment in which satisfies each in the long run, and the aim focusing on the happiness of our SO rather than just ourselves.
It’s also about making the choice to commit to change and making it work.
Finding someone willing to make communication a vital importance in a relationship isn’t a cake walk, by any means. Obviously, because you can easily be compatible with someone for so many reasons, yet if the communication just isn’t aligned, everything else won’t seem to matter in due time. It always, always somehow boils down to communication being the one aspect that tears relationships apart.
Yes, even infidelity boils down to communication – believe it or not.
But, here’s the silver lining: no matter what relationship you’re in, you are always going to have to adjust your communication skills in making it work for that particular relationship. Always. Period.
So how can we improve communication in relationships? Science! Haha -just kidding. Science can’t fix everything.
But you know who can? YOU.
Listen up – do you realize and understand how much power you hold? That’s why they call it empowerment.
It starts with you. It ends with you. It always helps for both spouses to be open to improving the communication, but if it’s worth the effort – start with you.
Being heard is one of the greatest desires of the human heart. And those who learn to listen are the most loved and respected. -Richard Carlson
Through the years, and many relationships, I really can’t stress that quote enough. Whether in relationships and even friendships! And I feel that any effective communication starts with just that – listening, but listening without the intent to respond.
I also heard this crazy idea that if you want to compare the quality of your communication in the relationship – start with how well you communicate in the bedroom. If the bedroom is where the fireworks descend repetitively, take note on what it is that makes your intimacy so successful. And no, it’s not because “you’re easy to please”, or “I just know what I’m doing – I’m experienced.” Think again.
But if those fireworks are duds for either side – well, then, you know communication in its entirety needs work.
I want to be straight forward, and blunt with you, on the simple tactics to improving the communication in your relationship. Have your SO willing to be open, and desiring to meet the needs of emotional intimacy within the relationship.
1 | Create a calm and comfortable environment
Many think, “Oh, we will talk in a park – it’s a mutual, open setting where we won’t feel territorial or cornered.” Sure, that sounds nice, but not when one or both parties already have a difficult time opening up in any setting.
This goes without saying – DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT expect to effectively communicate through text. In fact, do not initiate confrontation through text – period – unless you’re cool with frequent misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Plus, if your communication generally involves confrontation on specifics in the relationship – certain settings may cause your SO to retract more. This is what we don’t want.
Choose a place that brings you both peace, neutral ground and comfort. If that is your living room couch (because that is where you snuggle up together to watch movies), then destine that as your spot to talk. If heated arguments tend to spark in the car while driving, make a point not to make that the time to start up deep conversation or confrontation.
Catching your SO at the right time can also be key. It may not seem like something necessary to consider, but simply a bad day at work, a recent feud with a family member or friend, problematic event or change to cause a shift in mood can impact the communication you’re reaching for.
And in those times, we can fail to consider their needs over our own. Timing can be everything.
2 | Fully engage with your SO
Don’t have Netflix playing in the background, or anything that can easily be a distraction – such as cellphones. The sole focus is having one another’s full attention.
Body language is another level of openness for engaging in healthy communication. Refrain from crossing your arms or legs, eye rolling, “huffing” while speaking and listening, or sitting upright with your knees bent to your chest. Sit next to one another, or close in range – not across the room. In confrontation, turn toward your partner instead of away because that can send the message to your spouse that you are not willing to listen and engage.
In fact, make physical contact, like holding hands or lightly rubbing the back of the neck. Doing this can improve sensual quality of the conversation – meaning, both of you will be more comfortable getting down on one another’s level.
Lock eyes when you are speaking and listening to one another. This shows that you are engaging, while also allows you to actively listen and directly convey a better interpreted message as you speak. Doing so, you are enabling the ability to understand or empathize to your partner’s thoughts, feelings and opinions.
All in all, poor or conservative body language can be the form of a defense mechanism.
3 | Start off with the direct “I” approach
Most of the time, we tend to want to use the word “you” as our way of initially directing our feelings to our spouse. We use it in hopes of a better understanding, but in reality it is often mistaken as a way to blame. We often point blame based on our feelings and emotions, as well as particular situations that arise those feelings and emotions.
Your feelings can only be controlled by you – it is not the job of your partner to control how you feel or handle particular situations. Though, when we feel a certain way, we want our spouse to know what may be the cause of it. So instead of saying, “You never offer to do the dishes!”, use the “I” approach, “I feel unappreciated for always being expected to do the dishes. It would mean a lot if we made more effort to share this responsibility.”
Not only are you avoiding pointing the blame, but you are also validating how a particular instance makes you feel, while making it clear how to resolve it. So make a point to avoid using “you” as a way to blame. More or less, you are not pointing out the cause and by who, but rather how you feel from the cause.
Here are other “I” approached situations:
“You just make me unhappy lately! You never do anything nice for me like you use to.” – “You”
“I am not happy in the relationship lately, and I want us to work towards changing that. I enjoy when you surprise me with flowers.” – “I”
“You don’t open up – that’s your problem – that’s why you never understand me.” – “You”
“I feel misunderstood, and I feel disconnected from you.” – “I”
“You make excuse after excuse not to make a commitment! You need to make a choice.” – “You”
“I feel upset and unworthy from the lack of commitment. I deserve a better, quality relationship.” – “I”
Sure, I’d love to be able to tell you that you should say what you want, how you want, without having to tip-toe around the other person’s feelings. But that approach only works for so long before bitterness and resentment takes over the current relationship and following into the next.
4 | It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it
A lot of times, what you say has nothing to do with it. It’s how you say it. Not only with tone and body language, but with choice of words.
Not only does the “I” approach allow for better interpretation to how you person feels, without pointing blame on the other, but it also creates a natural calming of tone. Likely, with the “You” approach, our tone can come off sounding demeaning, stern, agitated, degrading and off-putting. Because we are directing our feelings, thoughts and emotions toward our significant other. With the “I” approach we are making an effort in thinking before we speak, and directing our emotions to our spouse by saying how we feel.
When we want something, we usually have no shame in calling out our spouse as the reason for not receiving it. Because, you know, we fail to remember that we are all human beings – responsible for our own choices and happiness.
“Why can’t you just pick up after yourself! What are you – a 5 year old? It’s so annoying that you expect me to be your maid around here!”
We bear this form of comfort with our spouse over time – with this idea that, “Well, he knows what I mean…”. We want something with the expectation to receive, we judge because we care, harsh words are just our honesty, and the weight of our happiness and unhappiness lies in the hands of our spouse. All with expecting unconditional love and forgiveness for our faults, flaws and vague interpretations.
Yes – even the mind reading.
It’s not a matter of whether he knows what you mean, but the expectation he feels behind it. He will be in constant fear of failure, or disappointment. Don’t put that upon someone when you don’t have to.
Some couples may say, “Oh, me and my husband just get each other – we’re so in tune – it’s like we can just read each other’s minds…” That’s great and all, but they’ve also established this expectation in communication that they will meet each other’s needs perfectly every single time. And I guarantee you – that won’t happen forever. You are going to have to know how to handle that bump in the road eventually.
Take the time to think about what you say before you say it. And think about how your choice of words would make you feel. Again, the “I” approach can simplify a lot of confusion, struggle in conveying messages, and creating additional tension in confrontation.
5 | Invite your SO into the conversation
When communicating, it’s never about one or the other. Even if the entire situation concerns just you. No matter what, communication is a two way street. When one speaks, allow the other to chime in, take the reins, share their voice or engage.
Never close off your spouse in the lines of communication. This only creates resentment and emotional disconnection. Avoid interrupting, countering or tearing down of engagement in the conversation. In fact, ask your SO to join with his thoughts, feelings or interpretations.
6 | Apply the LUVE approach
Use this method, especially in confrontation. More often than not, we fail to apply this method in the communication of our relationships. Doing so doesn’t ensure less arguments, but having a stronger and more successful way of approaching and getting through them together.
7 | Avoid making assumptions
We really enjoy making assumptions based on our emotions. I know you’ve done it – I’ve done it. We do it to justify our feelings, and in quick accusation as to why we feel the way we do.
“I know you avoid making plans in case something better comes along – you would even cancel on me to hang with the guys!”
Reality is – that could be far from the reason. Or it may be – but that isn’t the problem. The problem is how you feel, and correcting it.
“I feel my time is being avoided, and I deserve more of your committed time.”
Coming to your own assumption will only lead for your partner to either comply remorselessly (holding it against you), or your spouse will withdraw from communicating since you seem to “have it all figured out for him”. And that is what you want to avoid in the first place.
Let him engage, allow him to express his side, his thoughts, feelings and emotions without drawing to conclusions.
8 | Stubborn communicators require extra patience
Boy do I remember the time of being in one of the most stubborn relationships in my life. Talking to, let’s call him Vicious-Cycle, was not only like talking to a brick wall – but his compassion for the relationship fell down a steep slope. Our icky, unresolved problems, opinions, thoughts and feelings revolving around it were simply shoved under his rug. And that relationship cycled through that behavior over, and over, and over.
The moment I realized it, I knew I was too late. He had checked out of the relationship, as I pushed forward with the aim to improve it. It was when it is was all said and done that I understood what I was dealing with, and what I was doing wrong. I was with someone who was 10 times as stubborn as I, and I didn’t take the time to learn his way of communicating and working from there.
Now that I’m flooded back with terrible memories of it all – here we go…
Stubborn individuals walk this earth – there’s nothing to hide about it. And those who are stubborn require the extra effort, stamina, and that revolving door approach of patience. It absolutely sucks – yes.
It honestly takes that special person to put up with us “stubborn” individuals – like myself. We do not like being controlled or criticized, and often times we are inflexible and closed minded.
Though I feel I have come a long way in changing that – I chose to make that change. Stubbornness isn’t genetic, it’s a learned behavioral trait. A learned behavior capable of change. Stubbornness is merely hypersensitivity – we often interpret words spoken as mean, negative, or critical and have a hard time dealing with and accepting of those who differ in our own opinion, beliefs and ideas.
And in order to break down it’s barrier, you must tread lightly – possess a kind, soft spirit – with diligence, understanding and patience. But most importantly, you must demand the same respect in return.
9 | Be open to “re-dos”
We say the wrong things sometimes. And in communication, we are especially imperfect. What we say to one person might come off meaning something totally different to someone else. We say things that could be out of context, or spoken out of anger, judgement or irrationality.
We may all have said something that initially makes us go, “Sh**, why did I say that? Could I re-phrase?”
Allow that to be fair game in your communication.
10 | Converse without an “objective”
The goal of communicating is not solely to “win”, “validate” or “get something” out of it. If that pertains to you – then there might be a deeper issue to resolve within yourself.
Don’t only communicate with your significant other out of confrontation, or for merely “checking it off the list” of your duties. It isn’t supposed to be a chore, or an incentive. That is why you hear time and time again that with communication comes trust, and having both forms a solid foundation for a healthy, lasting relationship.
To communicate means being mutually open and creating emotional intimacy, allowing a gateway of learning, understanding, validating and empathy from both sides and constructing a path of improvement for the relationship.
11 | Make physical contact
Conversing makes it a little more at ease when joined with physical touch. Grazing one another’s arm, or holding hands, can be a way to lower tension or daunting emotions in tough subjects.
It even makes it easier on both when expressing your feelings in confrontation using the “I” approach.
12 | Ask the right questions
If you’re having a hard time getting your spouse to communicate – like pulling teeth struggling – it may be that the wrong questions are being asked to engage him.
If I ask my husband when he comes home from work, “How was work?“, I notice his response will usually always be, “Pretty good…not bad…eh, it was OK.” Notice how nothing comes out of that response?
What I really want is for him to want to tell me how his day was. Whether it was something that happened, something someone said that was funny, any big news or changes, or for reciprocation of the subject.
So instead, I’ve started asking, “What did you get to do at work today?” He is a police officer, so each day there’s generally something that happens – some funny, exciting, scary or even boring. Either way, I get a better response than “Eh, fine.”
Another important part is engaging in discussions that aren’t necessarily up your alley of interest. Like football – I can’t stand it, know nothing about it, could care less of it’s existence – but I know my husband, being the guy he is, loves it. I do my best to support his interest of it when I can bear it, knowing he does the same for me.
Another tip: don’t ask questions for the sake of “needing to ask”. Ask because you want to – you’re interested in communicating with him and want to be genuinely engaged for discussion. Ask a different question each day – switch it up – even if it’s coming out with, “Tacos, burritos or fajitas tonight?”
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13 | Be more accepting
All in all, your spouse isn’t going to communicate just like you. They aren’t going to understand what you’re saying each time, and neither are you (though the aim should be making an attempt through the LUVE process).
It’s important that we accept one another’s flaws in communication, just as we have flaws in all other areas. As long as you are both willing to improve from those flaws in communication – that is a one-up in a life partner. And being more accepting of each other, and willing to forgive, is one of the ways to show our spouse the importance and value of the relationship.