How is communication going in your marriage?
Are you finding yourselves frequently going round and round and never arriving at a point of resolution?
Do you keep getting caught up in the same arguments over and over?
How about this one—you just can’t seem to have a discussion that doesn’t involve elevated emotions or things rapidly getting escalated.
The bad news is that you’re likely stuck in a rut, BUT, the good news is, you can get out!
The truth is, there actually might be good reasons why you’re getting stuck. You might be simply missing these 3 big warning signs in your communication pattern. (For more on this topic, check out the Expedition Marriage podcast Communication Killers )
3 Warning Signs of Bad Communication
Harsh startups—You may not even know it, but you might be creating a bad outcome within the first few minutes of your conversation. It will serve you well to pay attention to how you might be initiating when you’re trying to communicate things to your spouse. How is your tone? Are your words accusatory? Are you complaining or blaming right out of the gate?
If so, these are sure-fire ways to position your spouse on the defense instead of positioning them to listen and receive. Be sure that when you start a conversation you pause beforehand long enough to gather your thoughts and be intentional. Speak with kindness and purpose from a non-accusatory place. This will help make it much easier for your spouse to listen to whatever it is you have to say.
Making Assumptions—This one is easy to fall prey to. You may not even realize how much you might be labeling your spouse’s intentions, motives, and actions. You might assume without any confirmation that they’re doing or saying things to intentionally upset you, or perhaps because they don’t care.
When assumptions enter in it becomes very easy to switch over to a harsh setup instead of a soft one.
“You never help around the house. You could care less how tired I am!”, “I’m tired of your work being more important than me. Your job is all you care about.”
Instead of assuming things about your spouse, which by the way, assumptions are often negative, why not try clarifying with them.
“I’m frustrated that you don’t help around the house. It feels like you don’t care about how tired I am. Is that true?”, “It upsets me how much time you spend working. It’s beginning to feel like your job is more important than your family. Is that what’s happening?”
Ask a clarifying question and put assumptions to rest. Those negative assumptions will otherwise always lead you to a communication ditch.
Emotional reactivity—Emotions can get the best of you, and me, if we’re not careful. They will lead us to react instead of respond. The second you get emotionally elevated is the same second you stop being productive in communication. Emotional reactivity shuts down your problem-solving skills, your empathy, and your ability to move towards listening and resolving.
Before you initiate communication, take all the time you need to gather yourself and regroup. Being upset is ok and often necessary, but communicating while being emotionally elevated is just not productive and often will encourage your spouse to back away from you more than it will encourage them to move towards you.
Good communication in marriage is a must. It’s a big component of keeping you connected and secure as a couple
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Expedition Marriage