Avoid these 8 Mistakes in Communicating with your Spouse

Avoid these 8 Mistakes in Communicating with your Spouse

“Honey, we need to talk.” How does that work out for you? Do you end up in a screaming match? Does one of you clam up and walk away? Do you say things you later regret?

It’s a rare person indeed who goes into marriage knowing how to communicate in a healthy way. We asked couples where they wanted help in their relationship, and communication was clearly the Number One issue. Communication is a learned skill, and avoiding these mistakes in communicating with your spouse will get you a lot closer to the goals you’re after.

Doing your homework before trying to communicate will help prevent some of these mistakes. But here are some specific land mines to watch out for when it’s time for “Honey, we need to talk.”

8 Mistakes to Avoid

1. Reacting out of Emotional Volatility

Beginning a conversation when you’re ready to boil over with anger, frustration, sarcasm, or desperation is almost certain to elicit defensiveness in your spouse. The walls between you will only become thicker.

Learn to own your own emotions; no one, not even your spouse, can make you feel any certain way. Discover healthy ways to deal with your feelings that don’t involve taking it out on your spouse. Cry with a friend. Go for a run. Spend some time in prayer. Let your emotional temperature cool off before trying to work toward a solution with your spouse.

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Why Marriage is Hard

Why Marriage is Hard

Sometime after the preacher pronounces you man and wife the unwelcome truth hits you; marriage is hard!

That realization may come within hours or it may take months, but every marriage encounters real and big problems. Just today someone told me, “Dr. Carol, tell people the truth – how hard marriage really is!” I don’t know any statistics, but I would guess that for most couples some major problem has ambushed them by the time they return from the honeymoon.

It’s no wonder that for the past couple years there are, for the first time, more unmarried adults than married adults in the US and other developed countries. It’s well known from other research that, in general, successfully married people live healthier, longer, and happier. But that’s not enough to convince many to take on the enormous challenges marriage presents.

Ask almost any married couple and they will tell you the problems are real: communication, intimacy, conflict, differing expectations, money, parenting, and more.

These and other visible problems, however, are just the surface issues. As helpful as pre-marriage instruction, date-night advice, and much of the marriage help out there may be, it only deals with the symptoms. And just like with physical symptoms, problems will continue until and unless the underlying diagnosis is made and treated.

The Troubled Marriage Diagnosis

Perhaps 90% of those who write to me about their troubled marriage say something like, “My spouse is doing these things wrong, and I can’t get them to change.” The spouse writing to me is filled with misery, frustration, loneliness, or anger, and they can’t see any way out.

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How to Know if it’s Right or Wrong

How to Know if it’s Right or Wrong

You’ve heard the questions. You’ve probably asked them yourself. “Is it a sin to drink alcohol?” “How far can I go with my boyfriend (girlfriend) sexually before it becomes sin?” “If I get a divorce, am I sinning?” Our human nature sometimes struggles to know if something is right or wrong.

When I was a tween I went through a period of being overwhelmingly concerned about my standing with God. Every night I’d religiously write down every wrong thing I had done so I wouldn’t forget to ask God or others for forgiveness. I kept a notepad hidden near my bed, and would cross off a “sin” once I had appropriately humbled myself before God or anyone else involved.

I’ve grown up a lot since then. It’s not that I’m any less committed to seeking forgiveness when I do something wrong, but I have a much deeper understanding of what God is after. And frankly, His “list” is a lot longer than mine!

But God’s list has much more to do with matters of the heart than it does with outward behavior.

Sin in the Bible

Religious people and institutions have a tendency to come up with lists of outward behaviors that you’re supposed to do and not do. The Jews in the Old Testament were very good at that, and God did not look kindly on that behavior: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

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You’re NOT Stuck in this Marriage

You’re NOT Stuck in this Marriage

Stuck in this marriageOne of the most common sentiments I hear from married people is, “I feel stuck in this marriage.” Yes, you’re miserable. You’re needs aren’t getting met. There’s little or no intimacy or sex. Your spouse doesn’t get you.

But I’m here to tell you, you’re NOT stuck in this marriage!

Perhaps if you’re reading this from some middle-eastern country that might be true – sort of. But even there we regularly hear stories of women who refuse to be stuck. Some may be whipped, imprisoned, or killed for trying to leave – and that’s NEVER NEVER ACCEPTABLE! But the point is you always have options regardless of your gender.

That also illustrates that your choices have consequences. In most of the world you have the choice to get a divorce, to leave the marriage. That choice may involve financial difficulties, trauma to your children, emotional and spiritual baggage, and a change in the way others see and treat you socially. But that is a choice you can make.

So get it out of your head and your vocabulary that you’re stuck. Remember the maxim that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results? It’s time to do something different if you want a different outcome. Now that we’ve illustrated what may be the extremes, let’s consider some of the various choices you have if your marriage is not the way you’d like it.

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Two Times when Anxiety may be Useful

Two Times when Anxiety may be Useful

AnxietyAnxiety is uncomfortable. You’re keyed up inside. You wonder if you can trust your thinking. And your body may experience any number of miserable symptoms. But anxiety may be useful.

There are times when anxiety signifies a medical condition, or it may be a response to something in your past or your present that is beyond your ability to manage. When that happens, dealing with the physical, emotional, and spiritual factors involved can lead to real freedom.

While anxiety always feels unpleasant, it is not always only negative. Sometimes anxiety can be very useful. If you understand that, you can extract the significant value anxiety may provide on the way to a better future.

Here are two times when anxiety can be very valuable.

  1. Anxiety provides Necessary Emotional Fuel for Change

What you’re doing now may be killing you – literally or figuratively. You may even be miserable, exhausted, and in significant pain. But you’re actually quite comfortable. Your misery is what you know. You’re used to the food you usually eat, the thoughts you usually think, the schedule you usually keep, the things you usually say to those around you, the things you ignore and put up with. In important ways your sickness or addiction or dysfunction or pain has become normal for you.

And to make a significant and lasting change you will have to get even more uncomfortable.

Research showed that among a group of people who experienced significant and lasting change as a result of some form of therapy, fully 75 percent of those interviewed said a willingness to experience some anxiety along the way was a critically important part of their success.

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