The Key to Solving Communication Problems in Your Marriage

The Key to Solving Communication Problems in Your Marriage

If your attempts at communicating with your spouse leave you frustrated, angry, and feeling even more distant, you’re not alone. In our recent marriage survey, 70% of the hundreds of couples who responded said they wanted better communication in their marriage. But there is an almost magic key to solving communication problems that can change everything.

Healthy communication doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a skill you learn. Think of how your communication normally happens. You try to express something important to your spouse. They react defensively and give a prickly response. Your already-stirred-up emotions get even hotter and your response back makes them even more defensive. The fight is on.

Is it any wonder that many spouses put up an internal wall and shrink from even trying to engage in real communication?

It’s time to reverse things.

Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”

Did you get that? It’s a fool who focuses primarily on sharing his/her own thoughts and feelings. The opposite is to find pleasure in understanding. Here’s how that translates into communication with your spouse:

Seek to Understand before Being Understood

Steven Covey made that principle popular years ago, but it’s never been more important for solving communication problems in marriage.

This key solved a thorny issue in my own marriage.

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When Your Spouse Will Not Communicate: 5 Things to Do

When Your Spouse Will Not Communicate: 5 Things to Do

Are you hammering at a brick wall, trying to get it to talk? When your spouse will not communicate that’s what it may feel like.

One frustrated wife wrote to me recently, “Our communication is terrible. . . My husband is a clam, and I don’t know how to get him to communicate his feelings. He has never been able to. And I’ve done everything the wrong way to try and get him to open up.”

Perhaps you can relate. You don’t need to be reminded that nagging your spouse and berating them for not communicating is a losing strategy. Enough of that.

So, your spouse should communicate better, or more, or more deeply, or more consistently, or more understandingly, or with less anger. But they’re not reading this; you are. So here are some things for you to do if your spouse struggles to communicate.

1.  Deal with Your Own Heart First

Simply doing your homework before trying to communicate may make a lot of difference. You can’t change your spouse, but you can work on changing you. Perhaps you already know some ways you’ve tried to communicate in the past that didn’t work; write out some opening lines and practice some healthier ways to initiate a conversation if necessary.

Make sure your own heart is open. If it’s not, spend some time in prayer, or whatever else you need to do to deal with your heart, before going any farther. If you want your spouse to share vulnerably you’ll have to be vulnerable yourself. You need some measure of healing yourself before you can be useful in helping your spouse go there.

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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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HOLD the Communication! Do These Things First

HOLD the Communication! Do These Things First

The usual ways you and your spouse communicate lead to predictable results; frustration, anger, withdrawing, or fighting. Is it even worth trying to communicate? If “We need to talk” seems to only make things worse, hold the communication! There’s homework you need to do first.

When asked in our recent survey what they would like to be better in their marriage, 70% of people wanted better communication. This was by far the most frequent issue mentioned among several possible choices. And I suspect your marriage could use either a tune-up or perhaps a complete overhaul in this area.

How does your communication normally unfold? Perhaps one of you has a burning issue gathering emotional heat as the minutes, hours, or perhaps even days go by. Finally the temperature becomes so hot that the steam erupts in an outburst of words accompanied by criticism, sarcasm, anger, frustration, or tears.

Even if your spouse suspects something is amiss they feel blindsided by your outburst and respond defensively. You feel unheard, unimportant, misunderstood. The wall between you becomes thicker and higher.

Or it may be the opposite. You don’t want a fight, so you drop a subtle (or not-so-subtle) hint about how you’re feeling or what you want your spouse to do. And the lack of any meaningful response from your spouse again leaves you feeling unheard, unimportant, misunderstood.

Why even try to communicate?

Do Your Homework

Stop! Back up. If your communication style isn’t working step back and do your homework. If you and your spouse are both people of good will, working through these questions yourself before trying to discuss an important issue together will make a huge difference.

Here’s what your homework looks like.

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7 Conversation Starters with your Spouse

7 Conversation Starters with your Spouse

You know you need to talk, but some conversation starters with your spouse would help.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Yes, that’s the secret of a great relationship. You probably don’t need to be told how important it is. But although good communication between husband and wife is so important, it may not seem easy to do.

“But I have nothing to say. What do we talk about?”

That’s why you’re reading this! Some people find conversation much easier than others, and that’s a big part of communication. Classically, women are more verbal than men. For my husband Al and me, I’m usually the one who needs to be prodded to communicate. He is very good at encouraging me to talk about things. (So men, it can be done!)

If things tend to be somewhat silent between you, here are some conversation starters with your spouse. Share a bit of yourself, then be quiet and ask your partner to share something. You can talk about:

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