5 Communication Mistakes Couples Make
5 Communication Mistakes Unhappy Couples Make
When I was unhappily married, I kept reading that communication problems were one of the main causes of most marital problems. I thought, “In this case, it’s not a communication problem. I’ve got a husband problem.”
As it turned out, however, I was wrong. We did have communication problems, and most of those problems originated with… me. Once I started communicating differently, our marriage improved dramatically. What follows are 5 communication mistakes I was making that led to my unhappy marriage. Perhaps you are making the same mistakes.
Mistake #1: Expecting your spouse to read your mind.
I used to think that if my husband had an ounce of common sense, he would know what I wanted.
For instance, when he came home after working a 12-hour day and found me and the baby home with the stomach flu, I assumed he already knew the answer to the question, “Can I go for a bike ride?” He didn’t. If I didn’t say, “No,” he would leave me there, tossing chunks while I cleaned up baby poop.
You really can’t assume that your spouse knows how you feel or what you want. You don’t share the same feelings, worldview or thoughts. You might notice the dishes in the sink or remember that the kids haven’t done their homework yet, but he might not. When in doubt, say it out loud.
Mistake #2: Talking more loudly in an effort to be heard.
When we’re not getting the response we want, our natural reaction is to say the same thing more loudly. This doesn’t work, though. If you don’t believe me, think about how you reacted the last time someone shouted at you. Did you say “Aye aye captain” or did you dig in and resist even more? If you are like most people, you probably dug in. Or maybe you completely tuned out and stopped listening.
That’s probably what your spouse does when you raise your voice, too. When people feel threatened, it sets off all sorts of emotional alarms, and these alarms drown out the ability to listen.
Instead, I’ve found it’s a lot more effective to lower your voice. Try it. Speak slowly, softly and compassionately. You’ll make your point more quickly and easily.
Mistake #3: Fixating on your feelings.
Yes, you want your spouse to know how you feel, but when you go on and on and on about how angry or sad or resentful you are, it’s a trigger for your spouse to tune out. As a general rule, mention one feeling one or two times per one argument. The less you talk about your feelings, the more likely your spouse will tune in and pay attention to them.
Mistake #4: Being sarcastic.
Rolling your eyes, sighing loudly, and making cold, sarcastic remarks (ie. "Gee, Einstein, that was smart of you") turns your spouse off, pulls you apart and creates an atmosphere of fear and coldness in your marriage. Good marriages are warm places. Warm things up by complimenting, hugging, rewarding, and validating. If you have a concern, voice it assertively in a straightforward way. Don’t beat around the bush with nasty sarcastic remarks.
Mistake #5: Talking too much.
Much like shouting, talking too much is often a failed attempt to get heard. Yet when you go on and on and on, you start to sound a lot like the teacher on Peanuts. I’ve found that it’s a lot more effective to phrase my requests for change in just three or four sentences. For instance, if I want my husband to talk to me more kindly, I might say, “It hurts when you talk to me like that. Could you try to talk more warmly rather than talking down to me?” It gets his attention.
Have you used these communication styles in your relationship? Have they helped or hurt you? Do you know of additional communication mistakes that hurt relationships? Join the conversation.
Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, which tells the story of how she went from wishing her husband dead to falling back in love. She is also the creator of ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com. To find out how to enter to win a Kindle, a romantic getaway, and more, check out The Fabulous PHEA Giveaway.
Connect with Alisa on Twitter @AlisaBowman and on FaceBook Alisa Bowman Writes.