Communication is said to be key to marriage. However, many couples aren’t sure what sorts of communication mistakes they make and can’t pinpoint just where they’ve gone wrong.
Just because you are talking doesn’t mean you are communicating well. And just because you aren’t talking doesn’t mean you aren’t communicating. Effective communication means that both partners are able to openly discuss their thoughts and feelings while also being able to listen to one another.
Sometimes couples get into bad habits when it comes to communication. Breaking free from bad habits can be hard. The first step in improving your communication is identifying your communication problems.
1. Continuing a Discussion After it has Escalated
Often, couples don’t know when to put the brakes on a conversation. However, once things get heated, it can easily pass the point of no return. When people get angry and voices get raised, it’s unlikely that anything will get resolved.
When people get emotional it becomes nearly impossible to listen effectively. People tend to focus more on what they will say next rather than what their spouse is saying. Also, when people are angry they tend to try and get the other person to hear what they are saying. Often, people raise their voice or keep repeating the same things. Compromising, negotiating, and problem-solving become nearly impossible.
It is essential for couples to learn how to recognize when they are becoming too distressed to continue a discussion. Taking a break to calm down can be very helpful and can allow each person to be able to think more rationally and to develop more empathy for their spouse’s point of view.
2. Communication Blockers
Communication blockers are those things that attempt to put a quick end to the discussion. There are both verbal and non-verbal communication blockers that are often meant to change the subject or deflect the conversation. Often the message is, “I don’t want to talk about this,” but instead of directly stating it, communication is blocked indirectly.
Non-verbal communication blockers include behaviors such as eye rolling and sighing. Other ways people block the communication non-verbally is by not engaging in the discussion at all. When a person keeps watching television without looking up and doesn’t make eye contact, it can be a communication blocker.
Verbal communication blockers can include things name calling and cursing. They may also include condescending comments such as, “Here we go again…” or “You’re just like your mother.” These sorts of comments show a lack of desire to take the other person’s feelings into consideration.
Triangulation is when a third person is introduced into a discussion. This most often occurs when someone seeks advice from a third party before approaching the subject with their spouse. For example, when a wife seeks her mother’s opinion about her spouse’s behaviors it is considered triangulation. Perhaps she talks to her mother about her spouse’s desire to work long hours and then tells her husband, “My mother agrees with me that you shouldn’t work so late.”
Triangulation can be damaging to the relationship because private information is often shared with another. Also, it is important to take your spouse’s opinion into account and not necessarily the opinion of others who aren’t in the situation.
Triangulation sometimes even occurs in the context of therapy. When one spouse says to the other, “I’m going to tell our therapist that you just did that” as if it is a threat. The other way triangulation can occur in therapy is when one spouse is focused on trying to gain the therapist’s favor and to agree that the other spouse is “wrong.”
When one spouse is more concerned with pointing out that the other is at fault, it interferes with communication. Effective communication requires that a couple tackle a problem with a desire to solve it as a couple. However, when fingers are pointed, it often keeps the couple stuck in the problem rather than working the solution.
Although it is important to take responsibility for your own behaviors, rehashing whose fault it is and who is to blame isn’t helpful. Instead, it is more helpful to solve the problem and find ways to improve the next time.