Communication, communication, communication. Every married person has heard this is the key to a successful marriage time and time again. But what does it really mean? How do you communicate? Is there a right time to communicate? What if my spouse sucks at expressing him/herself? Is there a right and wrong way to communicate? It quickly becomes clear that communication is MUCH more complicated than it sounds. Throughout this blog you will find this to be one of our favorite topics because we do believe it is the most important factor in having a happy marriage.
Today we want to talk about communicating even when it feels impossible. We have all had those moments where we are carrying an attitude around the house because we are avoiding a conversation. Maybe it is because I don’t want to start a fight, I know I’m right and he won’t agree, or because I think he will think my issue is stupid. There is a long list of reasons why people avoid difficult conversations, but all of them likely lead to harboring resentment and unsolved gripes. What tends to happen is something triggers me and ALLLLLL of the things I held on to, come pouring out like a broken fire-hydrant. Then there is this whole big mess that could have been avoided if we just TALKED. Easier said than done, I know, but that is where we come in! We have a few tips that I think will really help if you are struggling to get through to your partner OR want to talk about an uncomfortable topic.
- Humble Yourself – This one is listed first because I can not emphasize how important it is. Humans by nature are competitive people so we go into conflict with the intention of “winning” but that is the wrong mentality in a relationship. The goal should be for both parties to “win”. This requires humility from you, even if you’re met with animosity or opposition. There is a saying that goes you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Not to call your boo a fly, but it is the same logic here. Approach the situation with your guards down and an open mind and heart.
- Decide why this conversation is important to you and WHY? – This tip is a GAME CHANGER. Trust me! When I started asking myself WHY things made me upset it truly revealed a lot about myself. What you will discover is that oftentimes it’s not your spouse you are upset with, but it’s much deeper than what it is on the surface. What may appear to be an argument about not loading the dishwasher could really be about feelings of underappreciation. An argument about a boys night out could really be about feelings of neglect and abandonment. It’s important to do this inner work before having difficult conversations because that will really help you guide and direct the conversation to what is really important and not trivial things that are just symptoms of the root issue.
- Write your thoughts down – Writing & journaling can be a form of therapy for many people, and even if you aren’t one of those people this can still be very helpful. It is easy to get side-tracked or tongue tied when having passionate discussions. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you remain on topic and help organize your thoughts in a way that is easier to express to someone. We’ve all had that “I wish I said ____” after an argument. Writing it down can help with that as well.
- Try and set a calm, peaceful atmosphere before the discussion – Nothing is worse than walking up to your partner who is already stressed out after a long day of work, and drama and saying “we need to talk” LOLL! This is a recipe for disaster LOL! It’s always a good idea to ensure that him/her is in the right mental and emotional space to receive what you have to say. This can be done by simply asking that. “I have some things I want to share with you, is now a good time?” Remember you can set the tone.
- Do not listen to respond, listen for understanding – LISTENNNN! Whewww, everyone swears they are a great listener until it’s time to REALLY listen. I thought I was the best listener in the world until I got into an argument with my husband and he said “repeat what I just said”. Ya’ll. I said something COMPLETELY different. I realized that I listened through a filter, I would listen to what my husband said and translate it into what I think he is saying and jump down his throat, like “I know you did not just….”. That isn’t listening. I began to tell him what I heard instead and ask him for clarity before I reacted, and that improved our conversations so much. I began to listen to understand and not to respond so I could win an argument.
- Embrace your differences – You’ll often hear people say well we “agree to disagree” but this takes it a step further. If after your conversation you find that you can not get on the same page with your partner. Try and really understand why he/she feels so strongly about their stance. Ask them Why? Dig deeper. When you identify that root issue make a decision to embrace that. When you are married you are loving ALL of this man/woman. This is where compromise and grace come into the conversation but that’s going to be for another post, LOL! (Click this link here to sign up for our newsletters so you don’t miss it!)
- Practice de-escalation techniques if things get hot – This can help you to greatly reduce heated arguments from your relationship. If both parties follow a few of the tips from above then it likely shouldn’t get to a heated point. BUT if it does there are a few things that you should try and do to avoid getting to a toxic and unhealthy discourse. Because trust me things can get there REALLY fast in the heat of the moment. We will also do a post on fighting fair in the future where we will go more in depth about this. But one thing is do not be afraid to respectfully walk away, ask for a second to breathe and go recollect yourself and be wiling to return to the conversation. Slamming the door and going to sleep at your Mom’s house is not what I’m referring to here. Walk away BEFORE things escalate and return to the conversation. Another tip is to just simply pause and breathe. It sounds like something so small but extremely effective.
So we have established how daunting and scary it can be to have difficult conversations. I hope these tips can help make it easier and more fruitful.