I hope that you can help. For the last year, my marriage has been suffering. It has gotten to the stage that my husband and I are unable to be in the same room together without falling into a serious argument and never-ending conflict.
The truth is, we have always found it difficult to communicate our problems. I guess you could say that I am a confrontational person, whilst my husband is the complete opposite and will try to avoid confrontation at all costs. We fight over numerous topics, including money, whether or not to start a family, where we should live, even what we should have for dinner!
I worry that we are just not meant to be together. I feel that I have failed. Do you have any words of wisdom for us? I am willing to try anything to make our relationship work.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”Epictetus
When it comes to communication within our close relationships, every single one of us could do with some reflection and assistance, so please do not feel as if you have failed.
You highlight how you yourself are confrontational whilst your husband avoids confrontation at all costs. This in itself is most likely the defining factor as to why you are experiencing communication issues. Rest assured that this is an entirely common experience. From the age of two years, our communication skills begin to evolve and develop. We steadily cultivate our speech alongside our skills of debate and persuasion.
Our upbringing drastically impacts the strength of our communication skills and our unique preferences as to whether we engage in confrontation or not. We also learn during our childhood years, whether our voice or our opinion is valued or not by family members or loved ones. This in turn can have massive repercussions as to the voice we adopt during adulthood and the confidence we have to use it productively. It is only natural then, that you each differ in terms of your attitude towards conflict.
Whilst there are numerous reasons as to why relationships suffer a communication breakdown, the thing to focus on currently is that you have identified the crisis and that you are willing to attempt to resolve it. Restoring effective communication with a loved one is not an easy task. It requires dedication, honesty and a willingness to compromise. As long as there is a desire from both of you to try to make it work, you can absolutely recover from the situation you now find yourself in. But how do you get started? There are some initial steps that I recommend.
1. Get specific about your wants and needs: Learning to actively listen to one another is vital, therefore we need to take angry speech out of the equation. Whilst there are numerous tricks and exercises that you and your partner could try in order to begin to openly communicate with one another, I have found when working with couples that the most effective strategy is to focus on understanding what it is that you both want and need. Be mindful that what each of you want and need is likely to be different.
Sit down with your partner in a quiet space. Take turns in telling each other what it is that you want or need from them moving forwards. Keep it simple and concise, writing your points down if possible, to ensure clarity. Use two straight forward sentences;
A) ‘‘I want you to …’’ and B) ‘‘I need you to …’’. Write no more than one hundred words.
I encourage each of you to take some time prior to the conversation to reflect thoroughly on what it is that you need to change or what it is that you want to happen as you look ahead to your future together. Once you have each confided in what it is that you want or need, arrange to sit down together again in a week or in a month, in order to have the same conversation once more. This is important as it allows you both the opportunity to reflect on what you have found successful or what you have found to be lacking. The key here is to be kind, calm and accepting of one another. Whilst it may feel tedious to begin with, I guarantee that scheduling just ten minutes or so each week, or each month, to talk to each other in a pro-active and engaged way, will work wonders for your overall mutual happiness and understanding as a couple.
2. Define your feelings: When we are learning to openly communicate with partners or loved ones, the word ‘’because’’ should be looked upon as our new best friend. Always try to express a feeling or need followed by the word ‘‘because’’. This simple rule will allow you to define your feelings and to better explain what it is that you need from your partner. For example, ‘‘I am angry because…’’ or ‘‘I feel upset about what you have done because…’’. To elaborate in this succinct way is essential and it ensures that your partner fully understands why you feel the way that you do and enable them to appreciate what they need to do in order to make the necessary changes.
3. Have patience: If the road to open communication begins with listening to one another, it ends with a mutual respect and commitment on both of your parts to maintain patience. Remember that you are a team. Your relationship, as all relationships, require hard work and effort. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we truly benefit from an outside perspective. This is particularly relevant should you find that you are both unable to quell your anger. Should you and your partner find yourselves at an impasse, do not hesitate to reach out for therapeutic support. Couples therapy can be incredibly beneficial in terms of providing you with a safe and impartial setting in which to openly communicate. The process will arm you with the unique coping tools necessary for you each to best tackle your relationship.
Wishing you every happiness for your future Jamika,
Caroline Holbrook: Psychotherapist | Life Coach | Counsellor
If you are looking for professional and qualified advice in and around Sitges, (Barcelona, Spain), then please call me directly at +34 603 63 29 24. If you are based remotely, then you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Either way, more information about the services I offer can be found here at the Here to Help website.