Conquering Communication in Marriage

ALICIA CLAYBON, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) on Nov 11, 2018 in Relationship and Family

“The biggest problem with communication is the assumption that it has taken place.” -unknown

I’ve seen couples really struggle when it comes to communication. Most couples don’t realize that the ability to effectively communicate with their spouse or partner is a skill that must be developed over time. Listening skills and self-expression skills are both critical when it comes to effective communication. If you are unable to express your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an appropriate manner or if you are unable to empathize and connect with your hurting or frustrated spouse, your relationship may be headed for destruction.

Couples often fall into poor and ineffective communication patterns with their partners, particularly when they are attempting to discuss sensitive issues. Here are some examples of unhealthy and destructive communication patterns: Nagging, Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Threatening, Punishing, Bribing.

When we criticize our mate, we are implying that we are superior to them in some way. The root of criticism is control. It is important to know that we cannot change our mate by making them feel insecure or bad about themselves. Criticism does not make your partner want to change–it only makes him/her want to get away from the person doing the criticizing (you).

When we place blame on our partners in a self-righteous manner, we are not engaging in loving communication. Of course, there will be times when are our partners are genuinely to blame for some unpleasant outcome. However, it is crucial that we express our displeasure in a way that will promote healing and resolution to the matter. It is important that each party take responsibility for the action, attitude, and/or behavior that contributed to the unwanted outcome.

When we complain about something without taking action to change it, we are saying that we refuse to take responsibility for it. Complaining puts a distance between us and those we love. It is unfair for one person to be expected to “fix” all of the problems in the relationship all the time. If you present a complaint to your partner, also be prepared to offer a solution. Remember…no one likes a complainer.

We cannot control, coerce, or bully someone into doing what we want them to do. Your partner must choose to change on their own. Asking him/her to change 1,000 times a day in 1,000 different ways will only cause frustration and aggravation for all parties involved. Instead, try having an open and loving discussion with your mate about how compromise or negotiation can be helpful to the relationship.

It is unwise to try to “scare” our partners into complying with our demands. Rest assured that this behavior will drive him/her away very quickly. When we threaten our mate (directly or indirectly), we become a source of fear and control instead of a source of love and support. Remember…no one likes a tyrant.

When you yell at your partner each time he/she does something you don’t like, you are wreaking havoc on your relationship. When you punish your spouse (verbally, mentally, or physically), you become a source of fear, control, and general nastiness. Punishing your mate will not make him/her become the person you want them to be. Again, you are better off having an open, honest discussion about how change will be helpful to the relationship.

Oftentimes, we “reward” our loved ones when they do things we want them to do. This sounds much nicer than threatening or punishing them, but it is still a form of control. You are still attempting to control their behavior. It is usually best to allow your partner to come to their own conclusions about what behaviors they would like to change. This type of change is much more likely to be a permanent, long-lasting change.

If you and your partner are having trouble communicating in a healthy manner, this may be an ideal time for you to seek couples counseling.

ALICIA CLAYBON is a Counselor in Montgomery, AL.

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