Good communication is critical in any marriage. Without effectively communicating with one another, spouses can usually end up in deep trouble fast. In some cases, it can even lead to a failed marriage, particularly if the communication problems allow issues to escalate.
Luckily, it isn’t hard to improve your communication skills as a couple. Here’s a look at seven common communication problems spouses face and tips on how to fix them.
1. Avoiding Hard Topics
Not talking about an issue is almost guaranteed to cause trouble. If a spouse is upset, feels wronged, or wants to see something change, not bringing it up allows resentment to build. Over time, it may even lead to anger and hostility, neither of which is good for a marriage.
This is one of the communication problems with a simple solution: talking. By discussing an issue as soon as it arises, it keeps it from festering into something bigger.
I will also add that it is important not to minimize or ignore what may seem like insignificant or trivial stresses. For example, in the days leading up to our wedding, my wife-to-be was stressed about whether or not to wear her glasses. It seemed like such a silly thing to be stressed about and it ended up with us fighting. Just days before getting married.
Later I understood this stress about her glasses was just the overall stress of the event manifesting itself. But because I didn’t listen and I downplayed her concerns, a small issue escalated into a big hairy monster. We did eventually talk this through and we are better communicators because of it.
2. Placing Blame
Many arguments involve one spouse viewing the other as being responsible for an issue. It causes one to try to blame the other for the problem, leading one spouse to spend a lot of time making “you” statements. The trouble is that this approach usually makes one spouse defensive. Plus, it can be a hurtful way to communicate and rarely solves the problem.
Instead of blaming each other, you need to work together toward a solution. Don’t get stuck on “you did this” or “you did that.” Do define the problem, but avoid doling out responsibility. Then, try to be a team and find a resolution.
When it comes to communication problems, yelling is a doozy. Usually, a person starts to shout as a way to release anger and frustration. The issue is, that form of release typically causes more trouble than its worth. It can leave one spouse feeling attacked. Plus, any message you try to share when telling isn’t often heard by the listener.
While expressing emotion is fine, you should avoid yelling at all costs. If you feel anger building and are worried about how you’ll express it, then it’s usually better to take a short break. That way, you can collect yourself and restore a sense of calm, allowing you to restart the conversation with a clearer head.
When people picture the end of a fight, they usually imagine that there’s a winner and a loser. They envision the event as competitive. But, if spouses are trying to win, it usually means that both will ultimately lose.
If you and your spouse are in a disagreement, you need to take a breath and remember that you’re a team. It isn’t one of you against the other. You aren’t in a competition here. Abandon the idea that there’s a winner and a loser. Instead, try to find a solution that lets you both move forward in a positive direction, increasing the odds that you’ll create a win-win.
5. Hurling Insults
Throwing insults is never productive. All it does is hurt the other spouse. Plus, depending on what you say, it could fundamentally alter the relationship. As far as communication problems are concerned, degrading your spouse can be the hardest to walk back from as your spouse might assume the insult is what you really think of them.
During an argument, you need to think before you speak. If you’re angry, that can be difficult. Taking a break from the conversation can be a smart move if you’re worried you’ll say something you’ll regret. Otherwise, you need to really consider every word before it escapes your mouth. Even an incredibly brief pause before you respond can be enough.
6. Bring Up the Past
One of the bigger communication problems a couple might face is the urge to through a spouse’s past mistakes in their face. Using a past loss or misstep doesn’t make your case stronger. It actually serves no purpose but to hurt your spouse.
If you’ve had a disagreement in the past that isn’t relevant to your discussion now, leave it where it belongs (in the past). Anything that you’ve previously resolved or moved beyond shouldn’t become ammunition now. Instead, keep your discussion focused on the topic at hand.
7. Not Listening
During a heated conversation, many people focus on pleading their case. The moment their spouse brings up a point, they start focusing on what they are going to say next. The issue is, this approach means you aren’t fully listening to what your spouse is saying and could miss something important. You’re focused on what you’ll broach when you get your next chance to talk, and that could make you deaf to what’s being discussed right now.
When you talk with your spouse, don’t start formulating a response while they’re still talking. Instead, concentrate on what they are sharing. As you do, try to put yourself in their shows and really consider their perspective. That way, when it’s your turn to talk, you have as much information and context as possible, increasing the odds that your reply will be productive, respectful, and relevant.