I like to say all the time that you can never over communicate. I don’t think it’s possible. But I do think you can sound like a broken record and there’s a difference between communicating clearly, specifically and thoroughly, versus repeating yourself again and again…broken record. The thing about communication, is to be really good at it takes time, practice and energy.
Communication requires us to spend time and energy on gathering our words, processing our thoughts and assessing if the person we’re communicating with really understands us.
Communication is exhausting sometimes. Especially, when all you wish is that the listener could just “get it” already. But much of what we want in life comes with work, time and energy, including healthy communication.
If you want to make sure you have healthy communication, then take a look at the following common communication mistakes that work against you in your marriage. And see how you can overcome them with very practical strategies.
“Out to get you” Mentality
Ever tried to tell your spouse something and their response was the exact opposite of what you anticipated? You had the right tone, your words were carefully crafted and you even made sure you owned your emotions, but none of that worked. Instead they immediately responded in a very defensive way that left you frustrated and slightly confused. Don’t give up. They are likely dealing with the “Out to get you” mentality that blurs their perspective into believing that you’re attacking them or out to get them. This can be for a number of reasons, but the end result is the same. So, what can you do if you’re feeling like you have a bit of this mentality or your spouse is dishing it out on you?
Try this: Take a brief pause and share what the impression was that you received by what your spouse said to you. Let them know that when they responded in the way that they did that you felt like maybe they misunderstood your intentions or what you were trying to communicate. Ask them if you can try to share what you were trying to communicate again. Remind them that you are not aiming to attack them and if they feel attacked by your words that it’s not your intentions and that you’re sorry it’s coming off that way. (Baby, we’re on the same team!)
And, if you’re the one feeling a bit defensive with your spouse, ask yourself: “Why do I feel attacked and why am I perceiving their words this way?”
Sometimes we feel defensive because of our own insecurities and doubts. We might be dealing with that insecurity or maybe not. But sometimes when our spouse shares something that ignites our defenses, perhaps we need to check our emotions first before thinking that they’re out to get us.
This is so common that we don’t really realize that we’re doing it. Let me give you an example of how incomplete request/responses work. Let’s say your spouse asks you do something that you really can’t do because of one reason or another, but instead of saying that you can’t do it, very clearly, you give an explanation without a clear “yes or no”. And that looks like this: you give them a response that they have to come to their own conclusions or figure out for themselves what you mean.
Let’s get more specific with this example:Let’s say your husband asks you to make the kids breakfast in the morning. And instead of saying, ” no I can’t do that because I have to be at work early in the morning”. Instead an incomplete response would be something like this: “I have to be at work early tomorrow”. You gave a response that only included an explanation, but it was an incomplete response, because you didn’t answer with a clear “yes” or “no”. Perhaps, you hoped that your spouse would fill in the blank with the correct answer.
An incomplete response or request doesn’t clearly tell the person “yes” or “no” or what you can/cannot do, will/will not do, or what you want/do not want. It just leaves him/her to figure out your answer, which can create confusion and frustration.
So keeping with the example, since you didn’t clearly say “yes” or “no”, then your spouse could assume that you’ll simply get up earlier to do it, because they asked you. But then when the morning comes and breakfast is not ready and you’re heading out the door, the impact of the incomplete response sets in. Your spouse is likely frustrated with you for not doing what they asked you to do. And you’re frustrated because you thought they would figure that because you had to be at work early that you wouldn’t have time. Both have failed expectations that could have been avoided with clearer communication.
If you want to avoid this simply try this: Be very clear and specific with your responses and requests, so there’s no room for the other person to have to wonder or assume what you mean or what you want.
Speaking of making assumptions, this is one of the most common communication challenges in marriages. The longer we’re together the more we assume that the other knows what we want and need.
But because we’re constantly evolving human beings with needs that change all the time, even before we realize it, it’s so important to get out of the habit of assuming things.
The best way to avoid this is to ask specific questions and give specific answers. This may seem so simple, but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean we’ll do it or that it’s easy. I think a very easy way that we get into the habit of assuming is when one person typically does something and then the schedule changes or something comes up, and they aren’t able to do it, so they assume that then you’ll do it.
For example, if you’re the one that usually does the laundry, but then you have a really busy work week and have to travel over the weekend, so you don’t have time to get to the laundry. Then, you assume that your spouse sees the laundry piling up and will do it since they see you working extra hours this week and they know you have an important event to head to. However, despite the change in the schedule your spouse probably assumed you would still get it done, so they didn’t do it. Thus,it keeps piling up and you’re secretly (or maybe not so secretly) growing irritated and resentful. So how can you avoid this assumption slippery slope?
Try this instead: Ask and ask again. If you know that things in the schedule are changing up and something that you typically do will require some help from your spouse in order to get it accomplished, ask for the help. Don’t assume that they will just know to do it, will do it on their own or that they should just know how you need help. Instead, ask and be specific about the type of help you need. And if you’re the one who can be offering more help, be proactive and ask how can you be helpful. The goal is to ask and ask again…and be specific.
Now tell me, which of these common communication challenges do you and your spouse struggle with the most?
Communication is one of the biggest challenges that married couples deal with all the time and it’s something that I want to help you do more effectively to improve your relationship and deepen your connection with one another.
Want to schedule a time to chat about how working with a relationship coach could help improve your marriage? Visit the contact me page to set up a time to chat.