How to Repair Damaged Communication, Part 2

How can you make communication work again in your marriage?

It’s no secret that married life can become a true test of a person’s character.

At certain points in married life, every fiber of your character can be strained to the point that you may feel like being impatient or even aggressive with your spouse.

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Is it normal to feel this way?

Let me be the first person to tell you that such experiences are normal and are to be expected in a relationship that requires two people to live together every single day.

It’s normal to feel impatient or angry at times when some things just don’t work out. However, what’s not normal is using words to attack or undermine your spouse to the point that you feel like you need to dominate your spouse and “win”.

What’s the “tipping point” that you should be wary about?

When you reach a point where you view your spouse as an enemy, I’d like you to immediately stop and take a step back to review what has happened so far to your relationship.

I know for a fact that this can be a tough challenge because it’s always difficult to examine something that is charged with emotions. However, it’s essential that you require yourself to examine your relationship so you can assess how you can begin repairing it if you are already experiencing constant troubles.

Can communication save your marriage?

Good communication is the strongest possible support for a troubled marriage.

People often say that talking gets people nowhere. This is certainly not true! However, I will admit that there is a difference between merely talking and actually communicating with someone.

If your words are falling on closed ears (and consequently, a closed mind), you’re definitely not communicating in the strictest sense of the word – you are indeed just talking.

Genuine communication is a two-way interaction, with both parties actively listening, providing feedback and compromising to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

In order to make communication work, you have to keep the following guidelines in mind, at all times:

1. Don’t Use the Rake of History – Using another person’s past errors and misjudgments to bolster your position during a dialogue will only make the other person miserable and defensive at the same time.

No one likes being reminded of poor decisions and if you habitually rake up “ancient history” just to stay in control of a dialogue, you’re not helping the relationship at all.

Don’t get me wrong – a person’s past experiences can be used to improve his behavior. However, there is an ideal time and place to talk about past experiences for future enrichment. Using the past for “mudslinging” is a complete different scenario.

2. Strive to Convey a Clear Message Every Time – When a person feels hurt, the tendency is to mix negative emotions and various lines of communication in a single, impenetrable message that is very hard to understand.

For example, if a woman feels left out because her husband is always out drinking with his buddies after work, she may say something like “you’re sure relaxed every night!”

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The husband, who may not be as receptive or sensitive to the current issue, may dismiss the statement as a simple observation. Of course, the statement is not merely an observation but a very vocal statement that she disapproves of the behavior.

However, the actual messages that the wife wishes to convey is lost in the jumble of the single, impenetrable message.

This would be a much better way to express the wife’s frustrations at her husband’s chronic drinking: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been drinking heavily these past few months (factual observation). Your drinking has got me thinking that you don’t want to spend time with me and the kids (personal opinion). When you go out to drink every night, I feel depressed and lonely (negative emotion). We would love it if we could all spend more time together, at home (statement of need).”

What if you don’t feel like giving a clear message?

When I try to help out couples in trouble, invariably, one party would state that the other party should be sensitive enough to “catch the signals” and understand what’s actually being said, even if the message itself was muddled or unclear.

I always tell these folks that in the interest of saving the relationship, such beliefs should be suspended no matter how true they may seem. Why? Because no belief is more important or valuable than a relationship on the mend.

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