Communication Gap? Couples, Do This Not That
Do you find that there is a communication gap between you and your partner? When you do try to communicate with each other, do things just fall apart? When communicating with your partner, consider these do’s and don’ts in order to get across what you want to say and not run into stumbling blocks.
Do Speak Calmly
It sounds logical, but talking to your partner in a calm and controlled voice is important for your communication. Yelling will only escalate the tension and fuel negative emotions. This, in turn, makes your brain less able to process information or make good decisions. So, whatever you do, don’t let it become a shouting match. Take a time-out from the discussion before it gets to that level.
Don’t Blame the Other Person
Blaming doesn’t help anybody, and will only build resentment in your partner. It could be easy to say that “he always shuts down” or that “she focuses on the negative things.” Instead, try to look deeper into your partner’s behaviors. Are there patterns or themes that are present? Do you think that your partner would be open to discussing those patterns? If you decide to talk with your partner about these issues, make sure you don’t begin with a statement that depicts blame. For example, instead of starting up your conversation by saying, “Why do you always ignore me when I speak to you?” you may perhaps say in a calm and caring tone, “I noticed that sometimes you don’t respond to me when I complain to you about something. Are you open to talk about it?” You can also add an affirming statement such as, “I care about how you feel and want to know if there is anything that is bothering you.” In this way, you will have a better chance that your partner may respond positively to you.
Do Spend Time Together
By spending time together doing a mutual activity, you and your partner can create a space that encourages discussion. Think about it, is there something that you both like to do together that can allow you to talk? For instance:
- Taking a hike along a path or trail.
- Running together.
- Cooking a meal together.
- Sitting by a fire.
- Taking a drive together.
Note that whatever activity you do, don’t do it while watching a screen such as a computer, television, or your phones. These only distract you from the conversation at hand.
Do Be Aware of Your Nonverbal Communication
Passive communication only hurts relationships. You might not even be aware that you do it, but what you do can communicate more than what you say. Some things to keep in mind:
- Make eye contact with your partner when he/she is talking. Avoid making the “eye roll.”
- Keep a neutral or slightly positive facial expression. Frowning or scowling says something negative.
- Be aware of your body position. Are you facing your partner vs. looking away?
- Don’t sigh or convey signs of exasperation.
Don’t Ignore the Problem
If a conversation goes nowhere, it can be easy to avoid talking about the problem and go on with your lives. However, the problem never really disappears. It will just resurface later, perhaps in a slightly different form. Unless you both agree to address it, your communication problem will just continue to hurt your relationship.
Do Get Out What You Need to Say
It is important for both of you to express what is on your minds. Some ideas to do this include:
- Agreeing to take turns talking.
- Having whoever is listening repeat what was heard.
- If talking isn’t working, try writing each other a letter.
- Pause the discussion if you need to, but agree to come back and continue the dialogue.
Try your best to hear the other person out, remembering that in order for the communication to happen, both of you need to express yourselves and both of you need to take turn to listen as well.
A Final Thought
When it seems like nothing is working with your communication, keep this verse in mind:
“Know this, my beloved friends: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
Every couple has probably trouble communicating. The trick is to be willing to listen and to have the courage not to give up. When couples figure out their communication gaps, they can learn how to have a stronger and more lasting relationship.
At what point in your relationship you may need to consider couples counseling?
If you and your loved one are consistently having difficulties communicating with each other and find yourself avoiding certain topics or spending less time together, you may need to consider couples therapy. Probably all couples go through conflicts and disagreements or experience some level of communication gap; this is a normal part of being in a relationship. But, when disagreements begin to quickly escalate into hurtful or destructive arguments or when expressing yourself with honesty and sensitivity becomes very challenging, couples counseling may be the next best step for you. As an experienced marriage counselor and a couples therapist, I would love to help. Contact me today or call me at (626) 327-5711.