Hello everybody, welcome to episode 87 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and today we’ve got a doozy. We’ve got such a great question about marriage and communication and we’re going to talk about some very clear-cut and practical strategies to communicate the right way in our relationships. I’m excited, so let’s not wait a second longer. Here’s today’s question…
QUESTION: “Hello Greg, A lot of us married folks always hear the same thing about how to make it work…COMMUNICATION! From what I’ve experienced, communication isn’t always enough. There are many times I try to communicate with my husband and friends will try to communicate with their husbands to no avail. Is there a right way and a wrong way to communicate?”
When Does Communication Work Best?
Ah, yes. I had to think we were going to get to this question eventually with how much I blabber on about communication. Thank you for sending this question in!
I think you are spot on in what you’re saying about communication not being enough. Yeah, we can communicate all day. We can say everything that comes to mind with no filter, but does that really do anything? Not necessarily.
I guess it’s not really mentioned – maybe because one would think it’s implied – that communication works best when it’s received properly. What does that mean? Well, communication by itself is great. You can express your feelings, people get to know you better, and they have a more accurate idea of who you are. You also learn a lot about them whether they communicate back openly or not. This strengthens our knowledge of one another, the more knowledge we have of one another, the easier it is to know if the relationship is a good fit.
Listening in Relationships
When we’re talking about couples, though (couples that want to stay together), and the drive to stay together is so strong that the thought of breaking up isn’t given a fair shake, just saying what’s on your mind and calling it a day will make you feel as though you’ve done your duty but it won’t necessarily mean progress.
Have you done your duty? Mostly. But if the other person hasn’t listened, there are still problems that need resolving.
A lot of people in relationships have a hard time either communicating themselves or receiving the communication of their partners. This is okay when they have a hard time but are willing to work on it. If they’re having a hard time and NOT willing to work on it, let’s just say the relationship has reached “threat level midnight” and I hope to God that reference landed on most of you.
What if My Partner Won't Communicate?
If your partner will not communicate, you first want to do what you can to figure out why. Try to resist the urge to make a villain out of them without first understanding why they’re stuck in this pattern. More often than not, they might’ve grown up around parents who didn’t communicate effectively, or their attempts to communicate in vulnerable situations in the past might have been shut down.
Whatever it might be, get to the bottom of it. Depending on what that is, there are a lot of tactics you can learn together to help them break that pattern, but I’m just gonna save that for another episode if someone wants to ask that question, cause it’s a long and different discussion and today we’re talking about what you can do to communicate effectively so your partner will listen rather than what you can do to get your partner to do to communicate better themselves. Similar, but different. And we’re on a schedule.
For you, miss, as I said, blurting out feelings is a good start, but a partnership doesn’t stop there. To give your partner the best chance of receiving what you’re saying, there are ways to structure these little “presentations,” if you will.
First, let’s remember that, though partnerships are about the needs of two people, we all have to look after ourselves first. What that means is that when you’re communicating, don’t shy away from letting your husband know the ways that he will benefit from listening to you.
The more they have an idea of how your feelings and your feelings being HEARD directly affects them, the better.
How Something Affects Both of You
For example, “Honey I don’t like how mad you get when I have nights out with my friends” becomes “Honey, going out with my friends makes me feel more balanced, and energizes me. That puts me in a better mood when I’m with you.”
This is a very basic scenario, and there are countless other benefits you could illustrate to your husband in this example, but you see how in a matter of one sentence, your husband has much more incentive to take these feelings seriously, as you’ve gone a level below the surface and given him a direct sampling of how both of you are affected. So let him know the results of not being heard, and put a positive spin on the communication by reminding him of clearly identifiable benefits that will be had if he’s receptive to you.
Second, let him know how he can be involved practically. Men especially tend to veer towards solving problems rather than just listening. So if he’s assigned a deliberate task, he’ll feel he’s playing a role in this and it will be concrete enough that he can see and feel progress being made. In short, he won’t have to think too much.
That goes a long way and it also holds you accountable for telling him precisely what you need from him.
Marriage Communication: Set the Example
Here’s the evolution of this one: Phase 1, the worst phase, is getting in a huff about cooking and cleaning each night without so much as a thank you and taking it out on him indirectly. Phase 2, the in-the-right-direction-but-not-quite-there phase is basic communication, “It frustrates me that I cook and clean each night and that you don’t contribute.” Phase 3, fully evolved is, “It frustrates me to do all the cooking and cleaning each night. I’d feel much better if you’d do the dishes afterwards.” Your husband has a clear assignment, he doesn’t have to delve into feelings or an argument beyond what’s necessary, and you two are working together. Boom.
Finally, remind him that you want to hear how he feels and hear about his needs. Even if he’s not one to reciprocate communication like we mentioned in the beginning, it goes a long way to at least give him the option and remind him that you do care about his needs.
This is the best stepping stone in having him communicate and listen to your communications – setting the example and making him feel safe by giving him a platform to do the same. It also makes you come off as less self-centered should he be thinking that. It reminds everyone that the needs of both parties are being looked after and the we want to understand one another first and foremost.
This can be as simple as finishing your communication and asking him, “what do you feel about that?” or “is there anything you want to get off your chest?” and asking him in a non-judgmental manner. Should he respond, you then must listen and seek to understand rather than attacking. If you attack his feelings, there only going to go right back into that bottle and the cap’s going to be screwed on even tighter.
Proper Communication in a Marriage
Best of all, all these strategies can be paired together. Honestly, that’s ideal.
Let’s look at the cooking example and see how we can put all these to use: “Honey, it frustrates me to do all the cooking and cleaning each night. (Basic communication – now add the first step and remind him of the effects and benefits.) It exhausts me, and if I had some help, I’d have more time and energy to spend with you afterwards. (Now add the second step of giving a clear task.) I’d feel much better if you’d do the dishes afterwards. (Finally, the third step of encouraging his needs.) Would that be all right with you, or is there another way we could compromise on this?”
And now our delicious final product: A huff and some dishes thrown across the room becomes a peaceful, “Honey, it frustrates me to do all the cooking and cleaning each night. It exhausts me, and if I had some help, I’d have more time and energy to spend with you afterwards. I’d feel much better if you’d do the dishes afterwards. Would that be all right with you, or is there another way we could compromise on this?”
Proper communication is as much about you as it it about them. As a loving wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend, sometimes relationships are about stepping in and helping our partners get out of bad patterns that are hurting us.
Of course, these efforts have limits that we need to be made aware of, but communicating in an honest and encouraging way like this is a very basic and very important aspect to making things work.
Ok, folks. It’s not common, that we have episodes with such specific instructions, but they can be supremely useful sometimes as I’m usually so open-ended about things or abstract maybe.
These kinds of episodes are great for both of us, I feel, so asker, thank you for submitting a really great and practical question for all couples out there, and I hope you got what you were looking for.
Everyone, keep those questions coming, we’re always looking to hear from you guys. You can email us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Thanks for being here everyone, I hope you have a great rest of your day and I hope you’ll stop in next time. Until then.