It’s a widely accepted fact that men and women communicate differently. Even under the best of circumstances, over the years of a marriage, resentments build over many different issues.
Since communication is difficult and complicated, it tends to break down over time, leading to a vicious cycle of more resentment, lack of good and healthy communications, and a general pattern that is destructive to the relationship itself. It begins to take a toll on each partner and how they feel towards the other.
This is the number one problem I see with couples in my practice. Even when they think the presenting issue is something different, it almost always boils down to a lack of good, solid, respectful and appropriate communication.
Often, especially in a long term relationship, we expect our partners to read our minds. This is virtually impossible, as your expectations change with your mood, circumstances, and many other factors. Partners tend to feel misunderstood and frustrated when their partner is not meeting their needs, even when they have failed to communicate what exactly those needs actually are.
Nobody is psychic. No matter how well two people know each other, it is still important to say what you mean and mean what you say. What does that really mean? Let me explain.
Sometimes you want to spend time with your partner, and they seem preoccupied, and then you feel hurt, dismissed, neglected and unimportant. But, other times, you want to be left alone in peace and quiet. So when your partner comes and wants to talk and spend time with you, now you are annoyed.
Just like sometimes you want your husband to play with kids when he gets home. And other times you want him to leave them alone so they will be calm and relaxed. When he guesses wrong, you get angry with him, and he gets confused.
In both scenarios, you haven’t articulated either desire to your spouse, yet you expect him or her to intuitively know and meet your needs. When they fail to, which they will because they are not psychic and cannot read your mind, you will be upset and this will cause a problem in your marriage.
I could go on and on with examples, but you get the idea here. It happens when our needs aren’t articulated and met, and even happens when our partner tells us something and we react or don’t react a certain way.
Whether it is sarcasm, jealousy, indifference, or any number of other responses, it effects the feelings towards one another and is almost always rooted in faulty communication, largely not saying what we really mean and meaning what we say.
How many times have you said, “I don’t care” when you really do? Those three little words cause SO many problems, it is unreal. We say it for many different reasons: apathy, trying not be difficult, attempts to avoid conflict/confrontation…but what really happens ends up being much worse than being honest and sincere about our needs and wants.
Your husband asks you what you want to do tonight, to stay in or go out. You say that you don’t care, secretly hoping and expecting that he knows you really want to go out and have a nice evening spending time with him. You’ve had a long week, and could use a night out of fun and time to reconnect with him. He’s exhausted from a long week, and just wants to sit back and watch TV to relax.
But now, you are getting resentful because you expect him to read your mind and inherently know what you want, even though you didn’t articulate it. As a matter of fact, you didn’t even try. You did the exact opposite.
He asked, but you failed to answer truthfully and in a way that promotes good communication and a better relationship. Even if you said what you really wanted, and then he said he’d prefer to stay home, at least then you are having honest and meaningful conversation and make decisions based on knowing where each of you stand. This is always better.
Here’s the bottom line: communication is key to any healthy and lasting relationship. If you want a better marriage, you must learn how to communicate more effectively.
Here are 5 steps to a better marriage:
- Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you want to go out, say that. If you don’t care, say that. Don’t say you don’t care if you really do care. You get the idea here.
- Know what your needs and desires are and make sure to tell your partner, rather than expect them to read your mind, and then getting angry when they fail. If you want help with the kids or the dishes, ask for it. If you need peace and quiet, ask for it.
- Limit the sarcasm and express your true feelings. Rather than saying something about how “you always have time for your friends but not your family” why not try “we really miss you when you’re working a lot, and it would be so nice for all of us to spend the day together because we love you”.
- Be grateful and appreciative. You both give a lot to the relationship and the family. Try to remember that and sometimes even thank your partner for all they do. It is kind, compassionate, and who doesn’t like to be recognized and have their ego patted a little bit?
- Try to always look at things from the other person’s perspective, not just your own. What might seem like common sense to you, could feel like nagging to him. Maybe she had a really rough time with the kids today and needs to connect with you. Did he have a really rough day at work and maybe just needs you to help him unwind?
After years of faulty communication and building resentments, I know that this can be really difficult. But you chose to be together as partners. Partners look out or each other and want them to be happy, want their needs to be met, care about each others feelings and well being.
Partners throw each other a rope when they’re drowning, rather than push them further away. Sometimes, as the years go on, we forget these most basic concepts. Don’t let this happen to you, and seek help if you see it happening in your own marriage.