5 Harmful Marriage Communication Habits
Most wives can immediately identify all the things their husbands are doing wrong, but it’s more difficult to recognize what they themselves are doing wrong. We often have difficulty recognizing our own shortcomings. Now it’s time to identify what you may be doing or saying to cause further distance between you and your husband.
1. Overwhelming your husband after work with problems. After dealing with work situations on the job, you can simply overwhelm your husband with domestic and marital problems when he walks through the door. Dumping all your problems on him will only drive your husband farther away.
Simply put, men hate walking in the door and immediately having to solve problems. Added to work problems, problems at home simply produce overload. The natural instinct is to fight or to flee.
2. Too many words. You may be talking your marriage to death. When a sentence or phrase might do to communicate, you may be dumping a paragraph or essay. Talking about your problems all the time focuses your and your husband’s attention on the negatives in your marriage instead of the positives.
The right words in a marriage can greatly facilitate communication.
- Words that are salty create a thirst in your husband to listen.
- Words that are affirming motivate your husband to listen.
- Words that are accepting invite your husband to share.
- Words that are forgiving release your husband to admit failure.
But the wrong words in a marriage, and too many of them, can block communication and drive a husband away both emotionally and physically.
- Words that blame and accuse cause a husband to become defensive.
- Words that overflow saturate a husband with burdens and heaviness.
- Words that continually analyze or explain force a husband to become a counseling client instead of a mate.
- Words that try to spiritualize your situation project an attitude of spiritual superiority or condemnation.
Be certain that your communication is a dialogue, not a monologue. Try to listen more than you speak. James gave good advice here, “Dear friends, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight.”
3. No rules for fighting. When both of you need to discuss volatile issues and don’t fight fair, then barriers are erected blocking communication between the two of you. If there is conflict but no rules in your relationship, then the reasons for your conflict may be:
- One of you is trying to exercise power and control in the relationship.
- One of you is feeling insecure.
- The two of you have differences in values.
- You compete with one another.
- Personal differences exist in the relationship.
- There are misunderstood feelings and unmet needs in your marriage.
When you are attacking your husband without respect for his feelings, you are fighting without rules. Conflicts can become a door to intimacy if we value one another more than winning. The basic rule of conflict needs to be “Everybody wins.” This rule means that both you and your husband keep working on a solution to the conflict until both of you feel good about the resolution.
Check off the “Fighting Rules” that you do not keep and you need to start abiding by:
__ Clarify what the actual conflict is.
__ Stick to the issue at hand.
__ Maintain as much tender physical contact as possible, like holding hands.
__Avoid “you” statements.
__Don’t use “hysterical statements” that exaggerate or overgeneralize.
__Resolve any hurt feelings before continuing conflict discussion.
__Don’t use name-calling.
__Avoid power actions or statements like “I quit” or “You’re killing me.”
__Don’t use the silent treatment.
__Keep your arguments as private as possible.
__Repeat back or paraphrase what you think the other person is saying.
__Resolve your conflicts with a win-win solution.
__Strive to reflect honor and respect for your mate.
4. Projecting Blame.It’s important for you to take responsibility for your own feelings, actions, and words. Another basic rule in conflict resolution is to speak for yourself and take responsibility for your feelings, attitudes, and actions. Refuse to project blame by making statements such as “You make me feel…” or “You are wrong to say or do…” These statements shut the door on communication. Other door-slammers are sarcasm, denial, and disrespect. Door-openers for both partners are kindness, respect, and calmness.
5. Using harsh communication. This happens when we use labels or resort to name-calling in a relationship. Put-downs immediately distance husband and wives from one another. Using profanity or cursing also pushes our mates away.
Indirect harsh communication is very damaging to your marital relationship as well. When you speak harshly about your mate to family, relatives, or friends, you increase the likelihood that someone else will become angry with your mate. The more people involved with your angry feelings, the more distance you will create, not only among you and your husband but also between others and him. If you cannot speak positively about your mate to others, then maintain gracious silence.
A.W. Tozer in his Five Vows for Spiritual Power urges that we vow “never to pass anything on about anyone else that would hurt him.” Long after you have forgiven your mate for something he did to hurt you, your harsh communication to others about him may continue to produce bitterness in them and become a constant reminder to you of past pain.
Dr. Greg Smalley serves as executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and is passionate to equip premarital and married couples with the knowledge, skills and insights necessary to enjoy a lifetime together.