No matter how well you’re matched or how hard you try, couples will always struggle with communication issues at one point or another. The key to overcoming these struggles is identifying the problem behaviors that you and your partner exhibit while attempting to communicate. Having difficulties communicating does not mean that your relationship is lacking or that you don’t care about each other; it simply means that you and your partner need to slow down, figure out where your communication skills are lacking, and make a plan to work on it together. Our communication skills are learned as we age and are being constantly honed by our daily interactions, so the adjustments that we may have to make can be used not only with our spouse, but with everyone that we communicate with day in and out.
A communication problem that many people struggle with is truly listening to what other people are saying instead of just hearing the words being spoken. We use many aspects besides our words when we communicate, such as our tone of voice or body language. When you’re tuned out to one or more of these aspects miscommunication is inevitable. The easiest way to prevent these miscommunications is to make the effort to give your partner your full attention as you discuss things. This may seem difficult to do as our busy lives are going full-throttle, but employing even simple listening skills, like making eye contact, can make all the difference to the quality of communication you have with your mate. Another helpful suggestion is to put a specific time aside to talk to your spouse, whether it be before you head to work or after you get ready for bed. Stopping any extra activity and just sitting to talk as a couple can give you the chance to both truly listen and really be heard, something that conversations over dinner or during your favorite TV show may not readily allow.
For other couples it is destructive behaviors that get in the way of effective communication. These types of behaviors can range from things like having a win-lose mentality during discussions to being overly critical of our partners, and all of them can put your relationship at serious risk. Turning a normal discussion into an argument that must be won or lost will only escalate emotions and cause you both to lose focus of the matter at hand. Try to keep in mind that there is no winner or loser in any discussion because as a couple you are on the same team working towards a mutual goal! Similarly, being overly critical of you partners can leave them feeling as if you’re attacking them rather than trying to help. If you perceive your mate doing something that needs to be corrected try to let them know in the most loving way, or if possible let it slide once in awhile. Learning to turn your comments from destructive criticism to constructive criticism will take effort on your part, but raising your spouse up rather than putting them down will be more than worth it for the sake of your relationship.
The breakdown of effective communication between couples is just the start to a breakdown of the relationship itself. Without an ability to speak your mind and be understood by your partner, feelings of being misunderstood and unsatisfied are likely to become overwhelming. Avoid this all too common relationship mistake by being active in identifying communication behaviors within yourself that could threaten the happiness of your relationship and work on correcting them before they get out of hand.