I always thought I was a great communicator until Kyle and I started going to therapy four years ago. That was a brutal awakening, but it was the greatest gift we could have ever given each other. I don’t know why, but I was surprised to find out that my husband actually had feelings underneath that six foot three frame, bald head, and beard. I was even more surprised to find out that when I learned how to communicate my own feelings in a manner he understood, he actually heard me.
One thing we struggled with was that our small arguments would quickly turn into big arguments and end in one of us leaving the room. We each had our own opinions, feelings, and needs, but because of our inability to communicate effectively, we both lost. I would hold onto feelings of annoyance, resentment, and even anger and then one wrong move and I would shoot off like a cannon. Kyle would just keep all of his feelings bottled up, and it would lead to us disconnecting and pulling farther away from each other.
Thank God for therapy, because although there was no emergency reason for going in the first place, it saved our marriage. It saved our marriage from ourselves, from drowning in a sea of mis- or non-communicated feelings that would have killed us. As we put the tools and resources into place that the therapist gave us for communication, suddenly our relationship turned a corner. It’s really true what they say- Communication is the KEY to a healthy relationship.
Here’s a few communication tools I have found to be incredibly effective in my marriage:
1. Pause for a minute and let your emotions settle down.
I am incredibly guilty of overreacting. That means typically when I do so, I end up not even remembering why I was upset in the first place. So I’ve learned that sometimes I need to step away, even go for a walk, and talk myself through what it is I am trying to get out of bringing up these feelings and how I can communicate in a way that we find a solution that works for both of us.
The base of an argument is feelings, one way or another. Naturally, we are wired to believe our opinions and our feelings are right. What happens when you try to voice your feelings and they are not received in a manner of which you feel you are being heard, is that you most likely do one of two things: one- explode, two-shut down. These reactions exacerbate whatever it is you are already feeling and will most likely make things worse. A simple solution I’ve found to this is to step away and gather my thoughts.
2. Email the topic you would like to discuss.
This I find to be very effective when feelings have been festering over time or if there’s something complex you would like to address and you are not sure how to bring it up. Emailing your partner allows you to get your feelings out without feeling like you will have to defend yourself immediately, and it also allows your partner time to process his own feelings around the subject so when you meet at the table no one is caught off guard, and both of you know you will be heard.
It can start as easy as, “Hey this has been on my mind lately…. and I wanted to make you aware of it before we talked about it.” It shouldn’t be a scary thing to address your needs and concerns with your partner. Remember, you are a team and you are both in it for the same end goal- happiness.
3. Schedule a time to have the conversation.
A few weeks ago Kyle and I could not seem to see eye to eye on a house project. I’ll be honest, I hate waiting for resolution. And being five months pregnant, my emotions are already at an all-time high. Which means I want resolution even faster, and I want it my way. As we stood there and argued about it, my blood was boiling and all I wanted was for him to cave. The longer we continued to talk at each other instead of to each other we started adding the low-blows which never turns out to be good. I walked away from the conversation and as I calmed down I realized that it was the wrong time and place to address my concerns and went back to him and asked that we talk about it the next day. It was like magic. By scheduling and committing to discussing it the next day, we were able to enjoy our evening and then come to the table as a team the next day with clear heads and find a resolution that worked for both of us.
I know this may sound a little mundane to some of you, but I cannot stress enough how important communication is to the overall health of your relationship. We’re so busy doing everything else all day that we tend to squeeze communication in wherever it can fit. This means it is likely to catch your partner off guard and force him to go into defense immediately. You don’t just barge into the doctor’s office when you’re not feeling well without an appointment right?
My secrets are now yours! Do yourself and your partner a favor and together prepare for tough conversations using one of these three communication tools.