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How Can We Communicate Better? 4 Communication Habits That Can Hurt Your Ma

Aug 19, 2020

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Most of us find it easy to identify all the things other people are doing wrong. But it’s a lot more difficult to see what we’re doing wrong, to recognize our shortcomings. We know that healthy, long-lasting relationships, whether or not they’re romantic in nature, require good communication skills.

This is because words can hurt, but they can also heal. They can lift you up or bring you down. They can pull your partner close or push them away. It may sometimes feel like the best marriages are the ones in which there’s very little conflict. In reality, it’s more important to know how to resolve differences of opinion rather than avoid arguments altogether.

Conflict can strengthen your connection. They show you what issues need to be addressed and give insight into what changes would benefit the future of your relationship.

At the same time, when conflicts are not handled well, they have the opposite effect. In this article, we will talk about four communication habits that can hurt your marriage.

The Blame Game

As the name suggests, the Blame Game is a way of trying to find a scapegoat in your partner for all the problems in your relationship. We’ll say things like:

  • “This is all your fault!”

  • “You’re the one who…”

  • “Why didn’t you…”

  • “You always…”

  • “You never…”

  • “You make me so…”

  • “You’re wrong!”

We start to build a case against our partner. The current issue reminds us of past behaviour that gives proof of how flawed they are. Accusations are triggering so we enter a vicious circle where the blame keeps going back and forth leading to resentment, mistrust, withholding and plummeting intimacy.

In some cases, you might be right. Your partner may have made a mistake. They might actually have the shortcomings you’re angry about. Still, this type of phrasing will not lead to positive change. Instead, it’s better to try to understand why they’re behaving in this way and why that behaviour hurts you. Once you gain some insight into your relationship dynamic, it will be much easier to find a compromise you’re both happy with.

Keeping Score

Another harmful communication habit is keeping score of who is doing more in the relationship and using that information to reprimand each other.

We’ll say things like:

  • “I picked up the kids from school three times last week. Why didn’t you?”

  • “How come I always have to…”

  • “Why don’t you ever…”

  • “I have done x and y for you. What have you done for me?”

Although it’s important that there’s equality in a marriage, so neither one of the two partners feels taken advantage of, we hope you can see that the issue here is in the choice of words. When your dissatisfaction is expressed through accusations, it makes your partner defensive. You’re one step away from the Blame Game we discussed earlier.

Instead, it’s better to focus on gratitude. Tell your partner how much you appreciate the things they do for you and give examples. Tell them how much that helps you. If you want them to do more, phrase it as a request instead of demand and tell them what that would mean for you.

For example: ”I would like you to come home earlier so we can spend more time together.”

Angry Outbursts

Feeling angry at your partner from time to time is perfectly normal. It only becomes a problem when it leads to angry outbursts, and we start hurling insults and other hurtful words back and forth. This kind of behaviour makes us forget that anger usually masks fear or hurt feelings. We also tend to assume that our partner did something with the intent of hurting us. This is rarely the case.

Whenever you feel so angry that you might say something you’ll later regret, such as name-calling, tell your partner you need some time to calm down, and you’ll continue this discussion at a later date. It’s even better if you agree on a time, for example, a couple of days later, so they don’t feel like it’s an attempt to avoid it entirely. Use this time to think about what exactly is bothering you and how to phrase it in such a way that your partner hears and understands what it means to you. You should also think of questions to ask your partner, so you get a clear understanding of their intentions, instead of taking your assumptions as truth.

Interrupting, Contradicting and Correcting

Although we know how irritating it is to have someone cut in before you finish your sentence, it’s easy to forget while we’re in the middle of an argument with our partner. You feel like what they’re saying is not true or that you already know what they’re going to say, so you jump in. This isn’t very helpful. As tempting as it is to fact-check, always wait for the other person to finish what they have to say.

Remember that the goal is not to win this one argument, but to have a healthy relationship. For a conflict to result in a positive outcome, you need to make sure you understand your partner’s point of view and that they also feel understood.

Another harmful habit is psychoanalyzing your partner. Instead of asking them what they feel and think, we assume that we already know, so we say a thing like:

  • “You think that…”

  • “You did this because you feel that…”

  • “I know what you really think…”

To develop healthy communication in a marriage, each partner has to feel like they can speak freely and that there’s a willingness to listen.

When to Seek Help

All relationships have ups and downs. As we said before, conflicts can strengthen your connection when handled well. If you feel like you and your partners don’t communicate well, and you need outside help, don’t hesitate to contact a counsellor or therapist. They can help you learn how to address the challenges in your relationship so that you both feel heard and understood.

It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t force someone to behave differently. They will change if they want to. This means that if your partner is unwilling to go to couples therapy, you shouldn’t try to force them. Instead, shift your focus on your own needs and wellbeing.

You can still benefit by going by yourself and talking about how your relationship affects you emotionally and what you can do to improve the situation.