My new television series, Surviving Marriage, premieres tonight at 10:00 P.M. on A&E Network. There will be nine, 1-hour episodes in Season One. Each episode will highlight a different couple with a unique set of problems destroying their marriage. Although each couple’s story is different, they all have one thing in common—they are terrible communicators. Poor communication is the theme with nearly every struggling couple I work with whether it’s in my private practice or on television.
Couples with strong relationships are excellent communicators because their style of communication has little to do with talking and everything to do with listening. When you feel heard, you feel respected and validated. It’s that simple and it goes both ways in a relationship. Couples whose marriages are struggling, like the ones on Surviving Marriage, lack this simple ingredient. Here’s why:
The problem most troubled marriages face
No two people see things the same way, including you and your spouse, and this often leads to problems. For example, you might find it unfathomable that your partner hates a certain restaurant that you love or loves one that you hate. Or, maybe you and your spouse have different political views, and you just can’t understand how your spouse can see it that way. Whatever your differences are, over time they can turn into a battle between two forces (you and your spouse) attempting to sway the other to “my” way of thinking. You become fixated on your need to be right and your partner’s ludicrousness that your relationship becomes a competitive, stubborn battle that leads to one place—resentment. Neither you nor your spouse will lay down your sword. In fact, you’ll do anything just to prove that you are right, including destroying your marriage. All because you were too stubborn to listen to and respect your partners opinions and keep yours to yourself.
Here are a few tips to help you become a better communicator and possibly save your marriage before it is to late.
1. Zip It
Our natural reaction when we here something we don’t want to hear or something we disagree with is to become defensive. We immediately defend our opinion on the matter and will go to the ends of the earth to prove the other person wrong. Sound familiar? Have you ever done this to your spouse? If you have, try biting your tongue and swallowing your pride. It does a marriage good.
Why is it so hard to say, “I’m sorry?” The inability to say these two simple words destroys so many marriages it’s sad. I find this absurd. If these words never leave your mouth I’d advise you to start practicing using them now. If it feels really hard for you to do this then that’s the sign that you need to do it.
3. Pick Your Battles
Do you become agitated when you have a disagreement with your spouse? If so, you need to stop this behavior. If you feel strongly about a particular matter tell your spouse that you respect his/her opinion on the matter but you respectfully disagree. You don’t need to prove why you are right and he/she is wrong. That will get you nowhere good. It’s all in the delivery.
4. Schedule some talk time
That’s right, in today’s technology driven world, there is less face-to-face communication between couples because they are too busy communicating with their phones and tablets. Take time every day to unplug and sit down with your spouse and actually talk. This is the miracle grow that every relationship must have.
5. Do a good deed
Everyone knows that when your spouse responds positively to something you’ve done unexpectedly, like putting the laundry away, that you want to do even more good deeds. So start doing some random, good deeds and you’ll start a whole new cycle of positive chemistry in your marriage.
There is no question that marriage takes work but you need to look it from a different angle. It’s not about what your spouse can do for you, it’s what you can do for your spouse. Commit yourself to what you can do better and I guarantee your marriage will be much healthier.
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