No One Is Listening: What to Do When You and Your Spouse Can’t Communicate

When you drive through the dream neighborhoods looking at the nice, big, expensive houses you sometimes can't see the forest for the trees. You image the perfect lives that the owners of such beautiful homes must live. The stories of the families living in the nice homes range from being fairytales to nightmares. An issue that couples living at all levels might have is communication. Communication is the number one reason for divorce.

Sometimes my wife and I have conversations that leave me feeling very frustrated at the end.  I’m sure she feels just as frustrated, if not more.  The source of the frustration is that some of our conversations are literally made up of two parallel conversations that never intersect.   We talked, but we did not communicate.   If you are dating someone and this issue is a constant it is easy to walk away and find someone that you can communicate with.  Even if you are married, you can walk away.  More than forty-percent of marriages end in divorce (American Psychological Association, n.d.).  But what if you want to stay with the person, how do you improve the communication?

Start with purchasing the book "Communication Miracles for Couples: Easy and Effective Tools to Create More Love and Less Conflict" by Jonathan Robinson.  As with anything, the path to changing something starts with learning more about what you are facing and how others have succeeded where you are facing challenges.  Robinson is a couple’s therapist.  His book addresses the fact that you and your significant other are having a conversation from two different perspectives created by different experiences.  He believes that each person needs the "three A's" to communicate well: acknowledgment, appreciation and acceptance (Dickinson, 2017).   There is also the issue of you having to have your point validated.  It is not necessary.  Settle for fact that you made a good point to make he or she understand your position during the conversation and move to find the common solution.  The other important thing is to understand your significant other's personality type.  This can be determined by using the Myer’s Briggs test, the Colors Test, or by reading The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts to determine your significant other’s love language.  There are other tests out there that will help to determine personality type.  Using the Colors Test is a start.  My color is green.  So when I talk to my wife, that I know to be orange, I consider how my green personality will impact the conversation and how to best approach her orange personality.  You will find yourself feeling less compelled to give value to and respond to unnecessary things that arise during the conversation.

The other thing to be aware of while talking with your significant other is your nonverbal communication.  My wife is always reading my face, incorrectly I might add.  Wow, was that just a little of the issue coming out, lol.  Following the three A’s- Yes, I understand that my body language may be sending mixed messages and what she is saying might be valid, but typically my body language does not match my intended message when I am talking with my wife.  This may be the case for you also.  Make sure you don’t communicate any unintended alternative messages while you speak.  Crossed arms, frowns, wrinkles in your forehead, and other nonverbals can confuse the person you are talking with.  My wife always points out the wrinkles in my forehead. Sometimes the nonverbals are more helpful or damaging than what you are actually saying.

Finally, are you keeping an open mind when you have the conversation?  If your intent is to maintain your way or the highway the conversation will be a one sided conversation.  Conversations are held with two or more people; thus you have to be able to consider the opinions of others.  We emphasize our positive characteristics, and we may even in some cases distort information—all to help us maintain positive self-esteem. There can be negative aspects to having too much self-esteem, however, particularly if that esteem is unrealistic and undeserved (BC Campus, n.d.).  To help with communication practice humility.  Hargove in his book, The Essential Humility of Marriage: Honoring the Third Member in Couple Therapy, says that humility helps spouses not to think of themselves more highly than they do their spouses. It helps them to be realistic and honest about the limitations, personalities, and characteristics that have shaped their individual personhoods and that need improvement. This prompts spouses to be willing to work on themselves and adds hopefulness to the relationship. When spouses start looking at themselves, they shift the focus away from their partners, (Estephan, 2007)

What are some things you can do to improve communication?

  1. Have open and honest discussions
  2. Focus on your significant other’s feelings as well as your own
  3. Practice humility
  4. Use “I” statements more than “You” statements and avoid name-calling
  5. Seek a couple therapist if necessary
  6. Be respectful when speaking with your significant other
  7. Use positive language more than negative language
  8. Research with your significant-other ways to improve marriages and the communication within marriages
  9. Be aware of your body language when having discussions
  10. Try to understand your significant-other and his or her personality and how that personality can work with yours
  11. Own up to responsibility
  12. Avoid unhealthy, hurtful aggression (some nonviolent aggression may not be helpful nor hurtful)
  13. Understand that your plan is not the only plan in a marriage or dating situation
  14. Look for agreement and or work towards agreement if it is not present
  15. Do not practice avoidance.  Logically address your conflicts. 
  16. Deception is not a recommended practice to you when communicating with your significant other
  17. Try to limit outside influences that impact your personal conversations
  18. Keep in mind that two different backgrounds are merging to form one marriage or dating situation
  19. Be aware of expectations that are based on gender stereotyping, personal expectations and beliefs, and personal goals
  20. Discuss your differences

I am not a professional therapist.  I’ve done some reading and posted a post based on my reading.  This post is the result of the collection of articles that I have read, interpreted, and comprised.  The impact of the content and recommendations if used may or may not work for you.  If you decide to use them, I am not suggesting a particular outcome for you in any way, form, or fashion. With that being said, I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

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