Good communication is absolutely essential to a happy marriage. When your communication breaks down, when conversations become fights and sharing becomes silence, your marriage can break down as well.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Sue Butler has a very informative, short video on YourTango this week that gives some great advice on how to fix a communication breakdown before it can ruin your marriage.
One of the key pieces of advice she gives is to use “I” statements rather than “You” statements.
We hear this a lot from marriage and relationship experts, but we like the way Butler explains it. As she says,
‘You’ is destructive and it really diminishes the other person.”
In order to change your pattern from “You” statements to “I” statements, she advises that you focus on explaining how you feel rather than what your spouse is doing or not doing.
Another great piece of advice from Butler is to focus your conversation on the positive outcome of changes in behavior, rather than on the negative effects of current behavior. Instead of telling your spouse that it hurts you when he doesn’t listen to what you’re saying to him, tell him that when he listens to you it makes you feel closer to him and builds your trust in him.
This focus on the positive effects of a change in behavior puts you both on the same team, rather than pitting you against each other. If your husband feels blamed for your negative feelings, it’s harder for him to get motivated to do things that elicit positive feelings. Make sure your communication puts you both working together toward a common goal.
Of course, how well your husband listens to you is only half of the communication equation.
You also need to be attentive to what your husband is saying and show him that you understand how he feels and what he’s trying to communicate. When you start using “I” statements and focusing on positive outcomes rather than negative feelings, you’ll also be showing your husband a new way to communicate with you. One of you has to lead the way and it might as well be you.
Help him out by setting the communication example and you’ll both benefit from it!