Relationship Rescue: How to Stop the Constant Bickering

Six navigational tools to get out of a communication rut with your spouse

by Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. • Next Avenue
couple smiling image
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

(MORE: Generosity May Be What Matters Most in Marriage)
 
Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

 
In my study I found, not surprisingly, that partners who communicate poorly with each other become very dissatisfied and unhappy in their relationships. So in that sense, Nathan and Sheila were having a problem that could potentially damage their marriage.
 
I told Nathan that while arguing is normal, what’s important is the way the spouses handle those spats. It’s essential that you feel you can resolve your differences, even if you agree to disagree on certain topics.
 
We don’t always realize that the message we're sending our partners is not the one they're hearing. This tends to occur for one of two reasons. First, there may be a discrepancy between our words and our behaviors (e.g., kind words but a disapproving look). If a disconnect like this does occur, the truth usually lies in our behaviors.
 
The second reason for miscommunication is that we occasionally have trouble articulating exactly what we mean. Nathan offered a textbook example: “I said to Sheila, ‘Let’s go out for dinner tonight.’ Oh boy, if looks could kill. She glared at me, and the mood was ruined. She inferred that I was attacking her cooking, which has become pretty perfunctory lately with our schedules. But I was really trying to ask her out on a date.”

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