For one of the most fulfilling and thrilling parts of your life, relationships are also extremely challenging. Do you agree?
And it makes sense. Both you and your significant other bring unique history, background, personality, culture, and communication style to the relationship. Those differences are enough to make your head spin just reading them in print; merging them into a happy, healthy household is even harder.
If you’re struggling with effective communication, you’re not alone. I know because it’s one of the most common threads I’ve seen over the years when working with many couples.
I have experienced the conflicts that inevitably arise with different communication styles. These often cause contention in a relationship.
I have witnessed plenty of arguments where one person says, “why are you yelling at me?” Then, the partner responds, “I’m not yelling, this is how we speak in my family.”
This was the case for one of my subscribers, Cynthia.
She wrote to me with concern for the issues she’s having communicating with her husband. In her email, she opened up and said that she and her husband are recently married and even though they are happy together most of the time, they have very different style of communicating.
She admitted to having a bad temper. When she gets angry, he shuts down making her feel even angrier.
They started dating 7 years ago and always had issues communicating, “but things seem to have gotten even worse in the past two years.” She worries that “We go to bed angry sometimes and he sleeps on the couch because I start demanding answers to my questions and he will not respond.”
This difference in communication style leaves her feeling “… dismissed and enraged and I don’t know how to deal with his inability to articulate and share his emotions with me.”
Cynthia asks “I want to learn how to communicate with my husband but I’m feeling hopeless… please give me relationship advice on how to best approach our different communication styles?
My advice: Everyone has a different way of communicating and receiving information.
Cynthia’s husband may feel helpless. He might not know how to fix the situation so he feels he cannot respond to her and shuts down. He might also feel criticized or judged by her.
Sharing the best ways to respond to each other in this situation, even if he doesn’t have the answers will help him know what each person needs and expects. It’d help if she let him know how his response softens her anger and anxiety. For example, saying something like this could do wonders for their arguments
“Cynthia, I am thinking about and reflecting on the issue(s) but I need time to understand my feelings and center myself before I respond.”
An effective way to handle communication issues is to set ground rules in the relationship. Agree on a cool down period of 30 minutes to 1 hour after an argument before trying to have a conversation.
Give each other a signal when you feel that the argument is getting out of control. This signal means both people must separate so the argument doesn’t escalate. This allows both parties time to calm, reflect and think about feelings related to the argument.
But cool down periods shouldn’t last for more than a couple of hours. Otherwise, feelings fester. Agreeing on a time and place to have a conversation and discuss what happened will put a deadline on the cool down period and a promise that resolution lies ahead. Focusing the discussion with a relaxed tone while sharing feelings and subjective experiences about the particular issue(s) is crucial.
Sometimes, when arguments continue to bring up past triggers and disagreements, couples need to have a longer conversation. The couple might want to put time aside to have an in depth discussion or if issues run deeper, it might be best to go to counseling to help facilitate the communication.
Are you struggling like Cynthia and her husband? Use this process to reconnect and gain mutual understanding supporting each other – even if you disagree. Do not let your anger build and grow, allowing resentment to fester. Use this process to help you reconnect in a positive way.
If you want to learn how to communicate more effectively with your partner go here for a FREE audio lesson http://www.relationshipsuite.com/time-strategies/
To find out more about my services click here: Couples Counseling