Do you find yourself saying these statements:
- I don't look forward to talking to my partner. There are times when we get home from work and want some "breathing time" before we jump back into engaging in conversation with our spouses. However, if you find yourself rarely looking forward to talking with your partner, then there's a deeper issue at hand. Are you concerned with what they may think about your sharing? Are you afraid of what you share being used against you in the future? Are you ashamed about what you have to share and would rather keep it to yourself? There could be many reasons contributing to this, and it's best you seek to know if it's a lack of emotional safety, or issues of confidence that are holding you back.
- Once I get started in an argument, I have trouble stopping. No one likes to be in an argument that's never-ending! With this type of communication, it sounds as though everything that has been held in comes tumbling out all at once. One thing can be upsetting, and once we start talking about it, we keep going on all the other things we swept under the rug that we've been ignoring up to this point. This gets exhausting, overwhelming, and pushes our partner away from us. Clearly, talking about issues when they're bothering us is they key to avoiding this overwhelming tirade later on.
- My speech is often defensive. Do you feel like you're often explaining yourself and/or your intentions? This action is a sure sign that Shame is a big part of the equation. Shame is that critical voice in our head that convinces us we can never make mistakes and that others must be happy with us or never find fault in us. Shame also convinces us we must be perfect. Since we're human (yes, we're human!), and we're naturally going to make mistakes, it's difficult to be confronted when we do mess up from time to time. As a result we have a "tone" when we respond, or even flat out blame others - "If they had only done x,y,z, then I would have gotten this correct/done on time". If this is how we communicate with our partner, they may feel blame a lot of the time or not even approach us with important conversations for fear of getting "the tone".
- I frequently bring up my partner's past failures. Communication that occurs this way indicates this is a relationship slow to forgiveness and slow to offer grace. There can be several psychological reasons behind bringing up a partner's past failures (shame, being judgmental, low self-esteem, etc). However, there is generally a universal result when this occurs: distance between the couple. No one likes to be reminded of their past failures. The key is to live in the present. Address current issues which will allow you both to engage in healthy fighting and move forward into problem solving versus backsliding.
- My actions don't match what I say. Nothing could be more confusing! Whether it's fear that contributes to why our actions don't match what we say, or it's because we're confused on what we want and we don't follow-through, think of how our partner is feeling?! Dig deep down to figure out why you say "yes" when you mean "no", or say "no" when you mean "yes". Fear of things changing? Fear of disapproval? Fear of being alone? Fear of hurting someone's feelings? Whatever it may be, it will be helpful to explore the reasoning behind your actions - eventually those around you will learn your word is not "good". As a consequence, others may not take your word seriously.
Please keep checking our blog the rest of the week to learn how you communicate with your partner. Thank you!
*Source: Relationship Communication Test on drphil.com
Written by: Tamara Portee MA, LMHC, LCAC
*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.