The worst thing a husband can say to his wife doesn’t actually relate to the words he uses but the negative emotions it triggers for the wife. Like a middle school bully, couples that fight regularly know how to cut deep, quickly, and efficiently to cause the most amount of damage in the shortest period of time. Some couples have been fighting for so long, they’ve become experts at it. Finding your way out of this unpleasant rut takes time, practice and patience. But you can turn things around by learning a few important communication skills. If you’re ready to break your cycle of fighting, blaming, and feeling frustrated, here are some tried and true tips to help you and your spouse get to a better place.
How Men Deal With Tense Interactions
Quite often, men tend to get defensive when tensions rise, resulting in fights and arguments. They can deflect blame, clam up emotionally, or escalate the tension further. These defensive responses can be frustrating and seem uncooperative, triggering even more stress within the relationship. Sometimes couples continue arguing on auto-pilot, forgetting what they were arguing about in the first place. This is because the argument is the symptom of an underlying issue, and not the actual problem. In order to get to the root cause, get curious and inquisitive. Keep the spotlight on your partner in order to understand why they are attacking or upset. Once you understand the actual issue, you’ll be able to change the dynamic in the future and improve communication.
Turn Negative Emotions Into Constructive Conversations
According to research from the Gottman Institute, negative interactions carry 5 times more weight than positive ones. It’s ok to have negative emotions; this is just part of being human. But how we manage these negative emotions makes all the difference. Learning to turn your negative emotions into positive and constructive exchanges is a valuable relationship skill. When tensions rise with your spouse, take a step back to cool off. Nothing good comes from lashing out. Instead, find ways to restore calm. Take a break or leave the room if that’ll help you cool off. If you ignited the argument, own up to your mistake. Self-awareness and reflection goes a long way in creating harmony and empathy. See if you can articulate what upset you. If you can say it out loud, there’s a strong likelihood for a behavior change next time.
3 Tips For Improving Communication With Your Spouse
Couples I counsel are often surprised (and relieved) that the best communication tools are often the simplest. Below are the 3 most effective tips for improving communication with your spouse.
1. Have Regular Check-Ins
Participate in regular 5-30 minute check-ins with your spouse. When starting out, you may find daily 10 minute chats more useful. Once you get the hang of it, a weekly half hour may be enough. See what works best for you and stay as consistent as possible.
Use this as a time to reconnect, to become curious about what’s happening in your partner’s life, and to see how you can help or support them. Set aside time and space without interruptions to have a genuine dialogue about your relationship. Make this a forum to discuss what needs to be improved as well as what’s working well. Celebrate good moments and experiences and provide positive reinforcement whenever possible.
2. Take Turns Speaking And Listening
Each partner should have enough time to speak and to listen. If one partner tends to dominate the conversation, it puts you on unequal footing. Even out the playing field so that each of you can feel heard and satisfied with the conversation. Be respectful even if you disagree. Your spouse will appreciate the courtesy and extend the same to you.
3. Participate In The Relationship
For every hour of talking about your relationship, spend 5 hours BEING in the relationship. This means putting down your phones and carving out meaningful time to spend together. This will improve your connection as well as your communication. A regular date night is a good rule of thumb but there are plenty of other ways to be together. Take a walk, cook a meal, watch a TV show you both enjoy. Remember that your relationship needs to be nurtured, so invest the time.
If you would like to build a stronger connection with your partner, learn more about the couples communication counseling offered in my practice below.