I hope you enjoyed the first article about healthy communication. Here are a few more tips that you might find helpful.
- Don’t be “Historical” – Stick to the Present
- Talking Doesn’t Have to be a Big Deal
- Don’t Get Lazy – Remember to do Relationship Maintenance
- No Threats!
Don’t get stuck in the past. Just like it’s not helpful to be hysterical, it’s equally unhelpful to get ‘historical’. Yes, current situations can remind you of past events that were hurtful. Sometimes the current events make it hard to let go of the past or to give trust. But it’s important to be specific and stick to the here and now. “I don’t like it when you go out to lunch and spend money when we’re trying to pay off bills. I know it’s fun to go out and eat; I like to do it, too. Can we agree on a compromise?” This is more helpful than an attack like “You’re a liar! You promised you’d stop doing that! It’s never going to get any better. You’re always doing this!”
Talking about problems doesn’t have to be a huge event. You don’t have to make it into “The Talk”. That’s intimidating and both of you will tend to avoid it. Try instead to talk about things when they’re small. Break down big issues into manageable chunks. Be specific about what change you’d like to see. A broad ‘don’t ever do that again’ isn’t really manageable. ‘Be different’ is way too vague. ‘Please limit Starbucks to twice a week and under $10’ is specific. ‘Please don’t give rides to female co-workers when you go out to lunch at work’ is specific. ‘Please don’t commit to plans to go out with your friends without talking to me first’ is specific.
Don’t get lazy. It’s unfortunate that a lot of the marriages that come into my office for help got into trouble because they allowed compromise and neglect to creep into their marriage. “I told you I loved you when we got married and it hasn’t changed” is not a good excuse for not showing your spouse you love them. Kids and work are important, but they shouldn’t come before your marriage. ‘I’m tired, I’m too busy, our schedules are too difficult, I can’t handle one more thing, I give all day long and now I have to give at home, too? No way!’ Do any of those sound familiar? The basic truth is that your relationship or marriage is only going to be as strong as the amount of effort you put into it. If you neglect or think it’s “fine” chances are that it won’t be fine for very long.
Don’t threaten, and don’t use the “D” word. I know arguments hurt. I know we say stuff we don’t mean. However, do you very best to not go nuclear. “Going nuclear” means making threats that are very difficult to take back. While you may not know if you can handle what’s going on or how to fix it, threatening divorce, threatening to take the kids or threatening to hurt someone emotionally, physically or financially is just plain wrong. Threats destroy trust and shut down effective communication. If you’re angry, say that. If you’re hurt, say that. But don’t take it out on the other person. Own your stuff.
This article is not meant to provide clinical, therapeutic or legal advice. This is not a substitute for professional therapeutic help. If you’re in need of professional help, please contact a professional. This is offered as educational information only.