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How to Enhance Communication With Your Spouse

Ways to actually feel better after communicating, and not worse

Sometimes it feels like you are saying the same thing over and over again, but you still can't break through to him.

Maybe it feels like you are listening, and when you try to fix it, you still can't get it right for her.

You've had these intense or 'productive' conversations over and over again; you've lost so much sleep and energy.

Yet, you find yourselves in the same rut. Still stuck. Like no matter how you twist and turn, you can't get out of this spot.

Still arguing, and still not feeling close to each other like you used to.

Sides are taken, and now every time something is brought up, you both feel frustrated, tired, and helpless.

Many couples come into my office with some kind of resemblance to this. Many of them end up asking some version of...

"How can we communicate so that things actually feel better and not worse?"

Whether you are in couples therapy or not, here are a few things to consider when trying to enhance the way you communicate in your relationship:

#1. 'Study' What Happens Internally + Externally for Yourself 1st

Many of us have a tendency to focus more on the other person, and we are 'studying' what they say and do when things aren't good in our relationship.

We could lay out exactly what they are doing, what they said, and what their facial expressions were in a particular moment.

And we replay these moments again and again, focusing on that other person.

In some of the initial sessions of couples therapy, a lot of the work involves intentionally slowing both people down, and allowing them to speak about what happens for themselves in these 'stuck' moments.

Example:"When he looks down at the floor while we are talking, I immediately feel this 'gut punch' feeling. It's like my stomach aches, and I fee like I'm losing him even though he is right there."

And as people slow down and reflect more about themselves, they also make connections with what they do when things feel disconnected, stuck, or tense.

Example:"Yeah, when I feel this helpless feeling and fear hits me in the stomach, that's when I often ask a bunch of questions. My mind is moving so quickly, and I just need to figure things out at that very moment."

So instead of being extra aware of our spouse, the first step could be practicing being more aware of ourselves internally and externally in these moments.

Why do this? See the next point.

#2 Communicate Your Findings About Yourself

When things feel off or stuck with your spouse, it's also natural to become critical.

It makes sense! The same stupid things keep happening again and again, no matter how many times you talk about it.

Nothing you do is good enough, and you're tired of these mixed signals.

So you let your spouse know. All the books say to be honest right?

But when you speak up about it, they come back defensive. Defensive about how it's not that bad. How they don't ALWAYS do it.

And when this defensiveness comes, it adds fuel to the fire.

Many couples get caught in this back and forth; criticism, defense, criticism, defense.

So instead of getting caught in this, to enhance communication each partner could practice communicating more about themselves, rather than about the other.

Example: "When you look down during our conversation, I feel afraid that things won't get better. And when I get scared, I can't help but ask a bunch of questions. My mind races, I just don't want to lose you."

Why This is Hard

This of course is a bit more vulnerable than many of us might be comfortable with right now.

Maybe in the past you got burned when you put yourself out there. There's probably a good reason that your body and mind tell you to tread carefully here.

Yet, when we don't communicate with our spouses with any kind of vulnerability, things often begin to feel more and more disconnected over time.

If you can relate to this, and as you read this it feels overwhelming or too much to do something like this, you aren't alone.

If communicating with more vulnerability feels like too much for you and your relationship right now, you aren't alone.

What do I do now?

I'd encourage you to find some kind of help in this place.

You might consider taking some time to practice self-care; maybe part of this time could include journaling. Writing things down can often help to increase self awareness, and decrease distress.

It might be helpful to have a tool to guide some of your conversations with your spouse: One book I recommend to many of my couples who ask for a starting place is "Hold Me Tight" by Sue Johnson.

Maybe the next step could be finding a therapist you trust for working through some hurt you have from the past that's gotten entangled in your current relationship.

Maybe it's finding a couples therapist to help facilitate, slow down, and provide some safety in these moments.

If you aren't sure what to do next, feel free to reach out to me. I'd love to set up a free 30-minute meeting with you to discuss what makes the most sense for you, and for your relationship.

No matter what you choose to do, I hope you know that even though it feels like it, you are never alone.

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