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6 Ways to Restore Communication

Copyright: backyardproduction / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: backyardproduction / 123RF Stock Photo

 

In marriage it’s common for one partner to talk more than the other. No mystery there, you can probably even name that person in all of the couples you know. Great communication happens all the time when one person talks more than the other, after all, someone has to listen.

However, some relationships crumble to the point where only one person does all the talking. They pursue, their partner withdraws. Some couples I see for marriage counseling essentially consist of one loud “talker” and one silent “mime.” Actually, the talkers I have met might prefer to talk to a real mime because at least a mime would use gestures and facial expressions. When their partner doesn’t respond to their communication efforts, the talker is often left feeling alone, angry, and betrayed.

To restore communication:

1. Examine your schedule. If you only have a few moments together in a week, it could be your spouse needs more time to communicate with you effectively. Communication is often inadequate when time is inadequate.

Sharing Facebook posts with your spouse is not healthy communication. Liking their posts is not enough of a compliment to substitute for telling them “I love you” or “I appreciate you” in person.

2. Remember the good times. Constant frustration with your spouse or trying to communicate with an attitude of annoyance or anger will not improve the communication. Remind yourself why you love them. Communication difficulties easily frustrate and when anger or hopelessness dominate your thoughts, your marriage is in trouble. Remember good times to rekindle positive feelings.

3. Get curious. Ask your spouse to clarify why the communication came up short. Assumptions are full of inaccuracies and only cause trouble. Don’t make damaging assumptions like “They don’t love me because they don’t talk to me” or “If they loved me they would improve their communication.”

4. Adjust expectations. If it turns out your spouse is not a Ronald Reagan (the great communicator) adjust your expectations and move forward. It could be your assessment of the situation is inaccurate. If your expectations are too extreme, dial it back. Your spouse may be communicating better than you realize. So they are not a great orator, that’s ok.

5. Stop talking and listen. Some people stop talking but only when they are exhausted and unable to really listen. If your spouse doesn’t say much, lean in close and listen to what they do say. It could be helpful for you to set up a communication center for your marriage. A communication center consists of a scheduled time and place to really communicate free of distractions like kids and phones.

6. Communicate clearly yourself. Sabotaging your communication efforts by giving the silent treatment to teach them a lesson simply doesn’t work. I know you think it should, but no. Next, help them out. Give them a gimme. Clearly suggest what you would like them to say. It could sound like “please tell me how great I look tonight” or “please tell me I like spending time with you” It won’t quite feel right when they respond after telling them what to say, but it’s a start. It’s communicating what you want. It may feel like they will never initiate conversation on their own but eventually they will get the idea.

What do you need to do to restore communication with your spouse?

 

Honesty is Powerful.

Honest Abe Copyright: anizza / 123RF Stock Photo
Honest Abe
Copyright: anizza / 123RF Stock Photo

 

Honesty is a must for marriage, it allows connection to happen. Without honesty trust cannot develop and without trust your marriage is toast.

When someone says “honestly” before they say something or they say “can I be honest with you?” My natural response is to think, why does that person have to inform me they are being honest now? Were they not honest before?

Honesty is always better than lying because dishonesty destroys. The problem is not all honesty is the same. There is a better way and a worse way to be honest. Honesty can be hurtful when paired with rudeness or retribution; honesty works best when paired with tact and love.

Some couples are honest but terribly rude. When you are honest and rude it erodes the benefits of honesty. For example if you answer the classic question “Does this make me look fat?” honestly but rudely it’s not going to go well for your marriage. Your marriage could start to sound like Judge Judy, honest perhaps, but condescending and rude is no way to build connection.

Honesty can be hurtful when paired with rudeness or retribution; honesty works best when paired with tact and love.

Solution: Replace rudeness with tact.
Always tell the truth with tact to retain a healthy connection in marriage. Tact is an advanced skill, it takes practice, a lot of practice for some, but it’s worth it. The relationship you build with your spouse matters. If you don’t like something your spouse says telling them in a manner that is honest and tactful is better than being honest and rude. Honesty is crucial but if you have no tact you will get nowhere. Honestly, what hurts worse than an “honest” put down?

Relationship tip: don’t say “honestly” before you say something hurtful to your spouse.

Some couples lie to each other. No surprise, they usually have marital problems. Even worse are couples who are honestly hurtful. They use honesty as extra fire power meant to injure. They choose to pair honesty with retribution and turn honesty into an excuse for poor behavior. For example saying “honestly you are a terrible husband” or “honestly you gross me out” may be honestly how you feel, but it does little for your relationship.

Solution: Replace retribution with love.
Being honest with your spouse is best expressed with love. Honesty and love go hand-in-hand in marriage. Honesty creates trust and in turn motivates continued honesty. When she asks “Does this dress make me look fat?” (Tip: first of all change the question in your mind to “How do I look in this dress?”) pair your honest answer with love and your relationship will win.

It’s been said honesty is the best policy but rude and hurtful honesty is a bad policy. Honesty with tact and love is the best policy for your marriage.

What do you think ? 

Schizophrenia Simplified

Copyright: alexskopje / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: alexskopje / 123RF Stock Photo

 

Schizophrenia is complex. Here is a simplified explanation.

What it is:

Disorder of the brain. Smart folks like neurologists, and neuro-chemists can explain the dysfunction of the neurons and neurotransmitters in the brain of a person with schizophrenia but it’s infinitely complicated. Simply put schizophrenia is a real disorder of the brain and is typically identified by the following common symptoms:

  • Delusions. Believing things that are not real is called delusions. An example of a delusion could be someone who believes they cannot go to the store because the UFO’s are watching them. Some delusions are quite bizarre and and others are more subtle and difficult to discern.
  • Hallucinations. Seeing or hearing things that are not there is called hallucinations. Often people with schizophrenia hear voices. Some people describe voices as a mean play-by-play announcer saying things like “get some pizza, No! not that kind, throw it away, you’re an idiot.” The experience of hallucinations are a common part of the disorder but each person experiences them differently.
  • Negative Symptoms. Along with delusions and hallucinations people with schizophrenia typically have what are called negative symptoms. Generally negative symptoms consist of a lack of motivation or energy. People with schizophrenia can come across as unemotional and disinterested. Important note: All symptoms vary in severity, the more severe a symptom the more it interferes with functioning. The list of symptoms associated with schizophrenia contains numerous variations and sub-types of these symptoms; explaining them all gets complex. Remember this is titled schizophrenia simplified.

Schizophrenia is treatable. There is no cure for schizophrenia but with a combination of medications and therapy, people with schizophrenia can manage the symptoms quite effectively. Some of the symptoms of schizophrenia make people suspicious of treatment and some of the medication used to treat schizophrenia have undesirable side effects; but despite the challenges most people find appropriate treatment helps them drastically improve functioning.

 

What it’s not:

Anyone’s fault. Saying someone has schizophrenia because they are evil or because their parents mistreated them is simply wrong. Schizophrenia is also not due to drug use.

Bums. Having schizophrenia doesn’t make people bums. Most people with schizophrenia are not homeless, most people who are homeless do not have schizophrenia.

Funny. Having schizophrenia is not funny. That is not to say that people with schizophrenia don’t have a sense of humor. They can certainly be funny and say funny things but make no mistake, having schizophrenia is not funny.

Safe or dangerous. Here is an important point given recent news stories. People with schizophrenia are not all safe. I know it’s not popular for mental health professionals to admit it but people with this illness have done terrible things. However, viewing all people with schizophrenia as dangerous is grossly irresponsible. The vast majority of people with schizophrenia do normal things like you; they work, play, have families, and respect others.

 

What to do:

Use the term appropriately. Knowing what schizophrenia is and isn’t, keeps you from sounding clueless. I have heard people say something like “I’m so schizophrenic -I’m a personal trainer and I just ate ten Oreos” contradicting yourself is not schizophrenia. Using the word schizophrenia correctly shows you are smart and not unknowingly disrespectful about a serious brain disorder.

Advocate for people to get help. If you or someone you know has symptoms described above please get help from a mental health provider. When you hear of people with schizophrenia who commit crimes, advocate for better availability of treatment. Actively work to end the stigma of mental illness and promote a culture of understanding and support.

Try empathy. Get to know people with schizophrenia as people. Learning about schizophrenia is interesting but is nothing compared to learning the amazing and inspirational stories of people. Go ahead give it a try; you’ll be glad you did. I’ve been forever changed by people I know who have schizophrenia.

 

Mental illness affects marriages in profound ways.

If your spouse has schizophrenia:

  1. Become aware of the unique way your spouse displays the symptoms of schizophrenia and the warning signs that may indicate symptoms will increase.
  2. Become integrated into their treatment. You shouldn’t try to be your spouse’s therapist, but you should be very familiar with their therapist. Get to know all the mental health providers working with your spouse including their psychiatrist. 
  3. When things are going well, develop a procedure with your spouse that you can implement when symptoms get out of control. Crisis is no time to have a discussion, crisis is time for action and action is easier if it is pre-planned. 
  4. Do things you enjoy together. Managing the symptoms of schizophrenia can be draining. Focus on the positive aspects of your spouse and your marriage, it will help you Make some Wonderful in your marriage.

Disclaimer: This is an informational resource from a mental health clinician with real life experience helping people with schizophrenia. For official diagnostic criteria check out the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-5)

What will you do now that you know more about schizophrenia?

You Are Closer Than You Think

Image credit: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

 

You are closer than you think.

When you look for problems in marriage you will surely find them. Likewise, when you look for strengths you will find them. I often tell couples in marriage counseling that they are closer than they think to better connection. Conflict makes you feel alone even when you are together. When you are saturated in conflict it’s easy to think you’re doomed.

Fear says it’s too late when it’s not even close. Doubt suggests problems where there are none.

You have felt wonderful in your marriage before. You may not know where it went or where you went wrong, but you are closer than you think to the connection you want. It doesn’t take much to turn things around. Like my father-in-law says, “it doesn’t take long for good things to happen.”

Changing your perspective will help you communicate differently, show love differently, and feel differently about your marriage.

When you can see how close you really are, going the distance doesn’t seem so impossible.

A few years ago I ran a half marathon. When I was toward the middle of the 13.1 miles it felt like I was light years from the finish. My legs felt heavy and it was hard to keep going. When I could finally see the finish line I had more energy somehow and I even picked up the pace a bit. Knowing where you are makes all the difference in your perspective. You are closer than you think; the goal of restored connection is in sight if you simply look for it.

What are you looking for in your marriage?

The 3 Best Phrases To Say When Your Spouse Makes a Mistake

I have said I do my best thinking when mowing the lawn.
Apparently that is not true about trimming the bushes. The last time I trimmed bushes I ended up doing this.

Evidence of my trimming skills 2014
Evidence of my trimming skills 2014

 

Stupid mistake.

What happens in your marriage when your spouse does something stupid? The words you say when your spouse messes up reveals a lot about your relationship.

The times when stupid happens in your marriage are critical. Your reaction after your spouse makes a mistake is more impactful than any other time. It’s easy to be critical when mistakes are made. Criticism, especially at vulnerable times, destroys connection and eventually erodes trust.

 

What to say when your spouse does something stupid:
1. Say “Bummer” or something similar to acknowledge the mistake but without criticizing. Saying “You’re always so stupid” is a relationship killer.
2. Say “I love you” or something similar to emphasize your love is not dependent on one incident.
3. Say “________.” That’s right, say nothing. Listen to them. Your spouse doesn’t need your commentary here. Don’t bail them out with your plan. Let them process their actions and come up with their own idea to remedy the mistake.

 

Now you may be thinking “but what if my spouse refuses to admit they made a mistake at all?

Unless your spouse doesn’t realize they are physically endangering the family, it’s probably not helpful for your relationship to point out their shortcomings. Telling your spouse how stupid they are will sound critical and won’t build connection. Grace filled responses retain connection which is critical for lasting change. Taking personal responsibility for actions is important but it’s best implemented in context of supportive relationships rather than belittling and conflict.

 

I shared one of my stupid mistakes, what was one of yours?