When it comes to communicating with your partner, not every conversation is created equal. Sometimes you’re able to clearly convey what you want and you come out of it on the same page – and same team. Other times, wires get crossed, an innocent exchange gets derailed, and you find yourselves feeling frustrated and misunderstood.
We’re human – our own emotions, biases, and expectations can cloud our ability to convey exactly what we mean or accurately interpret what our spouse is telling us. Despite good intentions, you might actually be sabotaging your efforts toward good communication with these five habits.
Being too sarcastic
Even if it’s just your personality or sense of humor (and even if your partner knows that that), a sarcastic tone can come across as critical, contemptuous, or disapproving. You might think you’re joking; meanwhile, your spouse is going into defensive-mode. The game is over before it’s begun. Avoid descending into a snarky exchange by softening your tone and being straightforward, especially if you’ve got something important to get across. Use emotional intelligence to sense whether your spouse is in the right mindset for sarcasm, and if not, consider saving it for another time.
Not being aware of your body language
You’re being intentional with your words and tone, but if your non-verbal cues aren’t matching up to what you’re saying, your spouse will notice. Whether it’s a subtle eye roll, an exasperated sigh, or crossing your arms defensively, if there is incongruence with what your communicating verbally, it begs the question – is there something you’re holding back? If so, this is a great opportunity to be honest and build a deeper connection. If there are no underlying sentiments, then you’ll need to put effort into being more cognizant of your body language to avoid misinterpretation. It can be tough – our body language is often involuntary. Be willing to take responsibility for your actions (even if they’re not intentional), and give each other the grace to work on it.
The devices, the dog, the kids, your to-do list. The opportunities for distraction at any given moment are plentiful. It’s not always possible to eliminate them all, but minimizing them as much as possible will give you a better chance to say what you mean and truly hear each other. If you’re in the middle of something, and you simply can’t devote your full attention to the issue at hand, let each other know. It could be something as simple as, “Hey, can we talk about this in five minutes? I just have to finish up this task.” If your distractions are mental, jot down a note to yourself to return to later, then put in the effort to be fully present in your conversation.
You assume they know. You think they should be able to figure it out. Sometimes, you might be right. But more often than not, making assumptions only serves to increase misunderstandings. When you make assumptions about what your partner knows (aka think they should read your mind), you make it significantly harder for them to meet your needs, while also increasing your own feelings of resentment. By assertively telling them what you want them to know, you give them the chance to step up – and increase the odds feeling seen and understood.
Not allowing yourself to be vulnerable
Quality communication, the kind that deepens your understanding of each other and helps your relationship grow, requires some level of vulnerability. Keeping your guard up limits the emotional intimacy you can build with your spouse as you’ll essentially be keeping things only at surface level. You might find yourself holding things back, shutting down, or avoiding being emotionally available to your partner to avoid feeling vulnerable. Over time, this can do serious damage to your relationship. While it can feel scary and uncomfortable to open yourself up in this way, mutual vulnerability builds trust and a level of closeness that is indispensable to a strong, healthy marital connection.
Even when we know how important it is to communicate well in our marriage, we sometimes do things that undermine our own efforts in this area. Our tone, body language, and mental and emotional roadblocks can all contribute to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. By being aware of these habits, you can take steps to curb them – and begin to understand each other better.