Communicating Effectively Can Save Your Marriage

couple arguing

Try Communicating Effectively

Communicating effectively can save your marriage. Alan and Di, who had 2 children under 6, were always fighting – lots of bickering, harsh and sarcastic comments, and so often a quick rise to conflict whenever they had a discussion. They were sick of fighting and even talked about separating– but then even argued about that.  They agreed to see a counselor to assist them with the process, believing that having someone to facilitate their discussions would reduce the conflict.

They told the counselor they wanted to separate while they were still able to talk to each other civilly. “We both think that’s important, so that we can continue to communicate respectfully to each other about the children, as they grow up. We both care how this separation will impact on the kids.”

Alan said he hated the arguing but had not been able to find a way to stop it. Di told the counselor that all she wanted to do was share her feelings with him, but every time she tried, he was defensive and became angry that she was always so negative and critical of him. Alan’s response was that he felt he was doing his best for her and the children, but she was never satisfied and always complaining. That’s how they had come to this point, both talking about ending the marriage.

Yet Alan didn’t really want to separate, because his values were that he had married for life, and that couples should work on their problems.

And Di didn’t really want to either, because she had come from a broken home and had always said to herself that she would work on her marriage so that her children would not have to suffer the ‘sharing between the parents’, as she had done.

In fact, neither Alan nor Di wanted to separate. So how had they come to the decision to do so? It was because they feared the relationship would become so acrimonious that they would be unable to speak civilly with one another in the future, which would make it difficult to make arrangements about the children. So best to separate BEFORE getting to that stage, they thought, rather than get relationship advice.

Are you always fighting with your partner?

couple arguing

Are you always arguing with your partner?

Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever wondered why you fight more with your partner, the one you love the most? Ever wondered why, when you are arguing, your partner brings up stuff from the past, things you would rather forget? Want to understand how to fix this and start communicating effectively so you can rekindle your romance?

We experience pain in the present tense. Every negative emotion is a surge of adrenalin – we feel it as an emotional pain. We really do feel it. And depending on how much adrenalin our body produces, we feel the pain at different intensities – low, medium or high.

Take our reaction to an unmet expectation, for example. We feel either disappointment, or irritability, or resentment, depending on how important to us the expectation was, that wasn’t met (or put in another way, how significant the thing was that you thought would happen, and then it didn’t – how things ‘should have been’. This too constitutes an unmet expectation).

We build up our emotional wounds and then explode, just like a volcano. We say something hurtful, which has an impact on our partner, who then attacks back. Normal stuff. Bad stuff. Because the more hurts we trade, the more worked up we get. (The more adrenalin our body produces, and the more aroused our nervous system becomes.)

When we become worked up in an argument, something awful happens. We can suddenly remember things in the past that have been hurtful, especially emotional wounds in our relationship. These old hurts get brought up to boost your position in the argument.

The thing is, that on a normal day, normal mood, you can think about those same old incidents and NOT feel any pain. Those past issues have been resolved. They are just memories – on a normal day.

But the rotten thing is that TODAY, because you are arguing, your body is flooding with adrenalin (emotional hurts) and your brain remembers each pain in exactly the same way as it remembers a smell – by association with an earlier experience.

This is the reason that TODAY you suddenly remember when you felt (let’s say) humiliated 2 weeks ago – and 3 months ago and 5 years ago – when a minute ago you were just feeling humiliated by a present tense event. This is the pain in the PAST.

AND THEN we start to fear the FUTURE. We start to imagine that it will always be like this, that we will always argue, and that’s not good for the kids. Or we may not last, and end up divorced. Or we may not be able to speak to each other without hostility, so let’s separate while we can still get on a little bit.

The FUTURE is filled with thoughts that start with WHAT IF or MAYBE…


WHAT IF … maybe?

But we don’t feel things in the past or in the future. We only feel in the present, but our body responds to the images in our head that relate to past or future. So it FEELS like those pictures of the future are real – the pictures are reinforced by the fact that you really do feel an arousal of your nervous system!

(By the way, adrenalin felt by the body in the present is STRESS. When adrenalin in produced by negative thoughts of the future, the adrenalin response is called ANXIETY. Anxiety is simply the future tense of stress…. resentment or anger is the emotion that belongs to past tense pain.)

You can learn skills for communicating effectively so that you can resolve present tense emotional wounds.

If you can resolve pain in the present, then you never have to return to those hurts from the past. You can leave them there where they belong – in the past!

AND you will not have to be anxious about hurtful communication in the future. Because things don’t happen in the future, they happen in the present.

So if there is an emotional wound in the future (and there may not be) then WHEN it happens, it will be present tense, and you will have the skills to deal with it, to resolve it.

With the skills of effective communication, you can learn how to resolve resentments and “let things go”. “Letting it go” is about releasing your pain, not necessarily the memory of the incident. We don’t forgive and forget – we resolve and remember.

Want to know what happened to Alan and Di?

They stayed together and now have 2 more children (twins!). They wrote to me some years later,

Thank you for saving our marriage.

Well actually, they saved it, not me. I simply gave them the clarity and the skills so that they could begin communicating effectively to fix their communication problem.

And I can do the same for you. I can help you rekindle your romance through helpful relationship advice. Join our email list and start to receive more information.