You may describe communication between you and your spouse as being “bad.”

But what characterizes “bad” communication in a marriage? Does it sound a certain way—or does it mean there is no ‘sound’ at all?

In this blog, I will help you understand what bad communication is in marriage, and what it is choking off in your relationship with your spouse. Then, I want to offer three steps to improve your communication skills. Read on…

Defining Bad Communication

Many couples will say, “Oh, communication between us is so bad,” and shake their heads in resignation.

That can mean there is complete silence in their house… but that is highly doubtful. For one, it’s just not practical. At some point, someone is going to have to ask, “Can you bring me a roll of toilet paper?” or “Have you seen my car keys?”

This is not bad communication so much as it’s practical, but dull.

If you feel communication is bad between you and your spouse, you may be describing the way your communication makes you feel. For example, if you are discussing practical concerns, you probably don’t feel one way or the other: asking you where his or her keys are doesn’t make you feel good or bad. You’re probably pretty neutral on the topic.

But if you are talking with each other in anger, or accusing each other of various injustices, or belittling each other—this makes you feel bad. This is what “bad” communication sounds like: those hurtful words, tones of voice and heated exchanges that drive you apart and make you both feel bad afterward.

Bad communication can also mean you have reached an impasse about a topic: you can’t get him/her to see your way, and they can’t get you to see their way. Because neither of you will change your mind or concede an inch—you think you aren’t communicating.

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You are communicating, just not in a satisfactory—or marriage-building—way.

In addition, when you and your spouse have bad communication, you are choking off something very vital in your relationship. Keep reading…

Bad Communication Strangles this in a Marriage

If you and your spouse have what you describe as bad communication, you also have something else: communication without intimacy.

To communicate with intimacy requires offering up personal information to your spouse. It isn’t done in anger, it isn’t an aggressive stance or forcing your opinion by talking loudly and drowning out the other person.

At one point, you and your spouse met and you may describe those early days as “our communication was great—we talked and laughed for hours.”

But at some point, you let the rules slip: maybe you began to shout when you were angry, or your spouse put if a stony wall of silence that you couldn’t penetrate when you spoke about big issues. Your frustration level with each other grew, and your bad communication habits became patterns that you feel helpless to escape.

Now, you don’t share your core selves with each other: your dreams, your thoughts, your feelings, and your hopes for the future.

The following three steps will help you turn bad communication habits back into good ones—and help strengthen the intimacy between you:

Step #1: Set the Ground Rules

Too often, couples get so comfortable with each other, they treat each other worse than they would a stranger.

That’s great you’re so comfortable together. If you can share the good, the bad and the ugly, bravo! However, there should be some ground rules on how you go about it.

For one, respect is paramount. You can be comfortable, yet respectful of your spouse. You may not agree on a topic, but that doesn’t mean you get to resort to name-calling or silent treatments.

At a time when you and your spouse are not in the midst of an argument, have an open discussion about communication rules.

Step #2: Practice Agreeing to Step Away

Until you develop good communication skills and not let emotions carry you away, agree to step away when you are at the point of wanting to break the ground rules and insult each other, etc. It will take time and practice to recognize the point at which further communication is not going to be effective.

This is good communication because it’s diplomatic: “We may not agree, and we’re going to cool off and see if we can look at this from another angle.”

Step #3: Have Talk Time

If the only time you and your spouse communicate is when there is a problem—or a missing set of keys—you are not prioritizing good, intimate communication.

To keep good communication skills enforced, regularly set up times to sit and talk about issues, as well as discuss things such as the news, hobbies, family news, etc. You make time to talk to friends and family and keep up with them—you and your spouse need to extend the same courtesy to one another.

My best to you as you and your spouse as you increase intimacy through communication, changing bad communication skills to good.

Would you describe communication between you and your spouse as “bad?”

If you have bad communication between you, what characterizes it as such?

When is the last time you had a truly deep, meaningful conversation with your spouse that made you feel close to him or her?

Please share your ideas and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson

Editor-in-Chief

Marriage Sherpa

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