Marriage

Communicating with Your Spouse

Marriage is a very intimate relationship between two human beings. Sadly, the closer we get to our spouses, the more we take them for granted. Often, spouses are treated with less courtesy than strangers who cross our path.

The longer we live together, the more we discover about each other, some of which we like and some that we might like to see changed. We seem to believe there is a clause in our marriage certificate that says, “You may reform your spouse if they are not perfect”!

However, constant efforts to “improve” another person’s behavior quickly become nagging. In fact, it seems that whenever we tell our spouse what they should be doing, they end up not doing the task!  Though we convince ourselves it is for their own good, these attempts at change have a very negative impact on the quality of our marriage. Telling someone to do what you want them to do is the same as forcing them to do it; and when being forced, the brain simply blocks the unpleasant stimulus, making one immune to nagging and shouting.

The use of words is very important when communicating with your spouse because it determines the tone of what you are saying and how it comes across. Are you telling them something or making a demand of them? When your tone comes out more like a demand than a question, your spouse, not surprisingly, becomes offended and tries to avoid you. You could prevent unnecessary tension by choosing the right words before speaking.

Perhaps you are getting ready for work and find you need something that is in the wash.  Instead of saying, “Do that washing!”you could say, “Honey, I have an important meeting tomorrow, and I will need my dress shirt. Would you mind washing it today?”

Another common offense between husbands and wives is the use, or lack of use, of the designated laundry hamper.  Instead of barking, “Don’t throw your clothes there!”you could say, “Honey, please don’t throw the clothes on the floor.  Your example makes it hard for me to get the children to put their clothes where they belong.”

If you are unable to get to the grocery store and want to ask your spouse to pick something up, instead of “Get me some vegetables you could try saying, “Will you please stop at the store on your way home and pick up some vegetables for dinner tonight? My day is just packed, and I won’t be able to get to it.”

Don’t question your spouse like one of the kids. Instead, treat them like an equal and discuss it with them. If they forget, gently remind them. If they still forget, take care of it yourself and don’t bring it up again. There is no reason to make them feel bad about forgetting.

The other end of the spectrum is acknowledgement.  Be sure to thank your spouse for their help. You thank the waiter at the restaurant or the cashier at the grocery store. Why wouldn’t you thank your spouse as well?

There are some chores that neither of you really like to do.  In those cases, you could either do those chores together or pay for help from someone else.

Remember the saying, “Silence is golden?” Nagging has no positive effects.  Perhaps if you stop nagging, your spouse may do the task you requested without a reminder.

Calendars and lists are helpful for some people.  If you both agree, you could post a calendar for important dates and chores.  The key is that you both agree.  Don’t treat your spouse like one of the children by creating a “chore list” or “honey-do list” for them; only do that if they ask you to do so.

Tackling chores when asked says you care – not about the chore, but about how your spouse feels.  Maybe taking the trash out right now is not high on your list of priorities, but it may be at the very top of your spouse’s.  Take a couple of minutes and reinforce how much she means to you.

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