Let’s admit it – if there was a program or app to help you understand what your partner is thinking, most of us would buy it.
Communication is one of the most sought-after pieces of marriage advice.
For now, we’re stuck with the old-fashioned method: the constant balance-beam of reading our partners, addressing our concerns and determining if their ill-fitted mood is related to something we did (or.. didn’t do).
The next time you want to get your partner to open up and talk about their mood or a situation, keep this advice in mind for a healthy interaction:
Learn to Read Your Partner
We’ve been married for 19 years now, and it’s pretty easy to recognize when each other is upset. You might not be as lucky. In a perfect world your loved one would tell you when they’re upset, but that’s not always the case.
It’s important to know the verbal and nonverbal cues your partner demonstrates when they’re upset. Everybody has a different way of showing frustration or sadness:
- Surprisingly and suddenly short with interactions
- Demonstrating unusual body language and signs of discomfort or stress
- Changes in attentiveness and responsiveness
- Less active and talkative than normal
Until you learn the cues your partner shows, try asking them if they are upset. It doesn’t solve the issue 100% of the time, but your spouse will appreciate that you care.
Be a Good Listener
Perhaps the most difficult lesson in intimate relationships is to be fully present and process your spouse’s feelings without feedback.
Having your spouse open up to you means creating a safe place for them to allow their ideas and emotions to flow.
When you see that your spouse is unhappy the urge is to make them feel better which leads to jumping the gun and trying to solve the conflict for them.
When you don’t have a clear reason for your partner’s mood, the most important thing you can do is listen to them and be present.
As your spouse begins to open up, avoid sharing your opinion. Acknowledge their feelings and empathize with them.
Evaluate Your Emotional Intimacy
Enjoying a date night or taking part in an activity your partner loves is a great way to keep the lines of communication open and get them to open up in a safe space.
Maintaining intimate moments where you can ask and answer questions of each other a few times a week can help keep the stream of communication open.
When your emotional intimacy is strong your spouse is more likely to reveal their emotions and thoughts allowing for a whole new layer of intimacy and trust in your marriage.
Use “I” Statements
Addressing your partner directly often leads to confrontation and can make a situation worse.
When you use “you” statements it puts your spouse on the defensive before you even start the conversation.
Instead use “I” statements when approaching a conversation to get your husband or wife to open up.
Statements like “I feel like we…” or “I really miss when…” are less aggressive than “You never…” or “You are not…”
This is a simple concept with a powerful effect. Which one of these two statements appeals to you: “I feel like we haven’t been connecting recently” or “You have been too busy for us to connect.”
Conclude an Argument (Calmly)
In the chance that a conversation goes south of expectations, it’s best to end it at the early signs of anger from either side. If everyone is yelling, it’s safe to say the conversation is over.
Express how passionate you are about the topic or discussion and that you will revisit it when you both have time to cool off.
Don’t let the argument disappear – leaving an unresolved argument unsettled can be a recipe for disaster. Revisit the subject with a new approach and acknowledge their perspective as you agree or respectfully disagree.
In the meantime, you might want to listen to our podcast on When Crap Hits the Fan to hear more of our thoughts on adapting when things go wrong.
It might also be worthwhile to reflect on how the argument began.
Did you read their body language? Did you use the “I” statement approach as you addressed your concern? Have you been focusing on how often you create moments of intimacy with you partner?