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Healthy conversation tips for couples

Have you ever caught yourself talking AT your spouse? While there is probably more than one definition of talking AT someone, I’m referring to a specific behavior I’ve witnessed and even used myself (oh the horror). The behavior I’m referring to is the practice of giving your spouse information in a way that is unloving, demeaning, demanding, or otherwise disrespectful of the fact that you are two equals in relationship.

Why do we talk AT our mate rather than WITH him/her?

From my own experience and observation, lapsing into talking AT our spouses seems to happen when:frustrating conversations

  • We don’t think we’re being heard so we get bossier or more parental in our communication.
  • We’re frustrated, angry, or resentful–with our spouse or someone/thing entirely unrelated–and our communication is our “release valve” on that energy.
  • We’re lacking confidence in ourselves or feeling unsure of our connection with our spouse so we seek to feel better by gaining some sense of control of the situation.
  • We go unconscious and forget that it’s not a conversation if our spouse isn’t engaged.

Signs you might be talking AT your spouse

  • Your spouse says you’re nagging, hounding, bossing or otherwise telling them what to do.
  • You hear your own tone of voice and think you sound like a mean teacher, controlling parent, or whiny child.
  • You’re not interested in a response beyond knowing whether she/he heard you.
  • You’re not looking at your spouse, you’re not in the same room or you’re multitasking.

How to reengage in conversation WITH your spouse

  • Make specific time every day when you can have each other’s undivided attention.
  • Truthfully state what you want or need before you begin a conversation and ask if your spouse is ready to provide that right now.
  • Practice listening to your spouse with no intent other than to truly hear what she/he has said and what’s going on for her/him.
  • Ask your spouse to help you learn things you do that make it easy for her/him to tune you out. Start changing any behaviors that are creating distance between the two of you.

Of course, since I’m doing all the communicating here, I’m not practicing what I preach. That’s what I have to say on the subject. I’d like to hear your wisdom now. Please offer your feedback, suggestions, or even questions. We can use this blog to practice “talking” WITH each other so it will be really easy when you use it at home with your honey.

This post is part of a multi-part series on a poll about marital unhappiness AND ways to make your marriage happy. Links are below:

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  1. Hello,

    You word made me to think about myself & my relasionship with my hasband….Thank you.

    please keep writing more regarding this subject,I need to know more about How I can comunicate with my husband (I never listened to him).

    kind regards,

    Comment by Nasim — January 22, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

  2. hi.

    your write-up is extremely helpful. i used to be a very nagging wife and it always left me devastated whenever i force my husband to listen to me. anyway, this is a great article for wives who can’t keep themselves from talking AT their husbands, like i used to. keep it up! :)

    Comment by Liv — June 15, 2012 @ 5:05 am

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