When Couple Communication
For some couples, there can be a full and permanent breakdown in communication and for other couples the breakdown is symptomatic of other stresses. If you generally communicate well but lately feel you have lost those skills, there is some straightforward remediation available. It is important that the two of you do these exercises together for them to have the full impact.
1. Pick a small issue that you both feel could be easily resolved or has already been resolved.
Example Topic: Division of household chores.
2. Spouse 1 describe the problem.
Poor Communication- “You sit around all day and do nothing to help me clean up!”
Healthy Communication- “I feel like I’m left to do more than my fair share of housework.”
3. Spouse 2 repeat back what you think you heard.
Poor Communication- “So, you think I sit here and do nothing?”
Healthy Communication- “So, you feel like I’m not doing my part to keep up the house?”
4. Spouse 1 validate partner or gently correct until you both agree on Spouse 1’s description.
Poor Communication- “Yeah, I think you are lazy and inconsiderate!”
Healthy Communication- “Yes, I would like it if you did more around the house to make things less difficult for me.”
5. Spouse 2 describe the problem.
Poor Communication- “Don’t you realize that I work all day and have no time for myself, let alone to help you clean?”
Healthy Communication- “I understand that you would like more help but, I’m very tired after working all day.”
6. Spouse 1 repeat back what you think you heard.
Poor Communication- “So, you don’t care and I have to do it all on my own?”
Healthy Communication- “I understand that you are tired at the end of the day but, I wonder if we can find a solution.”
7. Spouse 2 validate partner or gently correct until you both agree on Spouse 2’s description.
Poor Communication- “You clearly don’t care about how I’m feeling.”
Healthy Communication- “Yes, I’m tired but, I am sure that we can find a solution.”
8. Both Spouse’s independently write down a list of possible solutions.
· Spouse 2 picks specific daily and/or weekly responsibilities of their choosing that they feel would help alleviate stress for Spouse 1 . However, Spouse 2 has an hour of rest and relaxation when first arriving home from work before opting to help around the house.
· Spouse 1 selects the specific chores that Spouse 2 will be daily/weekly responsible for. However, Spouse 1 gives a timeline for completion. Spouse 2 may rest as long as they feel is needed as long as their responsibilities are completed within the requested time frame.
9. Share the two lists and see if there is any overlap or agreed upon solutions.
10. If there is an agreed upon solution, start with that.
11. If there is no agreed upon solution, look at the pros and cons of each suggestion and begin to eliminate suggestions that are not feasible.
12. If you can narrow down your choice and still can’t agree, toss a coin. Tossing a coin is unbiased and fair.
If you need to communicate some thoughts and feelings and don’t really need to problem solve, you might want to use a written journal and write back and forth to each other. When we put things in writing, we tend to be more careful in how we communicate and it also gives the other person time to think about how they want to respond.
If you are interested in this type of approach, check out our Booklet entitled: Marital Communication Made Easy. You can find it on our web site in the book store.
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*Examples provided by Brittany Redding, office manager.