My mother had a rule when we got married. She told us, “You love them, you married them, and now they are family. If you don’t like something they do, tell them – not me.” She was strong in her conviction, and I believe it was my mother who helped support my marriage, as well as my siblings’ marriages, more than anyone else. A big mistake many couples face is when they gossip and talk badly about their partner. It causes problems on many levels. You begin feeling more negatively about them and slowly see more and more derogatory behavior manifest. All of sudden, you cannot imagine feeling turned on or sexual toward your partner.
Complaining about your spouse may begin as humorous and fun-loving, but it doesn’t take long before someone begins unloading years of pent-up resentment and issues that need to be handled. It may be healing for them to get these feelings off their chest, but it would be much more healing for their marriage to sit down address the obvious issues with their partner. When you continually talk badly about your partner, they begin feeling like it’s impossible to please you, so they check out and give up. Words create actions even if you think it’s harmless banter with your girl or guy friends. After all, your friend may sympathize, but they cannot heal your marriage.
Many of the couples I counsel talk sweeter to their dog and or a stranger than they do to their spouse. They will attend cocktail parties boasting about their dogs or children but treat their spouse with a lack of respect. It’s especially apparent in body language. If your marriage has fallen into the trap of talking badly about your spouse, these suggestions may help you turn it around. It’s bad enough to have a marriage end due to situations out of your control, but perhaps worse is when your inability to communicate directly to your spouse ends the marriage. Below are ideas to help you communicate with more respect and appreciation for your partner.
- Men and women are wired differently and that means everything with communication. Tell your partner what you need and want directly. Hinting does not work with men. It has nothing to do with love; it has to do with brain chemistry. The majority of women’s resentment seems to come from women not understanding this one major difference.
- If you want his attention, limit distractions. The majority of men have more difficulty multi-tasking than women do. If you try to talk to him during a game or anything on TV, it is going to be difficult. On the other side, women try to do too much at once. If she’s juggling five tasks and you need her attention, wait until she’s finished or join her in the task.
- Before you ever bring up anything negative, begin with what is going well with your partner and the relationship. This is a golden rule with most discussions and relationships. Both men and women need to know they are appreciated in a relationship. If your spouse thinks a talk is going to be about blaming or criticizing, they aren’t going to want to engage. If you are at the point in your marriage where you cannot think of one positive thing, then your lack of communicating with your spouse cannot be put off one more day.
- There is nothing more impactful than bragging about your spouse to someone in front of them. Be specific with your compliment. Also, tell your spouse in private when they do something that means a lot to you. The majority of husbands I have worked with have a strong desire to please their partner, and they need to know when they do. Being aware of the things each partner does to make the relationship stronger and commenting on these can change the marital dynamics overnight.
Many TV programs have high ratings due to their ability to express the funny parts of men and women. We laugh at them, and they make us feel validated that all men are this way and all women are that way. The problem lies in a subtle twist of this theme. When you know your partner intimately, and you begin sharing the negative intimate parts of your spouse, it doesn’t matter whom you share it with, it is a form of betrayal. To truly be intimate with someone involves protecting their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. If you are sharing their weaknesses with your friends, your partner will most likely retaliate by acting out the loser you make them out to be. Be careful with your words, and focus on building up your partner, rather than using their weaknesses to destroy them and your marriage.