Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Four Marriage Communication "No-no's"

You see the guidelines all the time . . . things you should never or almost never do . . . to your car, with your clothes, involving electricity and the like. Usually we're smart to heed the warnings of the manufacturers or other experts who give us these cautions.

Psychologist, John Gottman, has suggested four such warnings for married couples when it comes to communicating. I regularly share these with married or pre-married couples. And they're worth using to take some inventory in your own relationship whether you're still newlyweds or been married for over thirty years as we have.

If you want to have impacting and intimate communication in your marriage you need to avoid:

Criticism. No, he's not suggesting that we never mention things we don't like or that we'll agree most of the time. Instead we're to avoid always being critics. Have you ever been around someone who you can never please? You feel like you can't ever win. Do one thing and it's not enough. Do the opposite and it's too much. Are you always the critic? Do you rarely share words of encouragement, thanks and affirmation?

Defensiveness. Many people don't know how to accept being wrong. Suggest that they could do something better or even catch them in the act of a mistake and they always have an excuse: I was tired, I didn't mean it, you just don't understand, or they flat out lie. Defensiveness becomes a roadblock to truly intimate and caring relating which must include some times when we simply say we messed up.

Stonewalling. This is the silent treatment. The offended or wrong party never gets overtly mad. Instead they just won't talk. And that's unfair. But it's a form of control, isn't it? If one person won't communicate, the other person really can't do anything. Unfortunately, nothing gets resolved. I'm sad to say that early in our marriage I did this too much. It never accomplished anything but keep me from dealing with the issue which was I found out later the stronger thing to do. Thankfully over the years I've thankfully improved.

Contempt. If there is a worst one of the four this is it. Contempt is when we specifically attack the other person's character through name-calling, put-downs, cruel comparisons and even looks of disdain. Contempt is the hardest of the four to forgive or take back. Contemptuous words go deep, hurt tremendously and injure the most.

Contempt is often the final nail in the coffin of a marriage. Don't go there.

If any or all of these are a part of your marriage vocabulary get rid of them. Start over, substitute some new words, find healthier alternatives. Talk about your language and hold each other accountable. There are many better choices. Don't risk personal and emotional injuries that could hurt for a long time to come. In fact, if you'd like some more helpful hints go back to some of my first post entries. There are several there about the power of our words.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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