Communication problems in marriage can sabotage intimacy and connection, can’t they? Do you and your spouse struggle to communicate? We do. Do you desire more effective and meaningful conversations? We do. From time to time, most of us have difficulty expressing our thoughts, beliefs, or needs to our spouse. It’s normal. But what are the warning signs that you and your spouse are having serious problems communicating?
According to a recent study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), communication problems in marriage were the number one reason for divorce in the United States. Approximately 68% of all marriages fail because of a breakdown of communication.
We’ve listed some of the warning signs (with suggestions) of communication problems in marriage. These can indicate you need to refocus on your communication in your marriage:
Do you blame your spouse for your communication problems in marriage?
This happens when you no longer see yourselves as a team. Instead of blaming your spouse, own what you should. Have you expressed yourself clearly or were you expecting that your spouse would “read your mind?” Have you tried to manipulate your spouse or hinted at them? Say what you mean and be clear about your expectations. Then own your mistakes or miscommunication.
Are you overly critical of your spouse?
This is closely related to a lack of ownership, but it happens when you view your spouse with a judgmental, negative attitude. Perhaps you attack your spouse’s character, not just their behavior or beliefs. According to marriage experts, John and Julie Gottman, criticism is one of the best predictors of divorce.
One method to combat criticism is to focus on your spouse’s positive qualities. What do you appreciate about your spouse? Tell them or write them a note focusing on one or more of their positive traits. And say “thank you” to your spouse.
Are you distracted when you and your spouse are talking?
Have you noticed any of these responses to your spouse:
- You often find yourself looking at your phone, listening to other conversations, or not paying attention to what your spouse is saying.
- You frequently recall your spouse mentioning an opinion or event, but you didn’t listen well so you have to ask them to repeat it later.
- You’re distracted because they chose times that aren’t optimal for good conversations – when you’re running out the door, preparing dinner, or when you’re spouse is absorbed in work or a project with a deadline.
In our culture, distractions are everywhere and there are some practical ways to eliminate them. Set your phone across the room and silence it. Look at your spouse when they’re talking. If the kids are the distraction, have conversations away from the kids even if it means you have to schedule some time to talk early in the morning or after the kids are in bed. If you know you’re not in a place to give your spouse your best attention, let them know you really want to hear them and set a time when they will have your focused attention.
Do you interrupt your spouse often?
When you interrupt your spouse it shows you’re not very interested in what they have to say. Interrupting is rude and it’s a subtle form of selfishness and pride. You are placing your agenda and thoughts above our spouse’s. you are devaluing the importance of your spouse’s words and thoughts by refusing to listen respectfully to them.
James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” If you really want to understand and empathize with your spouse, you have to let them talk. As you listen your understanding of them will grow – and so will their trust of you. If your spouse goes on and on, perhaps interject and say, “May I respond to that?” or “Can I tell you my feelings about that?” or “When you’re finished, I’d like the chance to state my opinion.”
Are you indifferent to your spouse or ignoring them?
If so, this is a huge red flag. When you no longer care about communicating with your spouse, your marriage is headed for major trouble. If you recognize this in yourself, we suggest you contact a Christian marriage counselor or therapist quickly. Build Your Marriage has a resource for help that you can find here.
Do all you can to solve communication problems in marriage by learning effective communication skills and you will build your marriage.