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Monday, November 17, 2014

Communication Breakdown

It happens in every marriage - suddenly you and your mate seem to be always at odds, talking at cross purposes...and you know it.

"You're not hearing me!"

"You're not letting me finish!"

"Now you're mad at me"

"You just aren't comprehending!"

Sometimes this is symptomatic of a deeper rift, when a couple has started growing apart. In those cases, counseling is definitely called for. run, don't walk, because if you can't communicate, the drift will only get worse.

But sometimes it's a "Wizard of Oz" paradigm...the lack of communication feels huge, but it's really just the Little Man Behind The Curtain. It's trying to be big and powerful and scary.

The only way it can harm your marriage is if your harm it yourself, in reaction to fear.

Our communication style, both talking and listening, is governed, to a large degree, by our emotions. Emotions are the mot changeable thing about us; a sad song can depress some people for a whole day, and finding a dim on the sidewalk can cause jubilation.

And so it goes with the way we talk to our mates. Generally, it all works out pretty well; they know our ups and downs, highs and lows,and unconsciously make allowances.

But sometimes, like two waves meeting at the peak, our 'bad' corresponds with our mate's 'bad', and we're suddenly talking at cross purposes...and at each others' throats.

How does a minor miscommunication escalate?

Simple. By labeling. If a couple isn't on the same page, saying "we're not getting through to each other right now, let's talk later" defuses the situation.

But when one or the other says,"You never hear me!", it's both an exaggeration, and an accusation.

The label of chronic miscommunication has long legs, and it sill survive far past the time when the original issue is forgotten.

How to avoid it?

  • Banish the words "you always" and "you never" from you speech and thought.
  • When a conversation starts going south, try to end it with the promise to talk later.
  • If the conversation is ended, don't reignite it. Some of the most damaging arguments come from a sharp but short disagreement, ending when one party leaves the room...and the he or she comes back to stir the pot, and it gets far,far worse.
What are your thoughts? How do you avoid letting a temporary breakdown in communication hurt your marriage?

If you have a moment, please visit my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace" at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com for a quote and short commentary on marriage.


  1. Hi Andrew, Very good advice on communication. When couples try to talk things out in the heat of the moment or when they are both having bad days, it only gets worse. I agree, accusations and removing phrases you never, you always can help so much. I feel statements replace criticism with complaints and can be less harsh and much more productive.

    1. The heat of the moment is a terrible time to talk...what's said can never be unsaid, and it's never truly forgotten.

      I like the point about using statements rather than criticism - great thought!

  2. banish you never and you always... awesome advice! The man behind the curtain is a long running joke in our house :)

    1. Thanks, and I love that the dude behind the curtain's a standard joke for you!