If you and your spouse argue a lot, it may be tempting to think divorce is the only answer and that it will solve all of your relationship problems – but couples don’t argue because they don’t like each other. They dislike each other because they argue.
Often, arguments result from not knowing or not using some simple communication rules. The situation can become compounded by the couple needing to face some issues in their relationship that have not been discussed – possibly for a long, long time.
It Isn’t a Cliché – Communication Really is Key
An invisible divide develops between couples when things are left unsaid and unresolved. This creates tension and leads to other problems, including a loss of intimacy. We work with many people each year who haven’t had sex for years. It is hard to want to be intimate when there is tension in the relationship.
The biggest issues many couples face is learning to effectively communicate, express themselves without blaming or attacking their partner and ask for what they need. The real challenge is often gathering the courage to get into the relationship, not out of it.
If you haven’t learned to express yourself well in this relationship, why will the next one be better? If you’re going through a divorce and haven’t communicated well in your marriage, right now will be a hard time to learn to do so, but it’s more important than ever. If you have children, you’re setting the tone for how you will parent in the future, and it is essential to your children’s optimal adjustment that you and your spouse, the child’s other parent, speak to each other in a civilized manner.
Here is a summary of some communication tips we’ve learned over the years:
Stay Focused on Your Purpose
If you have children, your purpose might be to parent your children well so they can grow up to be healthy adults. If you don’t have children, your purpose might be to have a good relationship that you and others admire. Your purpose might also be to have a happy life. You should measure what you say to each other by whether or not you are furthering your purpose.
Note: During a divorce, your purpose might be to get through the divorce with your self-respect and bank account intact, rather than destroy the other person and “take them to the cleaners.”
You Are Not and Cannot Always Be Right
Discipline yourself to try to understand the other person’s viewpoint and try to see how it makes sense to them. You don’t have to agree with their viewpoint. It’s OK to see things differently, and you need to give the other person respect for their viewpoint, just like you want to have respect for yours. When you have a strong belief that you are right and you notice that you are starting to dig again, that’s a good time to put extra effort into understanding what the other person is saying. It can be difficult, but understanding the perspective of the other person is a large part of effective, two-way communication.
Take the Time to Listen
You can’t understand another person without letting him or her talk, and truly listening to what he or she is saying. Communication is a two-way street, and if you’re serious about working through problems you have to take the time to listen to your spouse’s concerns. You know how much you want to be heard and it is almost certain that your spouse needs to be heard too. Give your spouse the same attention in listening that you want for yourself, so you both feel heard.
Remember, Blaming Others Isn’t Helpful
Casting blame doesn’t resolve problems. It might make you feel better temporarily, but it is not helpful and never improves the relationship. Keep your blame and accusations to yourself. If you need to talk about it, vent those feelings to a close friend instead of aggravating the situation by throwing accusations at your partner or spouse.
Resolutions Need to Work for Both People
If you become rigid and demanding, you become a big part of the problem. Everyone has unique needs and interests that should be taken into account while working on a resolution. Making inflexible demands and insisting on having things your way regardless of how it affects the other person will make it hard for other people to want to be close to you.
Don’t Take Everything Personally
We are all sensitive, and it can be hard not to take things personally at times, but it really isn’t all about you. You might have noticed that your spouse can be difficult with people other than you, so his or her behavior isn’t about you – it’s about them. If you can remember this and not feel hurt and criticized by what other people do it will make your life and theirs much happier.
Visualize your spouse’s comments going over your head, not into your heart. This will help you be less reactive and defensive.
When things become confusing, and the conversation starts going nowhere, stop bickering and clearly articulate what you want. What outcome do you want from the discussion? That is the ultimate purpose of a discussion, so take great care to make sure you know and have been clear about what you want. Many couples get stuck in endless bickering that never goes anywhere, and no greater understanding develops. Someone needs to stop the cycle. Let it be you.
Good Communication Skills Have Many Benefits
Do yourself and your family a favor and work to improve your communication skills with your spouse or partner before you get rid of the wrong person. We recommend reading Difficult Conversations – it’s an excellent book on communication.
As you begin to consider all of this and whether your overall happiness will improve if you divorce, you might decide that your relationship is worth saving and you’re better off staying married. Or you might decide that the challenging road ahead needs to be traveled. Sometimes divorce is the road that needs to be traveled. If it is, we can help take some of the pain out of it.
Either way, learning how to communicate effectively during your divorce will greatly reduce your stress level, and will probably reduce your attorney’s fees as well. Both are great side benefits to better communication.
Hire a Family Law Attorney in Seattle
If you’ve decided getting a divorce is the best solution for you, the attorney you hire will have a profound impact on both the outcome of your divorce and how much it costs. The attorneys at Integrative Family Law are trained to manage conflict during difficult times. We’re focused on achieving the most beneficial outcome for your family’s long-term well-being. Call 206.859.6800 to schedule a consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer in our Seattle office.