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Friday, September 26, 2014

Bro Jo's How to Better Communicate as a Couple

Dear Bro Jo,

I am recently engaged to a wonderful man that stole my heart.

He is an upstanding member and avid temple goer as well.

He is also a returned veteran serving our country and was injured doing so.

Well recently I have been getting upset with him because he says one thing when he meant it as something completely different.

I of course get upset and at one point started crying.

He then gets upset at me because he thinks I am over-reacting and I need better control of my emotions.

What can we do to understand each other?

To me it feels like I am talking to a cave man and to him it is like talking to Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter.

How can I communicate with my guy without him shutting down?

I would love your advice!

- Soon to Be Married

Dear Soon,

As your relationship continues there will be plenty of opportunities for you each to get upset with one another. Sure, some people claim to have those marriages where they never fight . . . it might be true, but I never believe them!

Of course, as two outspoken opinionated people, it might not surprise you that Sister Jo and I have had some pretty big blow outs . . . not that I recommend that.

What I do recommend is six things:


1. Learn how to communicate. That means you do a lot more listening than talking. Most relationship arguments escalate because we think the other person isn't hearing what we need to express.
Communication is also about timing.
I teach parents not to bother their child's coach about not enough playing time right after a game (especially if it's a loss), but that waiting a day or two to let that coach deal with what just happened is a better course of action.
The same thing is true in couples.

2. Discover how your partner likes to handle disagreements.  Are they a "hash it out until it's over" kind of person? 
Or do they need their space to recover and think things over?
Whichever it is, do your best to accommodate them. (BTW - the best way to discover which they are is to talk to them; see #1 above.)

3. Be respectful in your speech to each other. That means be prepared to give a lot more "sorry"s and "thank you"s than you may want to.
When you're expressing your feelings, don't put the other person on the defensive.
Try to never use the word "you" as in "you bother me when you do this"; that backs them into a corner, and you don't want them to cower OR come out fighting. Instead say "I feel this way when this thing happens". See the difference?

4. Be a little less sensitive about your own feelings. Not everything said or done is about us; often even when it seems it is, it's not. (Ironically the same advice your fiancé is giving to you he too could use.)

5. Keep your expectations realistic. Sister Jo is often quoting “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Albert Einstein)
I've known many people that ended up divorced because their spouse didn't live up to their expectations, even though that spouse was the same person that they'd originally fallen in love with and agreed to marry (and perhaps covenanted to be with for Time and All Eternity).
He didn't ever become wildly wealthy at his workman's wage job; she didn't stay the same shape she was at 19; he never learned to like her favorite types of movies and activities; she never embraced hunting and camping . . .
We won't be disappointed in people, what they become or fail to become, if we keep ourselves from having unrealistic expectations about who they are, what they will do, and how they might change.
(Expectation, by the way, is one of the many reasons why pornography is so dangerous; it gives us unrealistic expectations of sex and human behavior. Real people don't act like porn stars. Heck, porn stars wouldn't act that way either if they weren't drunk, stoned, coked out, threatened, abused . . . or all of the above.)
A favorite quote of mine is “Women marry Men hoping to change them; Men marry Women hoping they won’t change. Both are phenomenally wrong”.
Keep that in mind.

6. Always find opportunities to appreciate each other and pray together. As we grow closer to God, we grow closer to each other.
As we honor our companions, showing them through word and deed that we're grateful they're in our lives, miracles can happen. 

If you're a reader, I highly recommend "How to Win Friends and Influence People" as an excellent primer in how to better communicate with others.

- Bro Jo


Becky said...

I would also recommend reading "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. That has been a real eye-opener with all of my relationships. In fact, we have gone over it in family home evening as we all learn to better communicate with each other.
Parroting is another great way to understand each other better. When he says something and you don't quite get what he means repeat back, "So what I hear you saying is..." or "So I think I understand what you mean..." and repeat it back to him the way you heard it. This give each of you an opportunity to learn about each other better. I firmly believe that great communication is a constant learning situation as you will always run into new people who don't quite 'get' you.
Pick your battles. Not everything really matters as much as you think it does. Sure, it matters to you, right this minute, but does it REALLY matter? If not, let it go.
Good luck!

Bro Jo said...

An excellent recommendation, Becky!

- Bro Jo