Last week I was invited to speak to a squadron about how to protect their relationship by being a better spouse. I had about 20 minutes to speak so it was important to identify the most important ways to be a better spouse.
The following are 10 things you can do to be a better spouse:
The sledgehammer approach generally involves the word “you” and is followed by honesty which feels like judgment, criticism, or contempt. If your intention in being honest is to be heard and get your spouse motivated to do something about it, this is not an effective approach. When people feel attacked or hurt by “honesty”, they react by becoming defensive. Defensiveness escalates the conflict. It damages your relationship as your feel less connected after this “honest” discussion. You are responsible for how your choose to be honest with your spouse. If you struggle with being soft with your honesty, work to get better at it. Healthy love requires compassionate communication. Take the time to think about how to be honest in a loving way. Your relationship will be better for it.
1. Realize its about the relationship, not about you. Your spouses feelings, perspective and needs are just as important as yours.
2. Find out what your spouse needs to feel valued/loved and do it consistently. Figure out what you need to feel valued/loved and share with your spouse.
3. Connect verbally and physically consistently. Give compliments, express appreciation. Make sure to touch in ways that are not just sexual.
4. Listen to understand. Not to argue or respond. Understanding must precede advice or solutions.
5. Be aware of your tone and use a gentle, curious tone. How you say something (tone, facial expression) is more important than what you say. How you start a conversation predicts how it will go.
6. Repair during difficult conversations. Examples: Can we start over? I don’t want to fight. I can see your point. I agree with part of what you are saying. I want to understand.
7. Know when you are Flooded/overwhelmed and in the Fight, Flight or Freeze mode. When you are flooded, you are physiologically unable to take in information or feel empathy for partner as you are in survival mode. Learn when you are flooded and how to Self-Soothe to get out of it. When we are in this state we are capable or saying mean things that will not be forgotten later.
8. Take a 30 min break when you are too upset to be nice aka Flooded. Tell your spouse you need a break to protect the relationship. Figure out what you are feeling and what you need. Do not fester. Go back to debrief with spouse.
9. Listen for the need behind your spouse’s complaint. Do not get lost in the details as they do not matter as much as addressing the need.
10. Avoid these damaging patterns as they can predict divorce: 1) Criticism. Complaining while attacking or blaming your partner. Antidote=Complain without blame. 2) Defensiveness. Playing victim/martyr and/or trying to defend yourself or excuse your behavior. Antidote=Accept Responsibility even if its only a part of complaint. Defensiveness escalates conflict as the partner expressing the complaint feels unheard and as if their partner is not owning their part. 3) Contempt. Treating spouse with disrespect and disgust by giving message you are superior to them. Antidote=Culture of Appreciation and expressing your feelings and needs. Contempt is fed from resentment and leads to behaviors that show disgust/disrespect to spouse. Contempt is the biggest predictor of divorce.
4) Stonewalling. Shutting down to avoid conflict. Antidote=Self-soothing and going back to debrief the conversation once soothed. The focus should be both partners expressing their perspective, feelings, what they need their spouse to do, and how they can handle the topic better as a team in the future.
The only thing you can control or change in your relationship is the type of spouse you are choosing to be. If you are feeling dissatisfied with the state of you relationship please ask yourself what you have done lately to reconnect with your spouse. What makes this such good news is you have the power to change it. If anything on the above list sounds familiar, I encourage you to learn how to break that pattern and be a better spouse. If you learn healthy relationship skills, it will have ripple effects across your life. You will be a better spouse, employee, parent, and friend.
#protectyourrelationship #conflictskills #communication #reconnect #beabetterspouse