Communication is vital in any relationship. But what is communication? Speaking to each other every day about bills and mundane happenings isn’t enough. But, talking about your feelings and emotions, especially when you’re unsure how your spouse will react, can be difficult. How can you get your spouse to talk to you again? In this episode of Relationship Radio, we’ll look at what to do when your spouse refuses to communicate anymore.
Learn How To Listen
Communication in a relationship allows us to understand our partner and learn how to support them in their times of need. Early in relationships, couples talk about their wants and needs more freely. They are in the process of learning about each other and determining how compatible they are. So what might happen in a relationship that causes communication to break down?
People tend to open up more to people they feel genuinely listen to them. Sometimes, people just need to vent; they need an outlet for their feelings. Your spouse doesn’t usually need you to solve their problems, but they need a trusted shoulder to cry on or an ear willing to listen. The longer you’re married, the easier it might be to start tuning out your spouse when they begin discussing their problems. This can lead to them looking for someone else who will be there to listen. It might be another trusted same-sex friend or a parent, but it could lead them into an inappropriate relationship with someone who will pay attention.
Another thing that can harm communication in your marriage is the feeling of being judged. While you might be listening to the things your spouse says, judging them or criticizing them can turn them off to the idea of communicating with you. Constantly being rejected when looking for compassion and understanding can lead to lasting damage in your relationship.
Here at Marriage Helper, we teach about the PIES–physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Physical attraction is easy to understand. Most people know what they’re attracted to physically, and it can easily be seen before even talking to a person. Being intellectually attracted to a person takes more time and effort to get to know them but is just as crucial as physical. Do I like talking to this person? Do we have enough in common that we can share similar life interests?
Setting a good emotional foundation early in the relationship can help long-term. Having shared interests that you can do together, even when you might be having a bad day, gives you something to connect through. Having great conversations early in your relationship, even about the mundane, can give you a subconscious place to go back to and understand you can trust this person in conversation.
Typically, we start learning about our significant other through facts. I like this; I don’t like that. We usually reserve the more profound facts about ourselves until we feel we can trust our partner for fear of rejection or judgment. Once those facts are shared and trust established, we begin to discuss our emotions. These conversations can be deep and hard to follow sometimes. You might think you’re listening, but have you thought about how your spouse feels? Their perception, no matter what you believe, is reality. So while your words might show you’re listening, your body language could be sending a different signal.
Speaking From The ‘I’ Position
If you want your spouse to open up and talk to you, don’t push. Trying to make them speak to you forcefully will only cause them to resist and shut down more. Instead, you need to find the root of the problem. What’s honestly keeping them from wanting to communicate? Always try and hear and understand the message behind what is being said. Try to look at the emotions, where they’re closing off, and look at more than just the words they’re saying to identify the source of what could truly be going on.
The first step in this process is for you to be the one who is open and transparent. Ask permission to tell your spouse how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. When talking to them, always speak from the ‘I’ position. Often people make the mistake of speaking from the ‘you’ perspective like, you don’t talk with me anymore, you’re not open and honest, or you used to do this and that. That causes your spouse to be defensive about the actions automatically. They can feel attacked, which will lead to them being even more closed off.
Instead, speak from the ‘I’ position, such as, I want to be closer to you, or I want to have a relationship where we can talk about anything. Speaking from this perspective shows that you are willing to share your feelings and be open. But don’t get angry if your spouse doesn’t respond the way you want. Your goal for opening up the line of communication should not be to elicit a response from them but to show that you care about your spouse and your marriage. Your spouse may need time to think about their feelings or develop that trust again that you won’t judge their response. Be patient and consistent.
Solid Communication Takes Practice
Re-establishing communication in your relationship is a process. There is no magic word that will make everything go back to the way it’s supposed to be. Understand that if your spouse is closed off to you, you need to step back and look at what you might be doing to cause the situation first. Look at your body language, how you respond during conversations, and if you’re genuinely listening to what your spouse is saying. Any or all of these could cause them to fear opening up to you and sharing.
Marriage Helper has some tools that can help you reignite the emotional connection and communication with your spouse. Our Smart Contact Toolkit is one of the available resources. In it, we go deeper into this concept of smart contact. SMART is an acronym, and it’s a framework that can help guide you through having better communication with your spouse. In the 11-part video series, it teaches you how to stop the push behaviors, how to manage your expectations, and how to allow time for your spouse to respond. In addition, we give you options on what to say, some best tips, and some conversation starters for specific things. It’s a great resource to help you start communicating again.
You can also find more information about our three-day intensive workshop here. It’s available online or in-person and connects you with real people going through similar situations. It’s powerful stuff. We also post new content every week on our YouTube channel, which you can find here!
Reach out today and let Marriage Helper put your marriage back on the LovePath.