If you’re going through a separation or a divorce, your spouse may have stopped wanting to communicate with you. In this situation, people typically give one of two suggestions. They’ll tell you to either stop talking and ignore them, or that you should bombard them with texts, calls, and emails. Both these options could be seen as manipulative and likely the wrong thing to do. At Marriage Helper, we’ve developed a method called SMART contact that we built just for this situation.
Stop Using PUSH Behaviors
SMART contact is an acronym that we use to describe the process a person can go through when they are trying to teach themselves how to best communicate with their spouse. It’s not only a great process to use during a separation or when your spouse is disengaged, but it can also be used as a framework to continue communicating in a healthy relationship.
The S means to stop using PUSH behaviors. PUSH is another acronym where the P stands for pleading or begging behaviors. The U means to be unengaged. Many times, in an effort to manipulate their spouse to do something, a person might completely ignore them instead of trying to solve the issue.
S is for starting unnecessary fights. When you’re not getting any communication from your spouse, the frustration can lead to you pushing each other’s buttons to try and elicit a response. The H stands for hovering or controlling behaviors. Examples of these controlling behaviors include breaking into their email, stalking social media, or even following them around town.
Don’t Manufacture Excuses To Contact Your Spouse
So, the S in SMART contact stands for stop using PUSH behaviors. The M is for managing business items together. Using the working business items doesn’t literally mean starting a business with them. We use this term as a way to think about non-emotional types of conversation. When you’re trying to restart communication, talking about emotionally charged topics like why did you leave us or why aren’t we talking will continue to drive your spouse away. Instead, you want to talk about non-emotional things like how your kids are doing in school or how their day was in general.
Using this approach gives you a reason to reach out to your spouse when things arise. Don’t try to come up with a reason to talk to them daily. Manufacturing small reasons to communicate will continue to push them away. Instead, you can initiate an honest conversation with them when things organically happen, like something with your children in school or a repair for your home.
A is for allowing your spouse the opportunity to respond. This gives your spouse the chance to open up and expand the conversation, and if they begin to open up, let it happen. Be a good listening ear and allow your spouse to respond. This is a stark contrast to the other school of thought that says to ignore them, so they miss you bad enough to return.
Nothing, Including SMART Contact, Is Guaranteed To Work
Next, the R is to respond to your spouse in a calm, strong, and gentle way. As you reopen communication with your spouse, they will likely say things you don’t want to hear. While it might hurt to listen to them, respond by saying you’re glad they shared it while maintaining your self-respect and confidence. This response will show your spouse that you’re a person they can open up to and trust to have good conversations.
Finally, T is for taking it one day at a time. SMART contact is not a magical pill. Starting to communicate again will take time, and every day will not be perfect. There will be days when you mess up and send a text message or say something in a way you shouldn’t have. But, the next day, you wake up and do it again. You continue to show your spouse that you’re willing to listen and be a better person, even if you make mistakes.
SMART contact works. But even if you do everything right, your spouse has the free will to choose not to respond and continue leaving the marriage. But using this framework is the healthiest way of communicating, especially in a marriage in crisis.
If SMART contact was working, but the communication has stopped again, try telling short stories to get it moving again. For example, I talked to our child’s teacher today, and they said this. Be sure to keep these stories short as you’re just trying to get a response from your spouse. Long stories might continue to push your spouse away.
Patience Is Key
As your spouse begins to open up again, continue to use the SMART contact principles. If they seem open to talking, start gradually moving to have more conversation. Don’t try to overwhelm them with questions; remember to keep the conversation as non-emotional as possible. You can start asking them more about what’s happening in their life currently. Remember, they might tell you things you weren’t prepared to hear or hurt you. Watch for any negative reactions from your spouse, and be ready to adjust your conversations.
Communication in your marriage did not fall apart overnight, and it will not magically be repaired overnight either. So start easy and slow, and don’t rush into anything. Reopening communication is a process that involves two things. The first is that the person using SMART contact is learning to communicate better. The second is that you’re rebuilding the trust of healthy communication in the relationship.
Take this one day at a time because using SMART contact is the best thing you can do to rebuild that positive communication.
If you want to learn more about SMART contact, get our SMART Contact Toolkit here. You can learn a new method for communication to turn your relationship around. You can also download our FREE eBook on SMART communication here.
If you’re not sure what to do next, schedule time to talk with one of our client representatives. They can help you figure out next steps and direct you to the best resources.