How many times a week do you and your spouse get mad at each other? If you’re anything like us, more than we remember. Unfortunately, anger turns into fighting, and then you can feel like you fight all the time.
How We’ve Changed Our Communication
Austin and I have been doing something for the last few years that has made it very easy to stop the anger from turning into a fight.
Whenever one of us gets mad, we figure out exactly what is making us mad and then fully explain it to the other person. We use this phrase to explain why the other person made us upset, “When you said- (use the exact phrases they said or describe what they did), I felt like (use descriptive words to share exactly how you are feeling).
You Have to Know What You Are Feeling
The key here is that you have to quickly identify and put into words what you are feeling. Unless you know exactly why you are upset, you won’t be able to communicate that to them.
The result? You just go off on them so you can feel better without getting anywhere. Then you justify by thinking, “They should know have known that would upset me”, “Why don’t they get why I am mad?” , “I’d never do that to them” or any number of things that you can think to pass the blame.
How Explaining Your Feelings Helps You Resolve Problems Fast
Before you can resolve things in your relationships, you have to understand your own emotions. We’ve had many times where one of us has done something that really bothered the other person. Almost always, the other person had no clue what they said would hurt the other.
Here’s an example of this-
Say one of you is in charge of keeping track of the checkbook and expenses. Then say the other person mentions that they wish there was money for something they want. The person that manages the checkbook can take a big offense to this, because they can easily feel the other person is telling them, “You won’t let me spend our money”. In reality, the other person is communicating, “I’m disappointed that I want something I can’t have”.
Communication Takes Practice
It took a long time, but we’ve finally both gotten really good at using our formula sentence to explain our feelings to the other person and come to a resolution quickly. Neither of us are intentionally trying to hurt each other, so it always comes as a surprise when we say something that makes the other person mad.
Unhealthy Relating Patterns Can Turn Anger Into a Fight
I think this happens a lot in marriage. One spouse will say something that completely wrecks the other person without even knowing it. Depending on their personality, they’ll either blow up at the spouse or they’ll shut down and stew until later on when they lose it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can quickly shut your anger down, resolve the issue, and turn things around. It will take a lot of time and practice to get to that point. Also, it will take communication ahead of time to help your spouse understand what you are trying to accomplish when you explain your emotions.
Don’t Discredit Your Spouse’s Feelings
Another key to this communication technique is that you cannot discredit your spouse’s feelings. If they have become vulnerable to you and shared how your actions or words hurt them, don’t shut them down. It’s really easy to say things like, “That’s stupid to think that”, “You shouldn’t feel that way”, “You’re wrong for feeling like that”.
Listen, Apologize, And Explain Yourself Better
Really listen to what they are saying. Apologize for the thing you said that hurt them. Then, try again to explain what you were trying to communicate. We use this phrase, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to communicate (repeat back what they told you). What I was trying to say is (use different words to express what you wanted to communicate the first go round).
Believe They Are Sorry And Didn’t Mean It
If you are the offended person, it’s your responsibility to believe that they are sorry and didn’t mean to communicate something awful to you. It is really easy to hold onto the anger and beat them up over what they said. Instead, believe them, calm down, and listen to what they were actually trying to say.
How to Practice Better Communication
In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to communicate well unless you’ve been practicing at it. One of the ways that we practice this is through normal conversations. This may sound boring, but we analyze the way we react to certain situations and scenarios. It’s a great way for us to really figure out how we process the world. And, it is good for us to understand how the other person processes the world. We react completely opposite of each other.
Conversation Starters to Get You Going
Here are a few conversation starters you can use to get discussions going:
What do you do when you walk into a room of people you don’t already know?
What do you do when you walk into a room of people you do know?
When you have to confront someone, how do you handle it?
If someone tells you they have a problem with you, how do you react?
When you can’t figure out how to do something on the first or second try, what do you do next?
If something bad happens early on in the day, how do you handle the rest of the day?
What is a specific situation that stresses you out?
If you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do, how do you respond?
How do you feel when you tell someone “no”?
If someone at your job tells you that another person at work hurt them, what do you do?
How do you respond to critical feedback?
When you are shopping alone at the grocery store, do you put in earbuds and listen to a podcast? Or do you text friends or interact with the people around you?
What is something you enjoy doing alone?
What is something you like doing with other people?
How do you handle it when someone gives you critical feedback about your kids or spouse?
What do you do if a close friend or family member tells you something you said or did is wrong?
How do you feel about your close friends or family members correct your children?
If you were given the choice between a high paying job you don’t like as much and low paying job you love, which would you choose?
When you make a decision, do you think through all of the “what if’s” or do you go for it without thinking at all?
What is something you dread doing?
What is something you can’t wait to do?
Are you more like a sprinter when you work or a marathon runner?
What’s the most important quality to you in a friend?
How do you handle it if you have two people in your life that are at odds with each other?
What is the best way for you to recharge after a long day?
What makes a long day for you?
When do you feel the most focused?
When do you feel the most distracted?
How do you handle it if you fail?
How do you handle it if you succeed?
What makes you feel really prepared for a task you’ve been given?
What makes you feel unprepared?
When you are stressing out, how do you respond?
What causes you to shut down emotionally?
Share a time when you felt really betrayed.
Share a time you felt like someone was being loyal to you.
Share a time when you felt truly appreciated.
Share a time when you have felt forgotten.
Share a time when you have felt loved.
Share a time when you experienced real loss.
Hopefully, these questions will help you analyze your emotions and figure out how to communicate with your spouse. When you really understand your own feelings, you can say the words to help your spouse get you.