A few weeks ago, I asked my husband, Steven, what advice he would give to a buddy if he was struggling with communication in his relationship. Steven's response went something along the lines of "just force them to do it." He was obviously referring to having difficult conversations, but still... #blesshim.
As unhelpful as his advice may have been, it actually led to an incredibly insightful conversation! We ended up spending quite a bit of time trying to pinpoint what things we incorporated in our marriage that took our communication skills to the next level. We eventually came to the realization that developing a healthy mindset was the first step.
When it comes to communicating with your partner, there are definitely some easy steps that you can take to lay the proper groundwork for healthier communication.
1) Decide together that divorce is the last resort.
When things get heated, it's easy to throw around divorce as a means to get your partner to take you seriously. I will be the first person to tell you that it's incredibly important to make your non-negotiables known, but when divorce becomes a tool for manipulation or a means to hurt your partner, those are forms of toxic behavior that are neither healthy nor helpful.
By deciding that divorce is the last resort, you and your partner can commit to working through any hardships as opposed to running away from or avoiding them. When you both know that the threat of divorce isn't looming overhead, you can stop wasting time wondering if this is the last straw in your relationship and put that energy towards finding a solution. This type of mindset also creates a safe and secure environment for you, your partner, and your relationship to thrive. Creating a safe and secure environment is something that we will talk more about when the topic of unconditional love comes up.
2) Make a pact to quickly admit when/if you're unhappy.
According to https://www.wpdiamonds.com/top-reasons-for-divorce/, the most common reasons for divorce include lack of communication and infidelity. To illustrate the point that I want to make, I'm going to share a story.
A few years ago I become pretty close friends with another military wife. My husband worked with her husband, and she was a stupid talented barber that we loved to visit. Long story short, she cheated on her husband. I instantly wanted to write her off due to my own trauma related to infidelity, but it just felt wrong. She was someone that I looked up to and had really connected with. At my next hair appointment, it came up. She told me that she had begged her husband on so many occasions to understand that she needed support in a few very specific areas. She expressed feeling so disconnected and abandoned in her struggles. The more that she shared with me, the more my heart went out to her.
While I personally can't condone cheating, this experience helped me to develop a deeper sense of empathy. It exposed me to the heartbreak and frustration that she had been struggling with. It taught me that sometimes our need to feel loved and supported can cause our judgment to fail.
After this experience with our friends, my husband and I made a pact to always tell each other if/when we are ever unhappy in our relationship. The reality is that there will undoubtedly be periods of time where someone will be unhappy in the relationship, but talking about it creates opportunities that otherwise wouldn't exist. If you are open and honest, you can address the problem and course-correct together as a couple before it ever causes major, irreversible issues.
This ultimately relates back to #1. Admitting that you're unhappy without sharing a mutual goal of working through issues together could easily result in the end of a relationship. While sometimes calling it quits may be the right option, I like to remind couples that divorce/separation shouldn't be a decision that is made in the heat of the moment. You don't fall in love overnight, so you shouldn't decide to end your relationship overnight either.
Once you have mastered these two major mindset shifts, be sure to check back to learn about 3 tips to turn any argument into an opportunity for personal growth!