Marriage advice: Your marriage needs this simple communication strategy
Arguments are a regular part of Lindsey and Hector’s relationship. During a recent couples counseling session, they volleyed insults back and forth with such intensity that I almost stopped the session. But then something remarkable happened:
Lindsey said, “Our marriage is too important to me to go on like this. Weshouldn’t treat each other this way. I want us to be friends again.”
I waited for Hector to mock his wife’s tired attempt to bring back the harmony they once shared. But to my surprise, he softened and agreed with Lindsey. For the first time in months, they actually agreed on something!
Marriage advice: The Power of Team Language
Why was Lindsey’s statement so effective in stopping the conflict that had spiraled out of control? I believe it had to do with her choice of three words:
“Our”; “We” and “us”
The use of the plural pronouns highlighted that Hector and Lindsey are a team and should be working together. Let’s call this “team language.”
Team language does the following:
1. Such statements underscore the “we” of the relationship: two people who (despite normal, natural differences) love one another; two people with shared interests and similar goals, committed to making love work.
2. Team language also sends the message that you are taking responsibility for your part in what hasn’t been working in the marriage or relationship. When Lindsey said, “We shouldn’t treat each other this way,” she was saying that she was also responsible for what hasn’t been working and wants to change that.
Relationship help: The dangers of polarizing conversations
When marriage problems and relationship trouble intensifies, couples enter a dance of one-upmanship. Polarizing conversations become more prominent and have the unintended affect of increasing defensiveness, creating emotional distance and amplifying misunderstandings. These conversations usually include some variation of the following:
“You always… (Insert negative, accusatory message)”
“You never… (Insert negative, accusatory message)”
Polarizing conversations blame the other person—in essence you are saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong” or “You’re the one who’s been messing up, so you better change if you want our relationship to work.”
Lindsey and Hector were experts at polarizing conversations and the result was predicable: Greater alienation and hurt feelings. But once they both started practicing the use of team language, an emotional shift occurred: They went from feeling defensive and indignant to being open and ready to listen to one another.
In addition to reducing conflict, team language also increases emotional intimacy, that connection that is the foundation of your union.
Are you ready to discover what the power of communication can do for your relationship?
Check out Dr. Nicastro’s information-packed communication workbook: The ABCs of Effective Communication.
And don’t forget to sign up for his free Relationship Toolbox Newsletter for expert marriage advice and relationship help tips.
Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. Rich Nicastro, Ph.D. is a relationship coach who has been helping couples for fifteen years. To receive the Relationship Toolbox Newsletter and two free reports on how to strengthen your relationship, visit Rich’s website at http://StrengthenYourRelationhip.com/