Your relationship is exhausting you right now.

You are overwhelmed by trying to improve communication in your relationship, and you aren’t sure what to do. You’ve been keeping your mouth shut for a while now. It seems like more often than not, you’re met with harsh words. It’s like you can’t do anything right anymore.

Your day-to-day with your spouse is exhausting. You want to feel comfortable with your partner, but you have no idea how to respond to their constant needs. It so often seems like there’s an underlying criticism in everything they say. Whether it’s a fight about the laundry, the meal plan, the kitchen sink, you seem to be often admitting defeat. You want to please your partner, but you’re starting to wonder if you even know how anymore.

You really try to be hopeful. There are some days that feel a little less stressful than others. Maybe you’re able to lay low, or even relax some. Your marriage doesn’t seem so stressful on those days. You and your partner can have fun together, laugh, or even have a deep conversation. You go to work, you get home, things get done around the house, and it’s an overall successful day.

But oftentimes home feels like a minefield.

You don’t know which step will be the wrong one, but you feel the tension rising, and you know you’re one wrong move from another explosion.

You do everything you can to avoid as much conflict as possible. When you hear your spouse getting irritated or angry, you want nothing more than to wish the problem away and feel some sense of peace. You walk away, try to get out of the situation, in hopes that everyone will calm down and it will pass. But you walking away seems to only upset them more. You’re at a loss for what to do for your marriage.

You’d like to be able to talk about things and even tell your partner how you feel, but that seems like a stretch. You really do want to fix your relationship, but everything you try doesn’t seem to work. You get burned out on trying because another argument waits around every corner.

You want help for your relationship; you just aren’t sure where to begin.

You feel like you should be strong, you should get it together and make your partner happy. But you don’t even know what that means or how to do it. There’s so much pressure on you. At the end of the day, you feel defeated.

You even begin to wonder what’s going on for your partner, under all that nagging. You try to avoid the criticism because you’re doing your best. Surely there’s a piece of the puzzle you’re missing.

Even though you’ve tried several things before, there are some steps that can help you begin to understand your partner more and engage in your relationship.

Here are 5 steps to get involved in working through your relationship issues:

  1. Stop. Don’t walk away. When you sense an argument or frustration coming, notice what you’re feeling. Is it a tension in your stomach or chest? Maybe your shoulders tighten and you feel your body pulling away. Pay attention to that.
  2. Now that you’ve realized what happens when you first feel attacked or pressured, slow that response down. Keep yourself calm and ready to engage. Remind yourself that you want your relationship to be better, and it will take some work.
  3. Listen. Push yourself to listen to what your partner is saying. You know that under all the nagging, they really want you to hear them.
  4. Acknowledge. Don’t blow up or tell them you’re not dealing with it. Let them know what you heard them say. Check in and see if they think you understood correctly. You could say “Wow, it sounds like you’re feeling really _____ about _____. Is that right? What else are you feeling?” Show them that you are really trying to listen.
  5. Now respond. You’ve shown them that you’re listening. Now step out of your comfort zone a little bit and share with them what you’re feeling. It may be hard to believe at times, but they want to hear what you have to say. Show them that you’re here and you’re trying. You can try saying “Right now I’m feeling _____. When _____ happened, it led me to think _____” (maybe that you couldn’t please them? Or that you weren’t respected? Share your perspective and know that opening up in this way will be helpful for your partner to hear.

These steps toward better communication are more than just an active listening activity.

They’re meant to go beyond that into helping you and your partner tune into what you’re both feeling underneath the anger and frustration. Maybe you’re feeling afraid that things will never be calm. Maybe you’re feeling lonely, and you really don’t want to walk away from them. Those are feelings they need to hear from you.

I know taking these steps and changing how you communicate may be challenging for you. In a heated moment you’d much rather pull away than get into another fight. It’s important for you to try to help your partner see that you want to engage without arguing.
These steps aren’t the end-all be-all of fixing your relationship. It will take a lot of work over time to improve your communication with your spouse and work through issues you both have experienced. But doing these things can help you reengage and communicate your needs to your partner, while also hearing and understanding them more clearly.

If you would like some more help in opening up and expressing yourself in your relationship, couples counseling may be a good fit for you. If you’re in Greenville, Simpsonville, Mauldin, or surrounding areas, you can contact me today to set up a free consultation or learn more here about how counseling can help you improve communication your relationship.