I’m switching gears today to bring you “How to Empathize and Communicate with Your Spouse” by Katie Haahr. She teaches women in their 20’s practical life skills and mindset. In these times, I thought this would be a great topic to cover and help us all communicate with our spouse a little better! Below is her guest blog post, I hope you enjoy:
You know those arguments you always have with your spouse?
The ones where you both argue about the exact same thing in the exact same way and get nowhere?
(You load the dishwasher wrong… and you spend too much money!)
They might be trivial at the start, but they will inevitably fester and threaten the strength of the relationship over time.
If you find yourselves nodding your head and agreeing, you are not alone. But when we start trying to think about how to communicate differently—in a way that builds a relationship rather than tearing it down—we get stuck.
We feel like we’re destined to argue about the same thing for eternity. We truly love the person we’re with, but we’re not quite sure if there’s a way out.
Here’s the good news, friends: there’s hope.
I recently spoke with what Mollie Eliasof. She is a couples therapist and relationship expert. Mollie specializes in helping power couples maximize their success in love and business. She shared a few tips for communicating with your spouse in a way that builds your relationship rather than tearing it down.
Ready to learn?
Let’s dive in!
Tip 1: No one is going to win if there’s a right or wrong.
Rather than approaching an argument with the perspective of “I’m right, he’s wrong – how do I position my perspective better so that I win?” Mollie encourages us to approach a conversation with an intent to listen and to understand and not to prove our point.
Think about it this way: how do you want to be treated? For me, it’s less important if someone agrees with me than if he or she says “oh, your feelings make sense. I get why you have this perspective.”
A “win” then becomes about each person truly hearing the other – not one person getting his or her own way.
Here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve practiced this: I’m actually motivated to compromise when I’ve spent time listening and empathizing. Once I’ve truly understood the other person’s heart, I can’t help but want to find a way of working things out that benefits them and shows that I care.
In Mollie’s words, we don’t have to agree with our partner—but we do need to hear them.
And that makes such a difference.
Tip 2: Get to know your own deep needs.
This is so important. It takes some time and energy to dig deep and figure them out, but it’s so worth it.
Here’s an example: Susie is an extrovert and loves having people over for dinner. Todd isn’t – he prefers a quiet house. Susie is constantly getting frustrated at Todd because he never wants to have people over.
She feels stuck.
Susie needs to take some time to get to know, and then share, her own deep needs. She feels having people around helps me feel supported and not feel so alone. And Todd should do the same (having quiet evenings helps me recharge after a stressful day). Then, they suddenly have a much deeper understanding of the other and can come to some solutions that help to meet both their needs.
Maybe they agree on having friends over just one night a week. Or maybe Susie goes out with girlfriends one or two nights a week without Todd – that way they can both recharge and feel supported in a way that’s meaningful to them.
Tip 3: Talk to your partner in advance about how you’ll handle gridlock
Gridlock refers to those conversation where you feel like you’re at a standstill. We all have them to some extent and that’s okay! What matters is what you do when you’re in one. And one thing that can be super helpful is talking ahead of time about some rules for these conversations.
A few examples from Mollie: you want to affirm that you’re on the same team. You also want to affirm that you won’t always think the same way as your partner and that’s ok.
The Gottman Institute has a super helpful article on four things to avoid when in a gridlock (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) – click here if you want more info on each.
Tip 4: Learning to communicate with your spouse takes time. Practice and have fun
Mollie told me that people can easily get overwhelmed as they try to become more intentional about communicating their needs and listening to the other. Remember to give yourself and your partner so much grace – the more you practice it, the better you’ll become.
And have fun along the way, too! Mollie shared a super fun date night idea if you’re still stuck in quarantine: dress up (in separate rooms, like you would for a first date) and have a special dinner that resembles one of your favorite dates. Make your own personal speakeasy or recreate a romantic beach dinner. Make it special, be intentional, and have fun.
(You can do it!)
There you have it friends, 4 great tips to better communicate with your spouse. I hope you enjoyed what you learned here and if you have additional tips, please feel free to comment and share with us!
If you have ideas to help my clients through these hard times, please contact me. I am always looking for ways to connect and help. It is my passion to help others, and anything to take care of my clients means the world to me.
Katie Haahr is the Founder + CEO of KatieHaahr.com, where she empowers women in their 20s with practical life skills and game changing mindsets to do life well. She’s the author of How to Be the Girl who Does it All (free on katiehaahr.com) and loves meeting new friends over on Instagram (@katie.haahr).