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July 27, 2010

Say It Straight Or Don’t Say It: Hazy Communication Is Not Helping Your Relationship

Too many people send hazy messages, speak in cryptic ways and are anything but direct when it comes to communication.  Often this hazy communication happens with the best of intentions.  For example, they don’t want to hurt another’s feelings, they’re afraid the person will get mad or they don’t want to get into a conflict.  They may even be afraid they’ll lose the person if they speak directly.  Unfortunately, the very thing they’re trying to avoid is often the thing they ensure will happen.

When we beat around the bush, say only part of what we mean or hold things in and expect our partners to know what’s going on for us, we’re off.  It is not our loved one’s job to read our minds or decipher what we mean.  It is our job to clearly state what is going on for us.  It’s our job to specifically ask for what we want.  And it’s our job to tell our loved ones what will happen if things continue to go poorly in our relationship.  It’s also our job to then ACT on those words.

If you’re unhappy in your relationship, your first step is to clearly state that you’re unhappy.  Be clear about what you’re unhappy about and what difference you want to see: “I’m unhappy with our relationship.  You’re often snapping at me or the kids, you come home and get on the computer and then you go to bed.  The only interaction you seem to have with us is to tell us to leave you alone or to reprimand the kids.  I understand that you’re stressed…and…I need you to speak to us with a softer tone, get off the computer at night and join the family.”

If s/he continues to be harsh and not be a part of the family, then ramp up your message with actions.  Go back to your partner and let them know it’s still a problem and tell them what you’re going to do about it: “Honey, I think my acting the way I always have is giving you the message that what you’re doing is okay.  Let me be clear--it’s not.  From now on, every time you snap, I will call you on it and ask you to change your tone.  If you don’t, I will end the conversation and won’t comply with your request unless you can speak it respectfully. 

If nothing changes again, the next step is to ramp it up more: “Until you can treat us lovingly, I will assume you are not interested in being close or intimate.  Because I also don’t feel close to you lately, I will no longer be sexual with you until this behavior changes (or we need to go to counseling or I’ll move out of the bedroom, etc.).  This behavior will need to change permanently if we are to be okay.”  NOTE: you can set any limit you’re comfortable with here as long as you are willing to follow it through.  If you don’t want to stop being sexual then come up with another limit—but it should be bigger than your previously stated limit.

Too many relationships are ending because neither one of the parties took the steps to clearly state the severity of the situation by first saying it and then acting on it.  Before you choose to walk out that door—make sure you have been very clear with your partner along the way that walking out that door is a very likely option if nothing changes.  You don’t start there, but you must be willing to incrementally go there.  It’s not okay to just say you wish your partner talked to you more or took you out or (fill in the blank) and then jump from a complaint or request to a separation or divorce.  Move from the request to a limit to a bigger limit to an ultimatum to a good-bye.  Anything short of that sequence is you not being clear.  Too many of us complain and complain, but don’t DO anything.  You need to DO something to show you’re serious.  If they still don’t change, then you have earned your way out.

CHALLENGE:  If you’re unhappy in your relationship, make sure you’re very clear about the seriousness of where you are in this relationship.  If it’s past the request stage, then set a limit.  If the limit doesn’t work, then give an ultimatum (counseling or separation).  An ultimatum is much kinder than just walking and it’s a gift to your relationship and your partner to be clear about the seriousness of the situation.


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I would say that setting the limit that you are going to leave if things don't change is not the way to create a loving household.

Marriage is "for better or for worse", not until you aren't happy.

I would say it is best to find a Christian site that will help you save your marriage, not leave it.
Families that pray together, stay together. That is because if you truly believe in the importance of marriage, you will both work to make it work, not be sitting with one foot out the door. You have to be committed to staying together.

Of course, if your husband is abusive, you need to leave for your own safety. But the example used in the article was the man being on the computer too much and not involved with the family. Yes, I agree this needs a limit set to, I just think leaving is not the appropriate limit to set.

Dear Suzy: I'm actually quite biased on the side of marriage--especially when children are involved. I also see too many people leaving without being clear they're even close to leaving. I don't believe it's fair to not be clear where you stand with your partner and then all of a sudden go. I also know that some marriages aren't healthy for the couple or the children. If one partner continues to ignore the needs of the other partner this leads to resentments, affairs and cold homes. Abuse is certainly a key reason to end a relationship and it is not the only reason. Until I stand in anothers' shoes, I have no idea what I would and would not put up with. My hope is people learn to effectively fight for what they need in every relationship in their life. Part of that fight is knowing when to walk away when you've done everything in your power to make it work but to no avail.
Thanks for taking the time to share your views.

The biggest point for me in this article is that we often don't tell the full truth because we're afraid we might lose the other person. Of course by not telling the truth we're no longer intimate and that brings on the death of the relationship. Intimacy is a moment by moment decision, I'm pretty sure that's what you taught me anyway! Great article Lisa.

Dear Michael: You're absolutely right Michael. I taught you well;-).

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