A couple talking to each other.Mark: Two weeks ago, the headlines in our local paper read: “Woman shot husband over lack of attention.”  Such a sad story and an extreme way to handle frustration.

Jill: Most of us have been frustrated with our spouse being distant or distracted at one time or another. Life can throw all kinds of curve balls that interfere with our ability to be fully present and attentive to one another.  Even if things are smooth sailing, kids, jobs, and everyday household responsibilities keep us pretty busy.  Investing in our marriage seems to slip down on the priority list.

Mark: But what if we feel neglected by our partner? How do we communicate that in a healthy way? I’ll admit that I haven’t always expressed my frustrations well. This is a place God has been growing me. Here are some strategies I’ve found to be helpful:

Be Compassionate: If your spouse is distracted, put yourself in his or her shoes.  Have things been difficult at work? Is this a tough parenting season? Is he/she struggling with other difficult relationships?

Be Direct: Don’t hint.  Simply say, “I miss you. It feels like you’ve been distracted lately. Is there something heavy you’re carrying on the inside?  How can I help you?”

Be Specific: Don’t hesitate to say specifically what your partner can do to connect with you. “I love it when you hold my hand when we’re driving. Can we do that more?”

Be Grateful: Sometimes we can’t see the efforts our spouse is making because our expectations are set on specific desires that aren’t being met. What is he/she doing that you haven’t noticed?

Be Forgiving: Before you have a conversation with your spouse, make the choice to forgive them for not seeing what you see or not feeling what you feel or for not meeting your needs that you think are obvious. Forgiveness helps us downshift our emotions so we can move from debate to dialogue.

Be Inquisitive: Don’t settle for just asking for what you need. Also ask your spouse for what he or she needs. They may not be as frustrated as you are, but they still have needs.  This helps provide a two-way street for giving and receiving.

Jill: It’s hard for most of us to ask our spouse for what we need. We tell ourselves that he or she should just KNOW! But the truth is that our spouse is not only another gender but also another temperament and another personality. What’s important to you isn’t important to them. And what’s important to them isn’t important to you. So we have to communicate….using kind, gentle, caring words.

What about you? What have you been communicating non-verbally that you need to communicate with words?  How can you better tune into what’s going on in your spouse’s world?

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