Jill: One of the things we love doing is helping couples in crisis find the hope and help they need. However, many times by the time they reach out for help, one spouse has either left, engaged in an affair, or shut their heart down to their spouse.
Mark: Their perspective is that they’ve been communicating their frustrations for a long time and their spouse hasn’t been listening.
Jill: When we dig deeply, however, what we usually discover is that the unhappy spouse has been complaining, commenting, or criticizing, but they’ve never had a serious conversation in a way their spouse can really hear them. They’ve not sat down, face to face, to talk about their concerns.
Mark: Because opposites attract, feelers are often married to thinkers. Some times the person whose doing the complaining, commenting, or criticizing is a feeler and they are spraying their feelings all over their spouse…who likely isn’t a feeler. Thinkers ignore an explosion of feelings because they tend to deal in facts, not feelings.
Jill: Complaining, commenting, or criticizing are all passive-aggressive hints that usually aren’t taken seriously by the other spouse. If you’re frustrated and you’ve been doing any of those in order to get your spouse’s attention, you’re wasting your breath.
Mark: This was me before our crisis. I was complaining and commenting. I would say, “We’re too different” or “We’re so incompatible.” Jill would respond with, “Well, welcome to marriage. Every couple is different.” I was dealing in feelings and Jill was dealing in facts.
Jill: As a pleaser and a vacillator, Mark was quick to over-react while I, the avoider, would often under-react. Now that we help other couples, we recently talked about how we could have done it different eight years ago and how we can help other couples do it better.
Mark: Now I realize that I never had a conversation with Jill about my feelings. I thought I was by making comments and complaints but that’s not conversation. If I had to do it over again I would have sat her down and said something like:
Jill, I am unhappy. I am struggling. This is serious enough that I have contemplated leaving. I don’t want to do that but I also don’t want our marriage to continue as it is. We need help.
Jill: That’s a conversation I would have so appreciated. To know he was considering leaving would have let me know how serious this was. Knowing what I know now, I also could have said,
Honey, you are commenting, complaining, and criticizing a lot. Is there something you’re trying to communicate that I’m not understanding?
Mark: Both of these would have invited conversation and helped us both understand the dynamics that were going on in our marriage.
Jill: That was Mark and Jill 1.0. Mark and Jill 2.0 are much better communicators. We’re also much more secure connectors who communicate both our feelings and our needs.
Mark: If you’re like I was and you’ve been complaining, commenting, or criticizing and you’re thinking you’re communicating, I want to ask you to have a conversation with your spouse. If talking is hard, put it in writing. Keep the communication about what you’re feeling, struggling with, and your desire for change.
Jill: And if you’re like I was and your spouse is complaining, commenting, or criticizing and you’re dismissing their communication attempts, I want to ask you to invite conversation.
Conversations are the core of relationships. Don’t short-change your relationship; have the conversations you need to have.
(Want to find out your love style? You can sign up for our No More Perfect Marriages e-Challenge and you’ll get a link to the quiz the second week of the challenge!)
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