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Early in our marriage, I (Laura) was a terror. I was struggling with adjusting to my new living arrangement with someone who I was still getting to know AND I was trying to cope with some pretty severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
There were times where I would be home, depressed, and I would call Vincent at work. I would get frustrated. He did not make it better. I shutter at the thought that one time during one such calls, I threw my phone on the ground outside. Looking back, I can dissect the situation and understand where the breakdown occurred, but in the moment, I was an emotional mess.
Years of therapy would help me to see where my thinking was faulty and how to fix it. Now that I’m a therapist, this thing has come full circle.
As therapists we have come to expect an influx of new clients after Valentine’s Day. Without fail, one or both spouses are disappointed in the outcome of their Valentine’s experience.
The root of the issue really isn’t what was or wasn’t done, but an unspoken expectation that was not met. As a married couple, and as therapists, we’ve learned that this thing called marriage requires being direct – communicative.
It’s going to take a lot more time for your spouse to get to know you if you expect him to read your mind.
WHAT ARE THE MISTAKES WE MAKE THAT LEAD TO DISAPPOINTMENT AND HOW TO FIX THEM?
1.) HAVING UNSPOKEN EXPECTATIONS
Who’s fault is it really if your spouse does not do what you want him to do if you don’t tell him? Once you acknowledge that you’ve not fully voiced your expectation, let them know your expectation and give them grace for not knowing it to begin with.
2.) EXPECTING YOUR SPOUSE TO READ YOUR MIND
A kind of magical thinking that some people have is that their spouse should know how they feel about something, without discussion. Let go of the thinking that your spouse should know how you feel if you don’t tell them.
3.) USING THE WRONG LOVE LANGUAGE
By nature we use our own love language. As a married person, we have to shift our tendency to use our own love language and do the love language that our spouse has.
An example of this could be a wife who would love a piece of jewelry for Valentine’s Day (her love language is gifts), but her husband cuts the grass instead (he does it because he would love it if someone would cut the grass for him—his love language is acts of service.)
4.) UNCLEAR COMMUNICATION
Many people are not very assertive. Oftentimes they are passive due to a fear of confrontation, because of this, they drop hints and/or make passive-aggressive statements that are not direct. If you have a thought or feeling, express it without aggression or in passing.
5.) NOT LISTENING
Whether you believe men and women are from different planets, or not, it is indisputable that we don’t always communicate clearly with one another. A large part of communication is not the speaking part.
Don’t get caught up in what you’re going to say next. LISTEN! Listening means showing your spouse that you hear him.
To do so, your body language needs to reflect it. Crossed arms, looking away, dismissive eye rolls do not show that you are hearing that person out. Empathetic listening, however, shows your spouse that you care enough to understand him.
How does empathetic listening work? Your spouse may be a pointer (Please listen to our Podcast Episode 2 to learn about the difference between Painters and Pointers and how to improve your communication), if so, you need to focus on the specifics, rather than talking a lot about a lot of different things.
If you’re married to a pointer, you need to have a laser focus on what your pointer spouse says. If your spouse is a painter, you need to show your painter spouse that you are listening.
This means asking questions about what they are talking about. Don’t be afraid of correction, just do it. They would rather you ask questions than not say anything and show no indication that you are listening.
Today we’ve talked about five different mistakes that can lead to disappointment. Of course there are more, but if you work diligently on these, there will be much less opportunity for misunderstanding. We hope that these suggestions get you off to a great start!