My husband (aka the SUGAR DADDY) lived alone till he was the ripe old age of 40. Yes that’s right 40. Which means he spent the better part of over 20 years fending for himself, making decisions, creating grocery lists and cleaning toilets (although judging from the state of his apartment when I initially saw it I may have to retract that last statement). I guess what I’m trying to get across is that my husband was incredibly self-sufficient and I don’t think he ever so much as considered waiting to get the thumbs up from anyone before he made a decision.
We’ve now been married 17 years and each year it feels as though this man who was once so opinionated and able to leap tall buildings without so much as a glance my way…feels the need to dissect every last bit of minutiae with me when it comes to any sort of decision. Don’t get me wrong- in some aspects I think it’s great that he likes to get my input- although lately it’s feeling more like he’s dumping the bulk of the busy work on me.
Clearly we are having some MAJOR communication issues… aka, I’m doing all the communicating with outside sources while my husband stands in the shadows (yes I am very film noir) waiting for my cues.
So I sought out Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage because having written a book with a title like that, well I couldn’t help but beg to pick her brain. And according to Ms. Gilchrest O’Neill, it is quite typical that spouses are NOT matched in their communication styles and have to learn how to rise about this hugely important dynamic within the relationship.
“One of the easiest ways to understand your styles is to discuss how you related in your family of origin and whether you were more like mom or dad —- what were mom and dads styles — what were their behaviors — what have you evolved into re: communications — how do you feel about being more like dad who shut down — what effect did it have on the household, etc. There is much to be learned in this way that will help guide you to who and how you want to behave in this realm of life,” says Ms. Gilchrest O’Neill.
Here are the pearls of wisdom she offered me: her five MAGIC BULLET points!
Married my sugar daddy: What are some of the most common problems spouses have when it comes to communicating with each other? ( or in my case; we either retreat to our separate corners of the house engage in screaming matches, or my husband says, tell me what to do.. (SO PATRONIZING!)
Sharon: The most common problem is the inability to really hear what our spouse is saying — good listening is not simple, it is not easy. It takes serious attention, being able to be in the moment rather than using energy in planning your next comeback/response/argument. It also takes being able to “suspend” your negative emotions to instead engage in productive dialogue and brainstorming. Additionally, spouses are often not aware of how their vocal tone and body language can so immediately push their partner’s buttons and shut down any possibility of sensible discussion.
Married my sugar daddy: Why is it vital to your marriage that you learn how to effectively communicate with each other- how will it help your marriage in the long term?
Sharon: There are two parts to intimacy in a marriage — dialogue and intercourse — they are the means by which partners stay connected, over the long haul, through the good times and the bad. If either type of connection is compromised, a marriage will deteriorate, slowly and insidiously, when one or both partners wake up one day and feel terribly alone.
Married my sugar daddy: What will happen if you and your spouses can’t find a communication style that fits the two of you- how will it ultimately, negatively impact and jeopardize your marriage?
Sharon: It may not be so much about finding a style that fits you both, but rather about implementing small, adjunct behaviors that “take care” of each of your needs. The ultimate goal is to become aware of each other’s style and have appropriate steps to take that assure your partner, that they will be listened to and genuinely heard. A partner who does not feel heard is most likely unhappy in the marriage.
Married my sugar daddy: I also love your comments about how so many of us fall into the trap of the communication styles we witnessed between our own parents as kids what can we do- to not continue to repeat those negative habits- and patterns in your own marriages?
Sharon: The only way is to become aware of what didn’t work in your family of origin and watch for the moments in your own life when you go down the same negative path. In my work with couples, I always suggest that the couple become a team and help each other to be more aware. Discuss situations after family gatherings and come up with ways one spouse can signal the other the next time they start to take the old path. Often, however, this work can be fraught with much emotional discomfort and is best worked within a therapy office.
Married my sugar daddy: What are your five tips to finding a communication style that works for you and your spouse and making sure you keep it top of mind?
Sharon: #1 Understand that finding the best way to dialogue can open up strong emotions and knowing about all those buttons that can be pushed to hurt your spouse. It is critical that you agree to stay above it and not “hit below the belt.”
#2 Practice, practice, practice your listening skills! In most instances listening will be more important than anything else you can do in communicating.
#3 Consider, unless it is an emergency, that a hungry, tired, or sick spouse is really disabled in their ability to communicate well.
#4 Utilize eye contact always with your spouse. That and maybe a kind touch can do wonders.
#5 Monitor your voice, your tone, your loudness, your sarcasm, your curtness, your annoyance, your disinterest, your impatience, etc. Be aware; don’t let yourself off with excuses!
So have you got any to add?