Marriage Help for Dealing with Communication Issues that Tear Couples Apart

Marriage Help for Dealing with Communication Issues that Tear Couples Apart
Here’s a quick marriage quiz for you…Have you ever wondered how, when or even *IF* you should bring up certain topics or talk to your husband or wife about certain things that are important to you?We’ve all done it and…

One of the biggest relationship irritations that affects more couples than we care to think about is when one or both people in the relationship don’t feel like they can say what’s on their mind to their partner.

They do what we call “talk on eggshells” and this is similar to the idea you’ve probably heard before called “walking on eggshells.”

If you are “walking on eggshells,” you are trying very hard not to upset someone.

Remember that an eggshell has a hard shell on the outside but also breaks very easily.

Just like some communication challenges that may trigger you.

One or both of you may carry around hard “shells” and communication breaks down very easily.

If your marriage could be described in a similar way, it sure is a recipe for upsets, feeling separated and disconnected.

If you want more love in your life, it’s time for you to take action to deal with your relationship issues.

Here’s a question from person who’s very irritated with her spouse–as well as our answer to her…


“How do you keep from getting irritated at your spouse you’re living with to the point where you’re not thinking of leaving?”


Although none of us likes it when it happens…

It’s pretty normal to be irritated by those closest to us.

We get irritated because that person doesn’t see the world the same way we do.

He or she doesn’t act or speak the way we would or we expect.

If you’re constantly thinking about leaving, we’re guessing that you are irritated (and more) with your partner most of the time.

Whether you show your irritation or not–which can come in all sorts of behaviors (from the “cold shoulder” to ridicule to anger)– the other person always knows.

He or she usually feels like they can’t do anything “right.”

We might think we’re covering it up but we never can and that irritation pushes us further apart–creating an even greater separation than was there before.

But just try to stop being irritated with someone when you really are.

Pretty difficult, we know.

No matter how hard you try not to get irritated, it usually doesn’t work and you end up making the whole thing bigger than it needed to be.

Your irritation can be triggered by something as insignificant as the person’s eating habits or as big as feeling unloved and unappreciated.

So if it’s difficult to stop being irritated when you’ve got that pattern going, what do you do?

We’ve had a great time studying the work of Byron Katie, author of many books including Loving What Is.

We won’t go into detail here about her work but we will say that her process “The Work” has helped us to get to the place where we see through our “irritations” with others for what they really are–mirrors of what we need to see in ourselves.

We’ll explain what we mean with a story…

Otto went to see a movie with his 20 year-old son last night. After the show, as they walked to the car, Otto realized 3 things…the passenger side window was half-way down, it had been raining and the interior was probably wet and his car had been ransacked.

Although nothing had been stolen, Otto became irritated with his son for leaving the window down–as well as all the other instances when his son had been irresponsible in the past few weeks.

He was irritated until he remembered something very important.

He remembered to use the situation as a mirror.

He asked himself when he had been irresponsible–and even in this instance, he could see that he could have checked the windows himself before locking the car.

He could even remember other times when he had forgotten to do things that proved to be problems later.

Without beating himself up, he just noticed how, at times, he had been irresponsible in the past.

Of course, that doesn’t really let his son off the hook.

He still could have remembered to make sure his window was up.

But what it did do was take away Otto’s blame and anger as he just accepted what happened–and he stayed connected to his son as they talked about the situation.

In telling this story, do we mean to “excuse” all sorts of behavior of others and simply put up with it?

Not at all.

Sometimes there are major trust issues and agreements that have been broken that must be dealt with and we recognize that.

Our point is that when irritations with others come up, it’s a flashing red light to focus on what we need to look at in ourselves–and it might include looking at some action we need to take.

It means noticing the source of your irritation and what thoughts come up when you are in the middle of those feelings.

It means using those thoughts as a way to look in the mirror and see what’s there for you to look at.

So if you’re finding that your partner irritates you, just take one of those points of irritation and play with it.

It may be that you are irritated at what he’s doing because there are words that you want to say that you haven’t been able to say– that have nothing to do with the reason you are irritated.

It may be that your irritation is a way to keep you separated from him.

What Otto found was that when he made his discoveries about his irritation with his son, he let go of judgements–and he could feel connected with him again.

Isn’t this what it’s all about?




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  1. Patricia SMALL says

    Dated a Widower for about a year. His wife died of Alziehmer”s (6 yrs long). We were socially involved until one day he told me I was more than just a friend.
    I spent about 3 days thinking about his statement. I was in no way seeking a serious relationship, I was confortable living alone with my tutoring and my dog and friends.
    He was isolative, looked like death warmed over, thin, fraile and I felt sorry for him, so I engaged with him since we lived in the same active community.
    There was no doubt he loved his wife, her pix’s were everywhere in his small apartment. He had been daring someone but shared with me that she wasn’t his type. He told her it was over.
    We did a lot of things together-fishing, driving to the mountains etc, stuff we both liked a lot.
    He one day said I want to hold your hand, is it ok. I was in no rush for an intimate relationship. Don’t get me wrong I felt lonely at times and wished there was a significant person in my life. But, it was not that strong. I had established myself in the community being retired and tutoring and visiting friends, camping, kayaking and going on Meetups in my area.
    D. on other hand did things alone, looked sad, lonely etc. and I am a gluten for these type of people, male and female as a care-taker and new now I had to be carefull and take care of me.
    To make a long story short, after about 9 months he asked me if I would think of moving qnd getting an apartment together. First, I said I would have to think about it, he seemed to understand. I took some time and suggested the moving was fine but I’ll get my own apartment. It didn’t take long for him to convince me that we would save money to travel if we shared an apartment. I thought about it but I only agred if we got a 2 bedroom.
    He went to visit with his daughter across country for 6 weeks(his daughter tried to get me to fly out to be with him but I said no, not at this time maybe another time.).
    I got a text from him stating he realizes that he is in love with me, and can’t get me out of his head.
    I got nervous, I had feelings for him but I don’;t think as strong as his toward me.
    I asked him had he been looking at any apartemtns online he said no. I GAVE HIM AN ULTIMATUM. i SAID IT TAKES ABOUT SIX months to find what you’re looking for and he needed to get of his B!
    I said, if you do not find something by a date 3 months… I was not putting in my notice of vacating.
    He got working and I was already sending places to him for us to look at when he got back.
    The move was a nightmare. He focused solely on himself and his packing. I spent the time selling most of mine on net and agreed to do it.(what a fool). I warned him that he would have to give away a lot he was holding onto.(his wife’s clothing, jewlery, etc.). He wanted to give me some of it and I declined.
    I said this was going to be a “we,” journey, not a yo9u and me thing that he seemed to focus on.
    He began feel jeolous of my dog, got very agitated, acusatiions about me and called me a liar!!!
    I gave him a mouth full after a couple of days, I knew not to blast him under the stress of of the move and how difficult it was for him-being widowed.
    I did stronely say-I will not accept his behavior of trying to control me, his jeolousy had no foundation, and he would have to grow up and stop whining “poor him,”
    I ahead of time told him I would not be comfrotable with pix’s of his wife in our new apartment, especially in the bedroom, he did try to do this- he asked me into the bedroom and said would these be ok. I said absolutely not, I know this is hard for you, but you said you were ready to move on in a new journey with a significant other. I said you can keep them in your drawer if you want but not up on the walls esp. in in the bedroom. The walls should reflect out time together and what brought us together and what we shared with one another. We both had 1,ooo’s of pix’s of trips we took etc. scerenies of places we enjoyed together. His adult kids and grandchild were fine and friends(which I later found out he did not have any to mention.
    The stress was unbeleivable for both of us in our own whatever. Another blowup…. same abusive words and attacks of blame toward me, once again I said, D. I have asked you 3x now-we needed to sit down and go over a budget, our expenses, our incomes and some rules to guide us that we can agree on. He would not do it. He placed a 2 page letter on the dinning room table blasting me, telling how much I have hurt him by addressing these things and his lack of trust in me and beleiving I am holding back on my incomes and previous expenses.
    I have now spent the last month on the couch at night, revamped my schedule and activiites as I did before we were living together and destressed myself, with visualizations, chakras, exercise and visiting with friends, praying and found to great books one called “Dating a Widower,” and “Marrying a Widower.”
    They have helped me tremendously to back up and distance myself from what’s going on and reflect on why we came together in the first place. That all the little “small stuff,” turning into mountains was not worth the time of day for me. That, I had very strong feelings for D. and was willing to work the conflicts. But, D. has not done a thing to help himself. I want to suggest getting someone to talk to a minister/counselor or something but he is not the type. His daughter (now in her late 40’s) warned me
    unfortunately too late that her father was strong headed, not a good listener, and very controling and independent, that our 1st 6 months would be very trying and difficult.
    I’m thinking they are suppose to be our happy moments, exciting moments together, getting a chance to
    start a new journey with someone you have become loving towards each other.
    His son I found out later never even knew we had been seeing each other almost a year!!!
    His son was upset when D. told him we were getting an apartment together as a couple but no committment to marriage or engagement for awhile. His son and daughter-in-law asked him if we had a 2 bedroom or one bedroom apartment. I was flored!!! None of their business. I was not invited for xmas dinner, only family. I sat home with our tree and candles and celebrated by myself.
    Do we have a chance or is this a dead discussion? Will he be able to “grow up,” and sit down and discuss
    our living arrangements etc without verbal abuse or accusations that uncalled for and really are unrelated to me but his own anger never dealt with his wife dying too young and how he was robbed of his retirement with her. Am I just filling a void in heart and not his new love on a new journey? Am I asking too much from him? I don’t know what to do????

    • Patricia: Thank you for your post. It sounds like you’ve had quite a few changes in your life relatively recently! We can’t know and you can’t really know if your partner will be able to “grow up” and have the kind of discussion you want to have. What you can know is very clearly what YOU want and what is most important to you. From what you write, it sounds like you may have had mixed feelings about this relationship all along. Your description of this relationship and the move sounds to us like you might still be unsure about whether or not you love this person or are fully committed to the relationship. Maybe this is an inaccurate interpretation of your post or maybe not.

      We urge you to get clear about how you feel about this man and whether or not you are willing to work with him to improve your relationship. Pay attention to how you tend to communicate with him. It sounds like he has some habits that are unkind and not conducive to healthy or effective communication. This is certainly a factor, but be sure to also identify any habits you have when it comes to communication (or the relationship in general) that might be contributing to the conflict. This is NOT to say that you are the only one to make changes. This IS to help you focus in on what you can change– your habits.

      Because you two are living together, it is important that you have clear agreements about what you each expect– when it comes to finances, where he can put pictures of his deceased wife and more. You can also create agreements about how you will talk to one another. Verbal abuse or accusations are not okay and can be the signal that you two will take a break from the conversation. You can also set a boundary to make it clear that you won’t be talked to in particular ways. This boundary can be set without being blaming or mean. You can be clear about how you do want to be talked to and make sure you are also following that too.

      Here are two free articles about communication and how to create conscious agreements:

      Best Wishes,
      Susie and Otto

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