Do you have any ideas to help me communicate better and curb my frustrations?
December 12, 2012 4:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me, I get frustrated and it's not helpful. I want to find a better way to act to relationship communication frustrations. Snowflakes inside

Communication sometimes is not the best between the spouse and I. I feel that my spouse is often distracted during casual conversations and often this leads to frustrations on my part. I will attempt conversations on subjects that are often important to me and it seems I am not heard until things get heated. Generally, only after a heated quarrel, can we actually have a honest meaningful and productive discussion.

The only thing I can control is myself and my emotions. I feel like I need to break this cycle, specifically, because I think I have started to get frustrated and impatient to a point that I am not comfortable with, and it is not fair to my spouse.

Can you recommend a technique or a book that can help a person keep calm or patient? Perhaps something else, as well, that can help me express myself better and/or garner my spouses attention?
posted by couchdive to Human Relations (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked to spouse about how you feel? Yes you are only in control of your own emotions, but it's okay to ask for what you need in a relationship, instead of adapting to things that make you very unhappy.
posted by greta simone at 4:52 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

This sounds similar to me and Mr. Bibbit, and it doesn't matter how many times I try to point out to him that he's seemingly not listening to me - because while to me he's giving all the signals of not-paying-attention (looking elsewhere, not responding to a thought of mine but instead starting up a different thought, checking his email, whatever), to him, it DOES seem like he's listening. For us, it's just a fundamental difference in our personalities. I'm a linear thinker, he thinks in a cloud pattern; I'm an INFJ, he's an INTP; I spend a lot of verbally hashing thoughts out, he closes down in his thought process.

Basically, I don't have a good solution. I think when one person is more aware of communication issues than the other (e.g.: one person feeling there is a problem and the other not; one person feeling "not heard"), it's not easy. What I have done is two-fold:
1. Constantly trying to find the things that work with Mr. Bibbit, which might be as simple as me lightly holding on to his arm and looking at him very directly so he understands that I need his full attention for something.
2. Trying to understand how he thinks better so I can talk to him or explain things in a way that make sense to him.

So, maybe do some studying up on your spouse's thought patterns? I'm personally a fan of the MBTI to get at personality differences, but YMMV.
posted by bibbit at 5:47 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi greta simone and snickerdoodle- Yes, we have talked about it. Although my spouse agrees that their is a communication problem and they wanted to try and do something about it, it never really came to fruit. I honestly think this is one of those situations in which my spouses behavior is deep-rooted and certainly not intentional. This is why I think I must come to terms with it in some fashion to stop my frustrations and/or find a way to communicate in a different manor to get through.
posted by couchdive at 6:59 PM on December 12, 2012

I am confused by you characterising these conversations as "casual" but also "important to you". Is there a spectrum of conversational intensity you use, or is everything the most important thing ever to talk about. I think expecting complete absorption from your spouse is unrealistic in many scenarios (such as when they are looking after children or performing necessary tasks like cooking). Maybe setting up dates without distractions will give both of you time and space to focus on each other. If there is an imbalance in relationship/work/life responsibilities that imbalance needs to be addressed first.

You also indicate this communication problem is because of "deep rooted" behaviour on the part of your spouse; in other words, it is all their fault. But I think most communication problems tend to be a jointly shared responsibility.

For all that you are talking about a communication problem I do not feel I understand either your side or your spouse's. That you were unable to communicate clearly about an emotional topic is not unusual, but may give you food for thought that what you think you are communicating clearly is actually not as obvious as you think.
posted by saucysault at 8:21 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

What is it that you do, when you are feeling frustrated and impatient, that you feel is unfair to your spouse and leads to fights?
posted by jon1270 at 1:48 AM on December 13, 2012

I feel that my spouse is often distracted during casual conversations

Deliberately switching the physical context of the conversation can help with this.

If you're sitting in the living room, right next to the TV and the internet and the phone, or the tea is nearly ready and the washing needs to go on, it's easy to be distracted.

Try going out to a quiet pub, or going for a walk, or a picnic, or talking in the car.

Then, make sure your talk is not a monologue. Ask questions! Find out what your spouse thinks about whatever is bothering you.
posted by emilyw at 3:55 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

jon1270 - After attempting to get input, asking questions to try and initiate discussion, Etc. I start changing my tone and get condescending ("can you please put down the phone, I am trying to talk to you" or pointing out something I mentioned is a question and asking for a response even though I know they were not listening). It is obviously not helping the situation.

In general:
The talks are usually related to raising of the kids, finances, future things we need to do, etc. Unfortunately, due to scheduling, we usually only have the opportunity to talk about serious matters at night after we both have had long days. These talks happen about once a week.
posted by couchdive at 12:30 PM on December 13, 2012

Late night intense conversations between exhausted parents NEVER work well.

If the conversations are a priority to you then you need to make them a priority; arrange babysitting, choose a nice place (the pub idea is good) and bring more positive topics than negative ones to talk about. If every conversation you have turns into a mess of your neediness/complaining/contempt (not sure if that is exactly what is happening) then you have successfully trained your spouse to dread conversations with you and associate negative emotions with being alone with you. For the next month I would try to have conversations with ONLY positive comments and praise to prove to your spouse you consider them to be on the same team as you.

In addition to scheduling the necessary weekly talks, it sounds like your spouse also needs some wind-down time scheduled into their day as well to play on their phone or whatever without your sudden conversation disrupting them.
posted by saucysault at 4:03 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might also want to move to email-based communication about time-sensitive logistical problems (laced with positive comments of course) and save the face to face conversations for relationship-building topics. If the children are young and you are both working you kinda have to hunker down and just get through each day and let go of the pre-responsibility long conversations for now.
posted by saucysault at 5:03 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for the feedback.

What I have learned.

First, Not only do I need to knock my shit off with the frustration thing, I need to be nicer. We are both working hard all day.

I think these talks, when necessary, should be reserved for mutually agreed upon times and subject matters, preferably in a relaxed public environment and the kids with a family member. (A great excuse to actually hang out sans kiddies, something we have done less then a handful of times in the last 3 years.)

myself being a visual and audio learner and my spouse being a written word/note taking learner. Perhaps, when we go out, we can go through our topics and mutual plan of actions on scratch paper. That way I get my input audibly and she can see the ideas etc. on paper. After which we could enjoy the rest of the time for ourselves, imagine that!

*Please chime in if you think this is wrong or have something to add.
posted by couchdive at 5:47 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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