Best resources/tools for relationship communication
August 14, 2014 9:34 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I, as any couple, have communication issues. We'd love some books, online resources, and even therapy recommendations for us!

Relevant info. We're both young and have been together about 5 years, married for a little over 2. We match in life goals, how we handle money, family planning, religion, sense of humor, fun stuff we like, The Big Stuff, etc. I feel we're a team. We're best friends. However we have issues in the following areas:

Understanding and supporting each other's emotional needs. We have different needs that get expressed different.
I have trouble with pushing/nagging/anxiety. Recent health issues have caused me to need more support and have more undue stress.
I feel he has trouble listening/empathising, and using "I feel" language and understanding my hurt feelings. Sometimes his views turn hypocritical (being upset for something he said I shouldn't be upset by.)
He has admitted he has problems with anger. He brings work-stress home with him and it lays low until it kind of explodes (he's actively looking for a new job.)

Really, we fight about dumb crap but it escalates. We really shouldn't be fighting. It's exhausting.

He's more open to books and online resources, even workbooks. So I'm looking for books on couples communication, understanding emotional needs, listening/repeating/empathising, separating work stress from home/work-life balance, managing stress, dealing with anger and how to debate calmly, and how to break cycles without escalating.

I'm also open to suggestions for therapists in the greater Salt Lake area.

Kickers: We're not religious and not into woo. I don't mind "being mindful" and even ideas of "fairness" and "balance" but no god, spirituality, etc. I LOVE Amazon, so it would be great for links to stuff there specifically. Point us in the right direction, hive!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend looking into books on attachment theory and how it's related to love and communciation styles. It was a game changer for my wife and me. How We Love is very good in identifying the main patterns. It is religious, but it is extremely well researched and based on good psychiatric theory. I've seen Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-and Keep-Love recommended here also, but I haven't read it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:52 PM on August 14, 2014

It's an AskMe cliché and maybe not the first thing people think of for married couples, but How to Win Friends and Influence People isn't the book the title often evokes. It's actually a memorable reflection on things like how well-considered praise never gets old, how criticism etches into another person's consciousness like acid with basically no good effects because people mostly see the point of view from which they deserve sympathy, and how admitting your own mistakes helps in dealing with others. My wife and I have been married over 20 years, and those are habits that serve us well on a daily basis.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:56 PM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hold Me Tight by Susan Johnson.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:05 PM on August 14, 2014

Marriage Rules by Harriet Lerner

Picked it up on impulse when it was an Extreme Bargain and have been very pleased with it.
Concise, casual, conversational chapters highlighting tips and techniques for getting the communication rolling as well as lots of good advice for avoiding the usual chasms and sore spots into which couples inevitably wander.
The hub and I, like you, have only been married for two years so this book also serves as a timely warning not to fall into those easy to acquire but oh so difficult to banish bad marital habits.
This book is like sitting around with a bunch of friends who have been married forever and benefiting from their funny anecdotes and cumulative wisdom. Some of it is fairly obvious advice (be kind, don't take each other for granted) but sometimes we miss the things that are staring us right in the eyes.

Good luck!
posted by mynamemeansmoon at 10:31 PM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nding Marriage Rules
posted by artdrectr at 10:53 PM on August 14, 2014

The psychologist John Gottman dedicated his career to studying why marriages succeed and fail. He is probably best known for his account of the argument styles that are likely predictors of divorce (apparently he can predict with 94% accuracy which couples will divorce). He has written books, but maybe you want to start with this article.
posted by girl flaneur at 11:14 PM on August 14, 2014

Deborah Tannen
You Just Don't Understand
He Said, She Said are both very good.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:36 PM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

hold me tight by Sue Johnson is very helpful, good luck.
posted by palomago at 12:52 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Five Love Languages is right up your alley. A beautiful book, and you can wrap your head around it in a single sitting.
posted by jbickers at 5:22 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

(The Five Love Languages is pretty Christian in its writing, though not in its theory -- that is, you don't need to believe in god for the advice to be useful, and it is very useful, but the author is presenting it in a Christian framework. As another non-religious person I still found the book very useful and was coming in to recommend it.)

Terence Real's How Can I Get Through to You? was really helpful to me in connecting some dots about gender and communication; he's one of the few male authors writing about relationships who treats gender in a thoughtful feminist way (no "Men are from Mars" crap). He has other books as well, but I haven't read them yet.
posted by jaguar at 7:44 AM on August 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

There was an interesting study that came out a few months ago that also showed that partners who watched relationship-based movies together (romantic comedies, etc.) and then discussed afterward their views on the relationship presented (in a sort of broad "I liked that they spent a lot of time together, but his treatment of her family was weird" way), and who did so once a month, tended to report their own relationships getting stronger.

So, movies might also be an option, and more importantly, whatever you two read or watch, make sure you're discussing it with each other.
posted by jaguar at 7:49 AM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

n-thing The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Yes, Dr. Chapman is religious, and he makes that clear, but I found that he doesn't let it interfere with or overwhelm the text. This would be my TOP recommendation for the two of you as you mention you're aware that you and your husband express things differently. That book was so helpful for me that I'd recommend it with a "if you pay attention to nothing else in my comment..." type of recommendation.

Though I have not finished the book, what I have read of Scream-Free Marriage by Hal Runkel seemed reasonable.

There's also Dr. Lee Baucom's Save The Marriage Blog and companion podcast. The podcast comes out once a week (usually on Wednesdays) and is available for free on the website and through iTunes -- this week's episode just happens to focus on communication problems, although I haven't listened to it yet. I've found some episodes of the podcast to be helpful, others not so much (for example, the episodes on affairs thankfully do not apply to me). Some disclaimers: Dr. Baucom does A LOT of advertising for his workbook/"system" in the podcast, however, I think I've gotten a good enough feel for the content from the podcast without having to buy the workbook. He's also a rather religious person, but it tends to come through only in stories like "when I was volunteering through my church," "when I was working as a chaplain," etc. -- He realizes that everyone has different religious beliefs and may not be receptive to preachiness.
posted by tckma at 8:15 AM on August 15, 2014

On a meta-ish level: A professor once told our class, "All couples come into counseling saying they have 'communication issues.' It doesn't really mean anything, and they almost always actually have issues with intimacy, or family of origin, or anger, or something else deeper." In a lot of ways, focusing on "communication" can tie people up in knots and give partners an excuse not to listen to each other ("If she would just phrase things perfectly, then I'd do what she asked!"). Even Gottman, who's the king of studying communication in couples, has recently-ish said that happy couples often communicate in all the "wrong" ways.

A couple needs to be communicating in non-abusive ways, of course, but once that bar is cleared, you might want to seek out resources not on "communicating" but on anxiety, anger, resentment, and the other actual underlying issues you identify now and will probably continue to refine as you explore your relationship further. Paying attention to resolving those issues, rather than just to how you're expressing yourselves, will likely get you further faster.
posted by jaguar at 8:29 AM on August 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm sure there are other great books out there, but here are a few resources that immediately come to mind:

The Power of Vulnerability
For Women Only and For Men Only (these are amazing but have a faint Christian undertone but people generally are able to overlook any references...if you can stomach that)

...and therapy. Good therapy.
posted by doctordrey at 10:31 AM on August 15, 2014

« Older Well, at least it covers the chain link fence.   |   We're moving to Istanbul! Tell me what I need to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.