Defensive husbands. Emotional wives. Marriages full of heated arguments, cold shoulders, adult temper tantrums, childish meltdowns, constant criticism and stupid misunderstandings that lead to even more problems. Threats of divorce. Bedrooms full of resentment and devoid of intimacy.
What’s behind it all?
As a marital mediator, I could give you all kinds of reasons – you lack communication and conflict resolution skills, you don’t understand each other, men and women communicate differently, and so on – but here, I’m going to give you the number one reason why I believe communication problems arise in marriage.
The reason behind it all
We lose (or never had) the motivation to listen without interrupting, correcting, or opposing the other person. We lose the motivation to keep our own tempers or emotions or opinions in check. We lose the motivation to break out of a bad habit, to be on our best behavior, or to improve our unpleasant personality traits. We lose the motivation to defend our marriage instead of our own interests.
Why do we lose this motivation? This depends on the couple. Spouses may become too familiar or bored with their marriage or their partner. They may become egocentric or self-focused.
In more troubling but extremely common cases, they may be interested in someone outside the marriage, and the worse their marriage is, the more justified they feel in connecting with this other, newer person.
They may have lost sexual desire for their partner…and sexual desire is a huge motivator.
In short, they have stopped seeing or noticing their spouse in a way that motivates them to stay connected or prioritize the marriage.
Of course, things like communication skills, gender, and so on factor into things. But it all starts with motivation. A spouse who is motivated to change, to improve their marriage, will do it. They’ll figure it out. A spouse who isn’t motivated—well, you could mainline the world’s greatest communication skills directly into their arm and they still wouldn’t change.
How to start fixing a broken marriage
So if you’re in a marriage rife with arguments or apathy, if you feel your marriage is broken, what can you do to fix it?
My answer: Do your very best to kick-start your partner’s interest in you by reigniting the passion in your marriage, on your own, without asking your spouse to join in and without discussing it. Do this first, even if there are other issues going on, and even if you aren’t really “talking.”
Is that fair? Maybe not. But it can be very effective. Once your partner senses a change in you – in the way you are presenting yourself, interacting with them, speaking to them, and so on – they will be prompted to respond in some way… and if they like what they are seeing, they will likely respond in a positive way. Why? Because they’re motivated to do so. They’re reminded that you, and their marriage, are important to them.