Are You Helping or Hindering Communication With Your Spouse?

When you’re ready to have a heart-to-heart discussion with your spouse, you want it to go well. If it starts going south once it’s started, it’s REALLY hard to recover in the moment. Even after the fact, if you can’t figure out how to resolve the matter, or at the least understand him or agree to disagree, then the tension between you will mount. With each new issue that goes unresolved, tension grows. It grows and grows like a snowball rolling down a hill doomed for a crash.

That’s why it behooves you to take a few extra measures BEFORE you talk to optimize your chances of it going well. First thing you need to do is figure out exactly what you want the outcome to be. Do you want him to do something different? or his kids? Or do you just need him to understand you, give you support? Or maybe you have an idea for a new rule and you’d like to explore the pros and cons of it. Whatever it is, be specific.

If you’re not clear up front (with yourself), you won’t be able to convey it clearly. And it’s likely nothing will change. And I mean nothing — ’cause he’ll be confused about what was covered and the reason you wanted to talk. But if you seem to be happy afterward, he’ll be satisfied thinking that you’re satisfied, and figure he doesn’t need to figure it out. So he won’t.

Knowing exactly what you want goes hand in hand with the 3 questions you must ask yourself: 1) Who needs to change? 2) What needs to change? 3) How does it/he/she need to change? I wrote more about them in a previous blog post, that you can read by clicking here. This preparation allows you to be concise. It gives you the bottom line. If you’ve talked for awhile and you see your husband’s eyes glazed over, overtly state the answers to these questions.

Second, figure out the setting of the conversation. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Find time when you’ll be alone together, preferably when the kids are at their friends’ or the babysitter’s.
  2. Turn off your cell phones and all electronics. (The last thing you want is an interruption just as he’s giving you an answer or when you’re in the flow of saying everything exactly the right way).
  3. Try having this discussion as you go for a walk through the park. This way, his guard isn’t immediately up by saying, “Let’ talk”. This keeps his defenses down, and walking side-by-side infers equality. So this promotes an air of “discussing” (mutual back and forth) vs “being told” (and fearing being in trouble or pending doom). I got this tip from Relationship Expert, Alison Armstrong, and have personally experienced the positive effect of doing it.


Whatever you do, don’t cower away from bringing it up. Don’t ignore it! Letting it fester only makes it worse. Plus, not ever talking about it diminishes your ability to communicate with him, instead of enhancing it. AND, it pretty much guarantees that nothing will change, or will it get worse.

Nothing will change unless: 

  1. You’re able to communicate effectively with each other (i.e. You feel comfortable asking for what you need and trusting you’ll get it).
  2. You’re aware of what is expected of you.
  3. You can be honest with yourself and your partner.
  4. You both work through the discomfort.

As Alison Armstrong says, “Cough it up. Blow it up. Clean it up.” Commit to the conversation and to figuring out a solution, even if it takes time or new resources.

If you’re committed and resolute, you’ll be amazed at what can happen.


If you found value in anything I shared today, I’d love for you to comment below and let me know. Also, if you try this, please come back and comment below to share how it worked out for you. Your experience may help other readers with what they’re going through.

Many blessings,



Are You Helping or Hindering Communication With Your Spouse? — 6 Comments

  1. Thank you, Marie, for your message. I’m glad my message helped.

    My parents divorced when I was young, and I remember the pain I felt even though I didn’t understand it at the time. From my formal education, I understand the bigger picture of the effects of divorce. But I also understand the effects of a loveless marriage. They are subtle, thus not obvious. Most people who stay in a marriage just for the sake of the kids (or others) don’t realize how they’re doing a dis-service to their kids by modeling how to not have a mutually loving healthy marriage. That’s what the kids learn, and then duplicate in their own relationships.

    I love that you are looking at this as an opportunity to “learn and grow and yes experience JOY again.” I hope your niece sees it the same way, because that is indeed true. Since your niece has already done as much as she can to keep her marriage intact, the only thing left is for her to take care of her own needs. She can now put herself first, which will also help children too.

    I’m grateful to you for sharing your experience because I think it will help others in a similar situation. If there is any other way I can support you in the future, don’t hesitate to reach out again.

    Many blessings and lots of luck,

  2. Dear Judy,

    I got word from my sister and my other niece to restrain from reaching out to my niece’s husband and showing up to offer support.

    I gather it will make things worse. Prayer is the answer as of now.

    Your letter helped me as I was thinking it best to pray for “god’s will” and pray for strength and resilience for my niece and her children.

    I Live with the harmful effects of divorce but as you so clearly stated if he is unwilling to open up there must be other things he has not opened up about.

    As it is such a painful experience, there is still life and we can learn and grow and yes experience JOY again.

    This niece is my Godchild and she has devoted her life to make this marriage what it is or what she thought it was and was hit with a bomb. This is not fair, but love is stronger than loss and she will

    I so much appreciate your response as it has helped me process a difficult situation after a very worrisome and sleepless night.

    God bless you and your ministry and I will keep you posted.

    You’re my angel in the midst of a storm today.

  3. Hi Marie,

    I appreciate your question on many levels. One, I always like hearing from my readers, and appreciate the opportunity to help. And, I’m honored that you consider me a good resource.

    Also, I know many people will resonate with the story you shared about your niece. Unfortunately, it’s not that unusual. So many others will benefit from reading your question and my response.

    First, I’m not completely comfortable telling you to write him a letter or not. You did a great job of explaining the situation. But, I know from experience that there is always more to the story than 1 person can share in a written msg. I also don’t have the opportunity to talk with your niece or her husband, who may share additional information that would change my opinion if I gave it.

    Having said that, I can share with you a few things I know about human nature in the context of relationships, and can pose a few questions that may help you make a decision you’ll feel comfortable about.
    1) If your niece’s husband hasn’t changed his mind by anything your niece said to him, or your sister and her husband, what is the likelihood that you’ll come up with the magic words that nobody else has thought of?
    2) I’m unclear about whether he went to counseling and gave up early, or if he didn’t go at all. Either way, he’s not willing now. That’s evidence that his mind is solidly made up.
    3) If he hasn’t been sharing how he felt for a long time, he’s not going to suddenly open up the flood gates. In other words, there’s probably a lot more that he hasn’t shared and hasn’t told anybody.
    4) What would make somebody change their mind? Well, people “listen to” and “take advice from” people who understand them. If somebody doesn’t understand me or my situation – my perspective – I completely close up and put up my wall. I typically don’t even listen to them. It’s just human nature. Your niece’s husband is probably the same way. What does that mean for you? If you want him to change his mind, your best bet is to understand HIS perspective and HIS feelings. Once he feels understood, he may open up to hearing why a different path would make sense to him – but only if it is in line with what he really wants in life (his future). Another possible outcome from this scenario is that maybe you’ll understand him so well that you may agree with his decision. Although it seems far-fetched now, it’s happened to others in your situation.

    Here’s another perspective that maybe you haven’t considered. Maybe this is the best thing for your niece. Obviously, she doesn’t want to feel so hurt and confused. Nor do you or anybody else want her to feel that way. But, if his heart really isn’t in the marriage, then he’s not able to give her the kind of mutually loving and respectful affectionate relationship she deserves. So, even if he was convinced to stay, would it be for himself or just because he’s giving in to pressure from others? If it’s the latter, it would be just a matter of time before he goes back to the decision to leave. And, if he stays, both your niece and him would have to figure out how to re-ignite the spark and figure out what went wrong. He may have already thought about it and feel hopeless about getting the things he wants from the marriage, which means it would be a long hard road for both of them if he stays.

    You specifically asked if your letter would cross a boundary. That’s a tough question for me. For that, I ask you to consider your past interactions with him. If you feel you’ve had a good rapport with him, and have shared personal stories or other interaction, then maybe he’d be receptive and not consider it as overstepping your bounds. If your relationship with him has been mostly through your niece, and only when the 2 of them have been together, then maybe he would think you’re crossing bounds. Here’s 1 last thought. If he’s already getting a lot of guff from several others, his wall may be getting stronger with every new person who approaches him. If that’s the case, and I have no way of knowing if it is or not… but IF IT IS, then it’s possible that your letter would make it worse for your niece and push him farther away. It’s just 1 of multiple possibilities, but something to think about.

    I hope this helps. Feel free to follow up with me to let me know your final decision and how this turns out. My thoughts are with all of you while you go through this.

    Wishing you all the best,

  4. I want to ask a question of you. My niece who is also my Godchild, found out in Jan. that her husband felt “trapped” and wanted out of their 13 year marriage. Today he filed for divorce. I just learned of this today. During the past two months my niece was trying to go to counseling etc. but nothing changed his mind. My sister and her husband talked to my niece’s husband and nothing changed.
    I am very close to my niece and feel so badly for her. I think she was blindsided. Her husband just kept his feelings to himself and just dropped a bomb on her.

    I want to write him a short note trying to encourage him to rethink he decision. Is is appropriate for me to do so? I would like to explain from personal experience the “hurt” that is caused by a divorce and ask him to reconsider this major life decision.
    Would this be crossing a boundary.. no one has been able to get through to him. I have heard he gets angry when confronted and things might get worse for my niece. He is still living with his family. Two kids boy 9 and girl 4. so sad..I appreciate your opinion on this difficult matter.

  5. Hi Marie,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and advice. Indeed, not giving up is important. Underlying that is still having hope he will change. Once hope is lost, it’s really hard to get it back. That tidbit alone makes your experience inspiring for others – in my opinion anyway. It always inspires me. 🙂

    What I find interesting about your husband not bonding with your family is that he wasn’t always like that – only since your Dad passed away. That makes me wonder how close he was to your dad, or if somehow your dad’s presence made him feel more at ease. The answer to to his hesitancy may be in there somewhere, although I can’t pinpoint anything specific without talking to him. But for you, it may be just food for thought, to help you understand him better. Knowing the reason isn’t as important as recognizing that there is a reason.

    I agree about talking when emotions are calm. I used to have a difficult time dropping the subject ’til an indefinite later time because I had a strong need to resolve it. And I feared it’d be dropped completely instead of resolved later. So if anybody else reading this is challenged in the way I was, I hope they heed your wisdom.

    I know your words will hit home with many stepparents, because many don’t feel supported. Asking for support, as well as being specific on what that looks like, will improve the relationship.

    Thank you again, Marie, for sharing.

  6. This was a very “key” article. It was clearly stated just as our complaints and requests to our spouses esp. when involving his children whether living with you or grown adults on their own.

    Asking for support is really the key.
    When a step-parent feels supported they can in turn love and support their spouse. also understanding the dynamics of a relationship is KEY.

    Talking about an issue after the fact when the emotions are calm is better than in the heat of the moment.

    I struggle with getting my husband to bond with my family since my Dad has passed away. He gives me so many excuses but just lately when he was in the RIGHT mood, he agreed to have a get-together including my side of the family with others for a gathering other than HOLIDAYS.

    My advice is never give up and try not to BLOW UP unless it is a major issue of RESPECT etc.


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