If You Didn't Communicate Well Before, What Makes You Think Now Will Be Any Different?

If You Didn't Communicate Well Before, What Makes You Think Now Will Be Any Different?

"We just don't seem to be communicating" is often the first hint or sign that a relationship is in trouble. Suddenly, that "connection" you once had feels lost. You don't share the things you used to share so openly. You can sit in a car for hours together and not have a single thing to say to one another.  Frequently, the perception is, "why bother … he (or she) doesn't listen to me anyways."

I speak with men and women all the time who tell me that after the communication stopped, then the intimacy stopped, then it all went down-hill ...  UNTIL … one of them decided it was time to open the lines of communication again and it began with a conversation-starter like this, "I want a divorce."

It's too bad that many couples are forced to try and revive communication only when divorce becomes the subject of that communication.  If only communication within the marriage had never ceased, then perhaps more couples would have time to stave off the unhappiness they were feeling, maintain more connectedness, and avoid throwing in the towel for fear that their relationship is too far gone.

Assuming you are now in the "let's get divorced" conversation, now, more than ever before, your communications had better become crystal clear, authentic, and honest, as the path you are about to head down is pretty grueling.

Three steps to open the lines of communication during a divorce.  

1. Listen.  Really listen! Half the battle in suffering from a lack of communication skills doesn't come from not being able to speak your thoughts properly, but rather from not being able to listen effectively. Listen to your partner. What is he trying to say? Why is she feeling that the marriage is falling apart? What is he blaming for the loss of love?  We frequently assume we know the answer to these questions (or fill in the blanks based on our own experience and feelings).  If we stop and really listen, without interrupting, without making assumptions, without debating, we might be surprised at what we really hear.

2. Understand. Try to comprehend what is being said! Naturally, we tend to react incredibly emotionally when we hear from our spouse that he or she wants a divorce. Try to understand where they are coming from.  Instead of reacting, and flying off the handle, assigning blame, screaming, or crying, try to understand why this conversation is happening and what has led up to it. I have seen many people respond calmly and rationally, which only enables them to be able to truly understand, and then be able to address, the perceived situation successfully. Trying to understand a message shows how important the communication is to you. At their core, people naturally want to be understood. Try it!

3. Continue. Recognize that communication is on-going and will continue through the process of divorce, and even post-divorce (essentially for those with children together).  Take notes on what works best for you in creating productive conversations (the key word there is "productive"). You better figure out now what works best for the two of you in terms of how to communicate.  This will set the precedent for communicating moving forward. Many couples find that it only gets tougher as the divorce unfolds! Figure out your optimal communication style.

For some people, face-to-face conversations are too difficult initially given the raw emotions or the difficulty of not getting sucked into anger. Perhaps it is easier to communicate via email at first (no interruptions, keeps the emotional response out of the way…).  Perhaps later phone calls work better. Figure out what works best for you. Ultimately, your goal should be authentic two-way communications that are heard and understood.

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Monique A. Honaman More Articles By This Author

Monique A. Honaman is the author of "The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce. The "High Road" is an inspiring roadmap for marriage, a positive exit strategy for "surviving" divorce, and a powerful life philosophy. Monique's second book in the series, "The High Road Has Less Traffic ...
and a better view," has just been released. She is also the founding partner of ISHR Group, which provides global solutions in the area of leadership assessment, development and coaching.

Monique received her B.A. from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Labor and Industrial Relations from Michigan State University, and a Juris Doctorate from Albany Law School. She was profiled by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the "40-Under-40-Up-and-Comers. Monique is a contributing expert for HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, CupidsPusle.com, and LAFamily.com.