A divorce can be expensive, time consuming and emotionally painful for you and for your family.
Many couples who are in distress have communication problems.
And some couples can benefit from changing the way they talk to one another in order to improve their relationship.
Here is a newspaper article that appeared in my weekly column some time ago.
Many couples who come to see me for marriage counseling report that they are
having communication problems. These communication problems frequently
involve power struggles around money, sex, parenting, household responsibilities, in-
laws, trust and leisure time.
It is not easy to resolve these kinds of issues, as they are usually emotionally charged.
However, it is virtually impossible to work them out when there is a lot of tension
among couples and they are having difficulty conversing with one another in a patient
and polite manner.
And believe me, many husbands and wives who come for counseling are
very angry with one another and the tension can be quite substantial. I have had people try
to throw furniture at one another in my office and I have had some spouses storm out of
the session and leave their partner to find their own way of transporting himself or
Therapists working with couples help their patients to address the underlying causes
of their anger toward one another. In many cases, this anger is related to
conflicts that existed in the patients’ original family system. People tend to
carry old baggage and old tapes into their marriages. The negative experiences we
saw in the families that raised us tend to resurface in our marriages.
In addition to resolving these old and counterproductive feelings, therapists
often teach people techniques for resolving current conflicts in a productive and
For several years, I have taught many husbands and wives a simple way of
communicating with one another which seems to help them to start to rebuild their
damaged relationship. This technique is uncomplicated and it works with couples of all
ages and with couples from different ethnic backgrounds.
Essentially, I explain to the couple that they need to work on being polite and cordial
with one another. They need to listen carefully when their partner speaks
and they must stop placing rigid demands on their marital partner.
Try Inviting Your Mate
I suggest that they start to communicate using an “invitation model.” When you
get an invitation to a party, you have three options. You can RSVP and say that you
would love to go. You can reply and say that you can’t go. Or, you can think about it
for a while.
There are no arguments, no power struggles and little tension when couples
communicate via this invitation approach. In fact, I encourage many couples to
use this style around lots of issues. It may feel a little awkward at first, but
it really does help husbands and wives to develop a useful and effective way
of communicating with each other.
In addition, when husbands and wives begin to politely invite each other, it signals that
they respect each other’s needs, desires, viewpoints and opinions. As I mentioned earlier,
couples get into conflict when they rigidly demand things of their marital partner.
Inviting, on the other hand, also sets the stage for an open and polite
discussion of many of the issues that couples argue about.
Members of the marital dyad can also re-invite or modify their invitation to see if
they can find a way to get their husband or wife to feel more comfortable with their
If you need to bring up a sensitive matter with your mate, try politely inviting him or
her in the same way that you would ask a friend or relative to come to a party. You will
probably be very pleased with the results that you get when you communicate in
this kind and respectful style.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist and Licensed Marriage and Family