"Why Can't We Talk Like We Used To?"

The same couples who could talk spontaneously and effortlessly for hours at a time before marriage, now often find themselves vacillating from the fieriest of fights to the most silent of cold wars after being married for a while. It's uncanny how complicated communicating with each other can become after marriage...!

Instead of talking with each other, many married couples slip into the habit of talking at each other - spewing out facts and opinions rather than truly connecting with each other. Even the most committed of couples at times, scratch their heads in disbelief at how a casual conversation can suddenly take a turn and escalate into a quarrel.

Why does the frequency of miscommunication increase after marriage?

One plausible reason is that we're able to do things for over a period of time but grapple with sustaining it long-term. Eventually we fall back on doing what comes naturally to us at any given point in time in the marriage. Many couples also assume that their relationship will work itself out over time with their love as the motivating factor, but marriage requires more than a feeling; it takes work.

Here are a few other reasons to help explain why, and tips on what you can do if you find yourself getting into tiffs with your spouse a tad too often.

Be as interested in listening to what your spouse has to say as you were when you were dating.

Before marriage, it's easy to be swept up in the excitement and romance of the courting relationship. Differences seemed relatively unimportant and even appeared exciting, as you and your soon-to-be spouse focused on discovering each other and eagerly anticipated sharing life together. You were both less quick to judge, more eager to listen and not just force your views into conversations.

A typical exchange before marriage:

He says: "I'm feeling really frustrated with this project at work."

She says: "Tell me more. What happened to make you feel this way?"

After marriage, it could get contentious:

He says: "I'm feeling really frustrated with this project at work."

She says: "Come on. You shouldn't feel that way. Why do you even let it bother you?"

Familiarity tends to set in quickly after marriage and the patience and capacity to listen take a back seat as we begin to believe we already know all there is to know about our spouse.

Married couples who display healthy communication styles say that a major challenge in marriage is learning to be quiet long enough to hear your spouse's perspective. The ability to let our spouse speak and to listen patiently is really essential in diffusing conflict and having more emotionally-connected conversations within marriage.

Be as encouraging and supportive as you were before marriage.

Unless your spouse was a masochist, he/she would not have been drawn to you if all you did was make cutting remarks and criticize him or her. It was your ability to make your spouse feel accepted and loved that made you appear infinitely attractive to him or her in the first place.

Before marriage, a chat between two lovebirds could go like this:

He says: "Where would you like to have dinner?"

She says: "Anywhere will do."

He says: "You sure you'd like me to decide for us? Do you feel like having Japanese? What about Korean?"

After marriage, conversations can get a tad antagonistic:

He says: "Where would you like to have dinner?"

She says: "Anywhere will do." He says: "You sure? Don’t give me a hard time if I pick a place you don't like."

Undeniably, over time, as you learn more about each other through various experiences unique to marriage, the urge to make assumptions about your spouse and to pass sarcastic comments over daily conversations can sometimes be hard to quell.

Once married, there is indeed a lot more to disagree on than during the dating phase, and it can be a real challenge to stay encouraging and supportive when points of view differ or conversations don't go the way we expect. When you make the effort to be less judgmental and more patient when speaking to your spouse, it will help make conversations less abrasive. Additionally, it will draw you and your spouse closer to each other.

Be as thoughtful and appreciative as you were during your courtship days.

During the courtship days, it was very easy to be consumed by the giddy throes of infatuation; thoughtfulness and gratitude for our then soon-to-be spouse came very naturally. Simple things like remembering to say "please" and "thank you" were second nature for many of us.

A possible conversation before marriage could be:

She says: "Darling, can you please drive me to my parent's place tomorrow afternoon?"

He says: "I would love to but so sorry Dear, I'll be in a meeting at that time. Would you be fine to grab a cab please?”

After marriage, formalities and terms of endearment tend to be dispensed with:

She says: "Can you drive me to my parent's place tomorrow afternoon?"

He says: "I can't. I've got a meeting. Can you grab a cab?"

It might not be a big issue initially, but over time, this lack of tenderness in the way we speak to our spouse can erode the intimacy experienced in marriage.

Couples who communicate well with each other have often highlighted the importance of being intentional in using positive words. They believe that being conscious of the tone of voice used can also aid greatly in enhancing communication in marriage.

Consider this: just because you have successfully married the person you were pursuing, the element of romance and expressing love doesn't need to stop. Resist the urge to take your spouse for granted. Woo and charm them daily in your speech like you used to when you were dating. Seek to speak gently and appreciatively even when you don't feel like it for it will go a long way in strengthening your relationship with your spouse.

Communication in marriage needs to be intentional. Don't just go with the flow. Make the effort to try the suggestions offered. It'll be amazing how much more connected you'll be with your spouse and it'll work wonders for your marriage.

© 2014 Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.

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