12/05/2013 10:41 am ET Updated Feb 04, 2014

You Can Prevent a Divorce -- Part 2

Keep Communication Authentic -- Speak Your Truth

Relationships fall apart for many reasons. One of the most common reasons is the "lack of open communication." Most couples will remember the early years when they talked through the night about everything under the sun. They spent hours gazing into each other's eyes, hanging on every word. As the years pass there is less intrigue and surprise for sure but hopefully those lustful times are replaced with a deep sense of knowing, love, commitment and comfort.

Well, that is at least how it is supposed to be. So what can possibly take two loves birds and turn them into Siamese fighting fish? One reason that positive communication subsides is because we have never really learned how to communicate in a deep authentic way in the first place. So, as things show up in the marriage, couples do not have the tools to address them in a way that brings them closer and deepens their love and bond.

Of course, speaking your truth is easy if things are going well in your relationship. However, when there is conflict or the potential for conflict, speaking from a place of personal truth can be scary, particularly if the consequences are unknown. You can choose to either sweep your true feelings under the carpet hoping that they might just go away or you can speak up. Not speaking up will result in resentment over time and can, in the end, result in the same outcome you were afraid of in the first place. If you do speak up then you risk conflict so there is the dilemma.

There is only one solution that will ultimately bring you happiness and that is speaking your truth no matter how difficult the subject may be. Sharing your feelings, regardless of whether they are valid from someone else's perspective, is in the best interest of your marriage over the long-term.

Here are a few tips for speaking your truth and increasing your communication so you can protect what matters to you most - your marriage.

  • Always speak from the position of "I." Avoid the use of "you" when you are dealing with sensitive issues. For example: "I am feeling... because I have noticed... and therefore I have concluded... so I can feel better can we discuss... ?" As soon as you start with "you," the other person will disengage from active listening and get defensive.
  • Listen to your gut. If the same theme comes up over and over again either in your head or in actions and it is causing you discomfort, then you need to address it. Read more on that "GUT" feeling.
  • Remember that fear is often our biggest roadblock and that most of our fears do not come to fruition.
  • Look for disempowering behaviors patterns in yourself.
  • Do not be afraid to engage a third party to help facilitate a conversation. They may also be able to give you some tools that you can take away for future conversations.
  • If there is little or no communication and a feeling of complacency in your marriage then that is not a good sign, it could be the lull before the storm.
    • Try to listen more than you talk. If you are the talker in the relationship, then ask probing questions to evoke sharing. Probing questions are "what" or "tell me about" questions. How was your day? This is a great question to ask, if you are looking for a quick answer, however it is not likely to evoke in-depth detail. Versus -- what happened today at work? What happened in your meeting? Tell me about what it felt like when your boss yelled at the staff? I have noticed that we have been so busy with life that we just seem to pass each other by. What do you think we can do to find some time for just you and I?

  • Do not react. If your spouse says something that upsets you rather than reacting back, take a deep breath, take your time to gather your thoughts and respond from a place of "I." For example: "What I believe I just heard about... is upsetting to me. I need to process this... and I will be back to discuss this in 30 minutes." (Do not leave them hanging or give them the cold shoulder). Or, "I am not sure exactly what you mean, can you please clarify... ? I do not want to misunderstand what you are saying. So I think I hear you saying... ?"
  • Assume the best in your partner. Assume that they are just like you in that they want to be unconditionally loved, not judged and heard about the things that matter to them. They want to know you care, regardless of whether or not you agree with their position.
  • Ensure you communicate about an issue until you can put it to rest. Issues will show their ugly head over and over again until you learn from it and deal with it.
  • Collaboration is what you want in a marriage, not compromise. While some short-term compromise will work over time it will result in both parties feeling like they are not getting what they want and only settling to reduce conflict. Choose your battles wisely. If something really matters to you then stand your ground on that issue and then if something really matters to your spouse, then let him/her have there way this time. In this way, both parties will feel validated for what really matters to them. This is collaboration.
  • Do the work on yourself so that you bring a healthy well-balanced person to the marriage. Your marriage is a reflection of you.
  • Take responsibility and be accountable. Never blame or play the victim.
  • Understand that your marriage is like a plant. If you do not water and attend to it, it will die.

Be grateful for what you have. Cherish what is in front of you and do not fall into the stinking thinking -- "the grass is greener on the other side." Move forward with love and respect. Speak your truth daily.

Read You Can Prevent a Divorce -- Part 1

Karen Stewart is a divorce expert and the CEO and Founder of Fairway Divorce Solutions, Ltd., a company that provides an innovative mediation model for divorcing with dignity and an alternative to the traditional divorce system.

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