Blog > Communication > How Not Talking About Our Relationship Saved My Marriage

How Not Talking About Our Relationship Saved My Marriage

I admit that if anyone had told me not to talk about my relationship to my husband when I was newly married 26 years ago, I would have dismissed that person as a nut job. I probably would have smugly said, “We talk about everything.”

You might be getting ready to put me in the nut job jar too, but before you do, let me tell you what I do that makes my relationship amazing and gets me all the things I was trying to get (but never did) by talking to my husband about our relationship.

First, here’s what used to happen at my house, before I knew any better: I used to say, “We need to talk about our relationship.”

Maybe you’ve done the same thing.

This seemed perfectly reasonable to me, since everybody knows that communication is the key to a good relationship, right?

During these “State of the Union Addresses” (our union), I’d sit him down on the drab gray couch and tell him where he was going wrong and what he needed to do to improve.

I knew the things I said were not complimentary, but I told myself that I was saying what had to be said—the truth!—never that I was a tedious toothache of a wife.

I believed it was going to make my life a whole lot better if he finally got it that he needed to make dinner sometimes, spend more time with me, be more affectionate and make more money.

I even gave him some tips on how to best do the things I was asking. It was so simple, really.

I thought, “All he has to do is what I’m telling him to do.”

I kept talking until he seemed like he was getting it and was actually going to do something this time.

Because the last time we talked, nothing really changed.

Or the time before that. Or the time before that.

But since the problems were still with us, the only option I could see was to have another State of the Union talk––even though they never went very well.

At all.

Either my husband didn’t listen, or else he got defensive and made it into an argument. Sometimes there’d be a big fight. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere.

That’s because I wasn’t getting anywhere—definitely nowhere that I wanted to go.

By that time, the connection between us was not what you’d call deep. In fact, it had usually gone missing completely.

And my list of things I wanted him to work on? That never got worked on.

Final Score:
Him working on things: 0
Connection: -10
Results: Lose-lose.

All we had at the end was wall-to-wall hostility and a looming divorce.

So why doesn’t talking about your relationship work?

1. No relationship ever got better from talking to your husband about it.

Let’s start with the part where I said, “We need to talk.”

The translation to my husband (and all men everywhere) is, “You’re in trouble.” It signals your husband that you would like to spend some time criticizing him. Nobody likes hearing that.

No marriage ever got more connected that way. And no husband ever left that conversation thinking he couldn’t wait to get his wife into bed, or to buy her flowers, or jump up and do more housework.

More likely he was anxious to do anything—watch YouTube, work late, play video games—but interact with the woman who was telling him all the ways he was wrong and bad.

That’s just human nature.

2. Complaining is like talking to your husband on a phone with no cell reception and expecting him to get the message.

We’re all good at finding fault. Maybe he throws his clothes on the floor. He hoards things in the garage. He plays video games too much. He’s always late.

But your husband can’t even hear you when you’re complaining.

When you complain, he just sees your lips moving and you becoming ten times less attractive than you are when you’re happy and smiling. Click To Tweet

When you say, “I’m sick of you throwing your clothes on the floor, Steve,” you might as well be saying, “Blah, blah, blah, Steve.” That’s how much he can’t even hear you.

He doesn’t know what to do to make things better.

3. So if You Can’t Talk About Your Relationship, How Will it Ever Improve?

Don’t worry. You can still get everything you want.

The key is to make one simple conversion. Every time you find yourself frustrated by something about him, ask yourself this question:

What is my pure desire underneath the complaint?

Not what do you want him to do, but what is the final outcome that you would love to have?

A complaint like “I’m sick of you throwing your clothes on the floor,” becomes, “I would love to have a tidy bedroom.”

That’s it—just one sentence. That’s all you need.

Suddenly he’ll be able to hear you. Even better, he’ll know what to do to make you happy.

One new mother made a list of her desires while she was sick and watched in amazement as her formerly lazy, TV-aholic husband worked his way down the list to fulfill on each and every one of them for her.

As he left the house, she asked him where he was going and he said, “To make your dreams come true.”

The key was to focus on what she wanted so he knew how to make her happy.

When she was happy, he couldn’t get enough of her. So she no longer needed to instruct him to spend more time with her.

She was blown away by how she was getting everything she’d ever tried to get him to do in State of the Union Addresses.

They don’t have those anymore at her house.

She says she doesn’t miss them at all.

Me, neither.

By Laura Doyle

Hi! I'm Laura.

New York Times Bestselling Author

I was the perfect wife--until I actually got married. When I tried to tell my husband how to be more romantic, more ambitious, and tidier, he avoided me. I dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced him. I then started talking to women who had what I wanted in their marriages and that’s when I got my miracle. The man who wooed me returned.

I wrote a few books about what I learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills™ that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. The thing I’m most proud of is my playful, passionate relationship with my hilarious husband John–who has been dressing himself since before I was born.

13 replies on “How Not Talking About Our Relationship Saved My Marriage”

Great article. I stopped doing those for that very reason, always turned into an argument. However, spouse likes to do it to me. So what do I do? What happens when your spouse tells you he wants to talk with you and he starts berating you and you say ouch and he just gives you a laundry list of complaints? I see that as a hard situation to get thru without getting upset and/or defensive.

Jill, I wouldn’t like that either! I know this issue has been around for you for a while.

I’m never available to listen to a laundry-list of complaints, so I would remove myself from that conversation, but try to do it without silent treatment/punishment or cold war energy. Just “Ouch!” and maybe, “I need a break.” I’m always teaching people how to treat me, and I figure I can teach him that it never, ever works to do that. Husbands learn fast!

This is EXCELLENT news, for those folks who have trouble being honest, or otherwise communicative. Gives them a perfect justification for continuing the status quo.

Hi Laura,
I’m continuing to work on the six skills, and starting to see improvement. I hope I’m not the only one that finds it hard to do sometimes! But I had a moment of having some fun with this the other day and wanted to share. My husband has been slowly quitting smoking, so I said, “can we talk?” And he gave me the look we’ve all seen on a man’s face when he thinks he’s about to get in trouble. Instead, I just said, “I’m so proud of you for cutting back on the cigarettes.” He stood there, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I just smiled and said, “just wanted you to know.” He walked around looking confused all day.

Anne, thanks for the good laugh! I too enjoyed the part where my husband looked confused at first. Good times! Sounds like you’re doing great with the skills. Congratulations!

Everyone else says they’re really easy to do so that’s weird. KIDDING! It takes some courage and commitment for sure. Good for you for sticking with it.

Read your article, great. I have the “We have to talk” in reverse. They usually end in me feeling bad about myself……dislike them intensely and they drive a wedge between hubby and me. I love my hubby very much, our marriage is at crisis point. Found 6 skills and have been trying to apply. I am fearful hubby will seek “advice” from well meaning people but am a bit worried about that this will influence negatively. Will 6 skills prove more powerful than these?

Heather, I’m so glad you found your way here, and you’re open to practicing the Six Intimacy Skills. Good news–you have all the power in this relationship, above well-meaning advice givers who talk to your husband. Given the crisis (I still remember what that’s like!) I suggest you consider a complimentary discovery call, which you can apply for here:

It’s not too late, you can do this. I see miracles all the time.

Thanks for your response. Hubby is having some time out and staying with his father for a week. I find it difficult in working out exactly how much I can communicate with him. I have sent him a couple of texts that incorporate 6 skills messages in them, “I miss you”, “whatever you think” and so forth.

Hubby suggested we go to marriage counselling when his week sabbatical was over. I am not quite so keen, googled success rates and don’t like odds. How to I communicate without being controlling that I am not keen on marriage counselling, and what do I offer as alternative. If I don’t have an alternative the it’s going to look like same old same old, and no improvement in the relationship. Don’t want to mention 6 skills. Any thoughts&
I am a bit concerned about the father-in-laws’s influence. He runs a mediation business, fancies himself as having high emotional intelligence, nothwithstanding two divorces and a on/off relationship for the last ten years. Not well credentialed in my view.

I finally spoke to hubby after nearly two weeks of texts. I applied the 6 skills in our conversation, especially ‘whatever you think’. I felt the conversation didn’t end negatively and in fact opened the door for future conversations.
I have been using texts to get short thank yous as a great way to stay in contact.

I am the worst for this. I feel that if I can not talk about it with my husband that it will just build up and I will start focusing on it more and stressing over it more. For me it is more so when he gets upsets with me. A lot times I do not why is he upset or what I did. I hate that feeling and for me I need to figure out the problem and fix it as soon as I can. I always thought well I am girl it is what we do. Someone please help me with this. i love my husband and I know he is tired of it. I know everytime it will probably lead to a fight and I feel stupid after the fact. How can i just shut up and let things ride?

Nichole, I can relate to having a hard time being quiet and not talking about what I’m worried about. I used to say everything that came to mind even if it was critical and say I was just being honest! Not anymore. It’s not worth the loss of intimacy to me now. I just practice the 6 Intimacy Skills and that’s made all the difference. If you want support for doing that as well, you might consider applying for a complimentary discovery call here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *