In this episode, I have my beautiful wife Joelle back on the podcast. We take a few minutes to update you on our crazy life and then discuss some listener questions that mainly focus on communication in relationships. Enjoy!
We opened up with a general life update and how we are adjusting things to make sure we both have time to work during the days. We talk about how we use a Google calendar to keep things straight and it also helps us know what the expectations are of us at any given time. This is especially great for the summer break when schedules can become much more dynamic. Using a Google calendar is also a great technique for people that don’t have traditional 9-5 jobs.
So for this episode, we put out some feelers on social media asking for any questions you’d like us to discuss. You can follow us @duffthepsych (Twitter/Facebook/Instagram) or @duffthewife (Twitter)/@joellecharming (Facebook/Instagram) on social in order to send us any ideas, questions or thoughts you have. It’s a great way to interact with us!
Joelle did receive a lot of questions about mental health, and specifically her journey and experience with motherhood and being a small business owner but we wanted to do something a little different and so have focused on questions related to relationships today. However, you can hear more about Joelle’s personal journey right here!
With that said, let’s jump into the Q&A!
How has communication changed over time? With time, did assumed communication begin or interfere or are you both conscious enough of yourselves and your partner to always be open, honest, etc?
Communication is important in any relationship and is something we’re very aware of – we talk about communication in our relationship a lot. We discuss the different stages we’ve gone through, starting with the honeymoon phase and how after a year or so it becomes very easy to nitpick and get upset about little things. We talk about this in terms of our own relationship and how it has evolved towards choosing your battles and letting go of minor things that don’t really matter. Sometimes a small issue doesn’t need to be addressed but it may be part of a larger overall issue that IS worth discussing. We acknowledge how talking about your communication can be really helpful and can make new strategies not seem inauthentic or not genuine.
It can be easy to get your back up if a partner only does something because you’ve asked them to. However, sometimes it doesn’t matter…they’re doing it, and that’s what matters. In fact, that’s a skill that is worth building – asking for what you need. It can also be easy to fall into the thinking trap that your partner knows what you want or need all the time, but it’s important to not try to read your partner’s mind. You can’t be responsible for things your partner is thinking that they don’t say out loud and it’s also important to not assume they know what you are thinking if you don’t say it out loud. This is especially important in a sexual relationship. Don’t feel guilty about telling someone what you need. That’s an indicator of a healthy relationship.
A conversation about something does not have to be one single conversation and you can continue to talk about it even if you miss the “perfect opportunity”. Sometimes it’s a good idea to talk about it later because it gives you more time to think about why you felt the way that you did and what you could do differently. We also discuss how communication is important to avoid making assumptions about a situation, whilst also trying to be empathetic about the questions we might ask.
We will also often tell one another that we need to talk about something even if it is going to be at a later time when we are more ready. This is a double-edged sword with people who have anxiety, but it is important to at least get it out on the table. Joelle shares her own perspective on this from personal experience. We have also tried to literally schedule in certain recurrent discussions in our Google calendar, but that hasn’t worked out in the long run, although it might work for some people. But it can be helpful to have important conversations away from home or at the very least away from the sacred parts of your home such as the bedroom. Ultimately, we all need to practice communicating exactly what we want to talk about.
How do you communicate wants and needs in a relationship without the other person feeling like they’re failing or not doing good enough?
You can’t be responsible for what the other person is feeling. The only thing you can be responsible for is your own happiness. It’s important to be sensitive to what they are feeling and you are allowed to care about that, but it’s not your responsibility.
Also important – Don’t be mean. We have never called each other names while arguing. Whether it’s a spoken or unspoken rule, it might be good to establish certain ground rules like that. We also discuss talking to others about your partner behind their back and how if you feel compelled to air grievances about your partner to friends, that may be an indicator that there is a conversation with them that needs to be had.
It’s important to look at how you communicate as well. We discuss how you can tweak the way we communicate and try different things to see if that helps to improve your relationship. Throughout, it’s important to be open and honest. We talk about our previous discussion in which I let Joelle know that she is not a very touchy-feely person. This is an example of communicating wants and needs without taking things personally right away. We are fundamentally different people in terms of contact comfort, needing space vs pushing forward etc. but we make it work through communicating about circumstances as they come up.
How to find common ground when one person needs space after a disagreement and the other needs affection/reassurance to move on.
Pretty early on in our relationship, Joelle learned to ask for comfort or space depending on what she needs. But needing space after a disagreement is natural and normal. Space and reassurance also aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Take a few minutes to cool down, but then reconnect and think about what you need to do to move forward. We also talk about how there are different types of comfort and reassurance you can offer and how if you need space, you can still give reassurances to the other person
It’s important to communicate about disagreements in order to move forward and not let things fester. However, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know how to solve something, but you need to be committed to resolving it at some point. We talk about this and how both of us are naturally list makers. So sometimes when we give each other space, we come back with an action plan later on, which works out well for us. It doesn’t mean you have to let the disagreement go or forget your frustration, it’s just putting it on the back burner and taking time to process what’s happened and then come back together to discuss moving forward.
Sometimes people find themselves in a relationship with someone that they are fundamentally incompatible with. In these cases, it’s important to learn how to translate one another’s behaviors into emotional language that you understand. i.e. what is THEIR version of affection and is this something you can work together with. Again, communication is key and this is where a therapist might prove extremely helpful.
How do you maintain healthy boundaries in co-ed friendships?
Both of us have a lot of friends of the opposite gender and we’ve had good and bad experiences. At this point in our relationship, we have a lot of mutual friends. This is helpful. If you are going to have a friend of the opposite gender, it’s important to let your partner have access to them and have a relationship with them as well. Don’t keep it mysterious. When there is a compulsion to hide something, that’s usually a sign that there might be something more going on.
We talk about the dynamic of our relationship and the friends we have, whilst also recognizing the importance of boundaries. It’s important to remember that you can talk about something that has happened which has made you uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean dragging up things that happened years ago but recognizing that when something makes you uncomfortable, you are always allowed to come back and address it later at some point in the not too distant future because that’s how you get conversations moving.
It’s important to think about your own feelings – Before confronting your partner about something that is making you uncomfortable, ask yourself WHY you are feeling uncomfortable. It’s not always a romantic reason, but taking time out to process your own feelings can help the conversation with your partner progress. We also talk about the importance of understanding that one person is not going to fulfill every single need in your life. And they shouldn’t.
Open communication is important. Snooping is not usually a good idea and if you feel the need to snoop, that means you have something that you need to talk about. When addressing an event, you need to both recognize what your partner’s intention was and the way that it made you feel. Joelle and I have had to work on this point. I have had to get better at recognizing that my intention doesn’t necessarily correlate with the way that I made her feel.
I would like to know how to get over the mean things my in law’s have said to me and how I can stop taking it out on my husband?
When you’re committing yourself to someone else for such a period of time, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are going to respect that decision, and if your parents don’t respect your partner then that’s an issue. It’s the primary responsibility of the partner with the problematic parents to do something about situations like this. If your upset about something your partner’s parents have said to you and your partner hasn’t done anything about it, then that in itself is something that needs to be talked about.
While there are cultures that are very family oriented, if you are committed or married to this person, you are deciding that they are your family now. Whilst your partner shouldn’t be made to pick a side, they should be open to recognizing how their parents are impacting their partner. They can’t ignore that what their parents are doing is harmful to their partner. While it may not always be reasonable to expect that family to change, developing a plan together to deal with it is important.
That’s a wrap
Big thank you to my wife for joining me on the show again and everything that she does both in front of and behind the scenes! Thanks also to our listeners for sending in some awesome questions for us to discuss. If you’ve got any questions specifically for Joelle or would like to see more of us on the podcast together in future, then let us know. Joelle would love to hear your thoughts and any questions you have!
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