7 Steps That Fix 'He Said, She Said' Relationship Problems (When Everything You Say Turns Into A Fight)

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Don't let communication breakdowns ruin your relationship.

One of the hard and often heartbreaking parts of relationships are the (often unnecessary) misunderstandings that occur. It can be extremely frustrating — even maddening — to have expressed a thought or idea to your partner, only to have it interpreted in a different or negative way that was completely unintended.

This type of communication breakdown is often at the root of a couple's relationship problems.

For example, after a couple of bites of a new dish at supper, a husband could ask his wife, “What's in this?”

What he means is just a simple request to know what some of the ingredients are in the recipe. But when his wife responds, “Why, what is wrong with it?” or, “I knew you wouldn’t like it,” or “You never like it when I try new recipes,” he may end up very hurt or respond in anger because his intent was never to put her or her cooking down. He was just wondering about the ingredients!

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Likewise, many men will tackle projects without first reading the directions. This is often frustrating to their wives, particularly if he becomes angry along the way or has to take things apart and start over. In an attempt to help, she may say, “Why don’t you just read the directions? You know this always happens when you don’t.”

When something like this is said, men often feel disrespected and that their ability to get things done is being questioned. Men like the idea of tackling a challenge completely on their own and experience a great sense of accomplishment by figuring it out with their own wits.

It is disheartening to ask a question or to make a comment with good intentions only to experience an unintended angry or hurt response from your spouse. When the reaction is strong and triggers your own defense mechanisms, it can unintentionally reinforce the original false conclusion drawn by your partner, further fueling your relationship problems.

When your communication breaks down due to "he said, she said" misunderstandings, take these steps to fix your relationship and get on the same page.

Here are 7 steps for how to fix your relationship problems and mend disagreements caused by communication breakdowns:

1. Slow things down.

You already have some established patterns of response and interactions when the crash in your communication happens.

If it has been going on for a while, you may find that you are going from 0 to 60 MPH in just a matter of seconds. When you determine that things are escalating, it is time to do your best to slow it down.

Exercise care that slowing it down doesn’t throw more gas on the fire. This often involves several attempts in order to find a method that works for both of you.

2. Allow for a cool down period if necessary.

Some need a little time to calm down after getting wound up and upset.

If this is true for either one of you, it is important to allow time for emotions to compose before going to the next step. Tell your spouse that you want to find out more about what happened, but want to respect that she is upset right now.

Ask if your spouse is ready to talk further now or does she need some time. Once things are calm, you can go to the next step.

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3. Ask what just happened.

If you are scratching your head and wondering what just happened and why things got worked up so fast, ask. A good way to approach it is to say, “I am not sure what just happened, please tell me what was so upsetting to you.”

When you ask, be ready to listen. Do not be surprised at hearing things you did not think, say or hear. Keep your cool and listen. When your spouse is upset, there is always a good reason for it. Right now, you may not understand that reason so listen and learn.

Avoid defending yourself; it is simply time to listen.

4, Explain what just happened.

When you are asked, “What just happened, I don’t get why you are upset right now,” do your best to explain what upset you.

Avoid defensiveness and sarcasm as much as you can. Explain your view of what took place with the understanding that your spouse truly may have no clue regarding what it was that upset you. Speak the truth about what just happened to you, and do so calmly.

5. Accept the truth you have heard.

Now that you know more of the story, think about what you just heard. Does it make sense to you?

Guard against making assumptions about what you just heard, and ask questions to clarify things further, if needed.

Does this information help to fill in the gaps about not only this incident, but other times when you had no idea why your spouse was so upset?

6. Tell your spouse what you understand now.

If you learned some new information that helps you understand what just happened, let her know what you learned and how it helps. Do this before you make any effort to try to explain what you really meant or were really trying to communicate.

Make sure your spouse knows you fully comprehend what emotions or reasoning were behind the reaction that you did not initially understand.

7. Work on a resolution together.

Now is the time to make the final repairs to the relationship.

If you sense the need to explain what your true intention was before the problem occurred, do so cautiously and calmly. If you need to apologize for your actions or for overreacting or responding negatively, do so. If something needs to happen to make amends, it should be done now.

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Many factors contribute to the communication struggles people experience in marriage. Family history and background, treatment by siblings, or other encounters in life can profoundly influence one’s thinking, reactions and defense mechanisms. In relationships, it is possible to unknowingly trigger things in each other regularly.

When things seem out of control and it seems impossible to communicate clearly, it is time to do something different. 

Try the steps outlined above to begin bringing change to your relationship and the way you communicate with one another. Keep in mind that one attempt at this is unlikely to cause you to turn the corner on this issue. Be prepared to keep at it. 

The pay-off will be worth it in the end for both you, your spouse and your relationship.

If you have been experiencing these communication problems in your relationship and are about to give up, click here to download instructions we have prepared on how to get started fixing it. We also recommend you call Drs. David and Debbie McFadden at 331-308-0113 for a free 15-20 minute phone/Skype consultation. Together, we can figure out how we can help you learn to begin expressing yourself and get back on the road to a happier relationship.