When we have a group of friends over at the house, out comes the ping pong table or the air hockey. A few good hours of macho fun and celebratory remarks all leads to a lot of laughing and bonding.
Do you play ping pong with your wife? (or husband!) I mean, ping pong without the table. Rather, in your relationship. Here, let me give you an example:
Husband: "Oh man, I had such a bad day at work today!"
Wife: "Oh yeah, me too! The kids were just awful all day. I am exhausted!"
Wife: "I really feel frustrated when I see clothes all over the floor"
Husband: "I know what you mean, you leave your dishes all over the living room"
Ping-ponging, as I like to call it, is when emotions are shared from one partner to the other, followed by the other partner immediately sharing their emotions right back. This can often go back and forth, just like playing ping-pong, where each person keeps taking a stab at the ball (or the emotion) without either of them "leaning in" and feeling their partners emotions.
I think many of these ping-pong effects occur when one brings up an issue and the other person immediately becomes defensive. This then causes individuals to feel unheard, disrespected and discredited.
Effective communication stiplulates that when one person is expressing, the other person needs to be listening, not planning a response. This is hard to do, especially if you disagree. That moment when your partner is expressing their feelings is not the time for you to agree or disagree. Quite frankly, your opinion at that very moment doesn't really matter. It's about listening and "leaning in emotionally" to your partner. Try to feel what they feel.
Leave the ping-ponging to the table and avoid using this in your marriage!
Making changes in the way we communicate with our spouses or loved ones is hard. Really hard. In the heat of the moment, we tend to say anything to prove our point.
There are 2 words that we absolutely need to stop using today! Not tomorrow or not next week but eliminate it from our vocabulary starting right now. Using these 2 words will make those arguments even harder to resolve. And could just end up ruining your marriage.
So, what are the 2 words that I speak of? Here they are, and please take note of them: ALWAYS & NEVER.
"You ALWAYS say you are going to be on time, but you NEVER are!". Or, "You NEVER pick up your clothes off the floor!". Or how about this one, "You NEVER tell me I look pretty!"
How often do you use these 2 killer and totally useless words? Think back to your last argument. Did these words come up? I bet it did.
Using words like Always & Never, you are painting an entire wall with one stroke of the brush. Can you honestly say that "never" or "always" is 100% true? It may feel like that, but is it actually factual. By using always and never, you are overlooking the exceptions.
The natural response from a spouse when you use these 2 killer words is to be defensive. Up goes the wall. And you trying to get through that wall now is nearly impossble.
"You NEVER tell me I look pretty!", for example, brings in the entire history of the relationship in one quick sentence. It also takes away from how you feel right now. Today. At that very moment. You never tell me I look pretty, a natural response from the husband may be, "well, why start now!", shouting out of anger. A much more effective way of sharing how you feel and what you need could be something like "I would really like it if you told me sometimes that I look pretty. By you doing that, it makes me feel good and makes me feel like you actually find me attractive".
If ALWAYS and NEVER words are a significant part of your communication with your spouse, come and let's talk. We can practice on using effective communication and listening skills to improve your marriage. Until then, make note of it. Be aware of how often you use these 2 marriage killing words. You might be very surprised.