What’s Up Doc


What’s Up Doc in Marriage Conversation

Marriage and the Communication Dilemma.

We have a teenage daughter who is delightful, energetic and responsible. That is, she responds to a voice within her that listens to a beat I can’t quite hear. I have my own (inner) voices and although I am not schizoid yet, I do hear voices from my Swiss past that create dissonance with this good daughter as we talk about chores, friendships, social media and homework. We define certain words differently – clean room is one, bedtime another. These words convey certain values and carry meaning that without a strenuous family seminar on their proper usage, we both believe we actually understood each other when in fact I was talking space alien and she was talking street.

Communication in marriage is often misunderstood. Psychologists are pretty good at thinking they understand what it takes to communicate effectively. Often they do not – especially when communicating with their own teenage children who often resent their smug formulas and their unbreakable confidence in their skills. Teenagers do not buy that the communication challenge is theirs, and theirs alone.

Deborah Tannen in her good little book, “You Just Don’t Understand” tells of the difference between men and women and she could have added parents and teenagers. She says this: “men way overestimate the power of their words on women; women way underestimate the power of their words on men.” Do you think this might be true of teenagers and parents as well, with parents fitting the men part of the above observation and teenagers fitting both?

The power of healthy, focused, effective communication can’t be ignored. So here’s a couple of tips that will improve your skills and warm up your relationship.

Good communication starts with your ears. I like the old railroad crossing sign that reminded me to Stop! Look! and Listen! before crossing the tracks.

  • A good communicator is not necessarily an eloquent communicator. Good communication is simple, clear, and direct.
  • Good communicators pay attention to the relationship domain they are in – is this roommate stuff? Or, are we talking about our inner worlds? Is my partner inviting me into a closer connection or is he merely trying to convey information.
  • Pay attention to personal dramas. They often intercept communication and derail it.
  • Ask yourself: how invested am I in whatever it is my partner is wanting to share? Give it a moments thought, notice your own interest. This little exercise will create a sense of trust as you ‘show up’ in the conversation in an authentic way.

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