No Communication in Marriage? Learn Why. Maximizer vs Minimizer Style

In a marriage, we need to make sure we communicate effectively.

Do you use effective communication? Or are your words provocation? Are they pulling your spouse closer or farther away from you?

When you feel stressed, you are not able to make conscious and informed decisions. You will react out of fight/flight mode. The Dialogue that Imago Therapy is famous for can help provide stress relief by working to calm down these fight/flight reactions and help us utilize our “full brain” and not just the reptilian one which is designed to protect us from danger.

Later in this post, we’ll be showing a video of us connecting around an issue that could have been stressful!

If you act out of anxiety or stress, not only will you be hurting yourself, you will provoke your partner to feel unsafe and react accordingly.

For instance, when you feel anxious, do you yell? Shut down? Give the silent treatment? Leave?

Where it gets tricky is that your spouse has their own fight/flight reaction to protect themselves from YOUR fight/flight reaction.

Learning how to calm yourself down is crucial to achieving a safe and connected relationship with our spouse, or with any of our relationships.

If you’re the spouse that “dumps” on your partner in the moment of your anxiety, while that may provide you with some temporary relief, it will usually create more disconnect, because it catches your spouse off guard and making him/her feel unsafe. In turn, your spouse will be unable to respond to your needs in an effective way.

So, the next time you feel anxiety, try to take a few moments and allow yourself to calm down before you let it all out. This is where Imago therapy “kicks” in.

You start beginning to self regulate by checking with your partner if now is a good time to talk or not. That will help them be more readily available to listen to you.

Watch my wife and I asking each other for an “appointment” to talk about something frustrating.

When you are listening to something that your spouse is sharing with you and you begin feeling anxious about what he/she is sharing, instead of reacting:

1. Do your best to take a deep breath and find inner quiet.

2. Mirror back by repeating back what your spouse is saying, as opposed to reacting, will help you calm your brain, so that you can hear what he/she is saying, instead of getting wrapped up in your reactions.

3. When we become calm, we become empowered, and we can choose how we react. And that is real power.

 Remember these important tips when communicating

  • Eliminate all name-calling, finger-pointing, blaming, and shaming. A toxic relationship cannot thrive. Angry outbursts chip away at the love and trust that a couple has for each other.
  • Take ownership for your feelings and frustration by focusing on why your spouse’s actions disturb you. Replace the “you” of “you always do this” with “I” – “how I felt when…”
  • Learn to ask for what you want. It’s so easy to complain that we often forget what it is we are missing. Rather than focusing on how your spouse ignores you, share how badly you crave his love and attention

 

Communication Quiz- What is your communication style?

Lots of people are looking to take a relationship quiz so that way they can understand more about if they are well matched with their partner, or what kind of person they will end up marrying, or if their relationship is meant to be or not.

The following relationship quiz is a very important one as it goes right to the core of effective communication and removes the barriers to communication by helping you understand why you react the way you do in times of stress!

Are you a turtle or a hailstorm?

The following quiz is designed to help you learn more about yourself and how you typically protect yourself when you are under stress. The purpose is to foster a greater awareness so that you can act from a more conscious place. Place a plus or a minus by the behavior that applies to you most often.

If you haven’t yet read the Turtle and Hailstorm story, you can do so below.

Turtles (minimizing)

When I get upset I tend to…

• feel tight inside and do not verbalize my emotions.

• adopt an “I’ll take care of myself/I don’t need anyone” attitude.

• not be able to tell my partner why I’m upset.

• express very few if any needs.

• exclude others from my personal space.

• withhold my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

• figure things out by myself.

• feel safer alone or in situations that are not intense.

Hailstorms (maximizing)

When I get upset I tend to…

• express my feelings with a lot of energy.

• turn to others and talk to them about what I am going through.

• tell my partner all about my upset.

• need others around when I am upset and am very open with my feelings.

• express my needs verbally and try to get my partner to hear and to respond.

• feel responsible for making the relationship work and getting my partner to open up and talk.

• be excessively generous.

• get others’ input about what I should be doing to handle the situation.

Now, complete this sentence: “When I get upset, I tend to become like a (Turtle) (Hailstorm) (depending on which got more plus marks in the above chart) to hide my fear of/that…”

Write what fear you think your habitual response is hiding. (The fear may not be apparent.) For example, you could write: “being unimportant,” “that you don’t love me,” “that you will leave me,” “that you will control me,” “that you will smother me,” “that you will reject me.”

Understand Communication Styles: Maximizer vs Minimizer

People express their energy in two ways, by expanding outward or by constricting inward. When a couple faces conflict, such as in an argument, one is typically a maximizing communicator and the other a minimizing communicator. We can liken the inward constricting behavior as that of a turtle to minimize harm, and the outward reaching behavior in conflict to maximize their voice of concern.

Communication Maximizer = Hailstorm

Communication Minimizer = Turtle

Couples tend to complement each other in relationships, which is why turtles are attracted to hailstorms and hailstorms to turtles. In order for the relationship to be balanced and whole, there is always one who is maximizing energy outward and one who is minimizing inward. (Please note that the purpose of these terms is not to label people or shame them; rather, they are a description of the way our energy is expressed in our relationship.) While women are usually the maximizers/hailstorms and men are the minimizers/turtles, this changes, depending upon the context.

For example, a woman might be a maximizer with her husband but a minimizer with her mother. In addition, although each person has his or her own natural response, we typically function in opposition to our partners. That means that, even if both husband and wife are minimizers, in their relationship to each other, one will play the role of the maximizer.

The woman can also be the minimizer in the relationship, especially when her spouse is maximizing communicator in their relationship. Withdrawn during arguments, a female minimizer may feel paralyzed and unable to share her feelings when her husband emphatically vocalizes his.

Why is it so significant to understand this concept of communication styles with maximizers and minimizers?

As we read later in the story of the turtle and the hailstorm, our expression of energy can be very unsafe for our spouse. When a hailstorm feels threatened, she tends to expand her energy outward, magnifying everything in a crisis. On the other hand, a threatened turtle holds in or tones down his energy, defending himself or retreating into his shell. When we were younger, we learned how to respond to stress or discomfort by reacting in one of these two manners. While this kept us safe as a child, it does not serve us well in a mature, intimate relationship.

The reason why it is no longer helpful is that the very way we get safe is what triggers our partner. The threatened hailstorm, who pushes her energy outward and creates a big drama, forces our turtle to feel unsafe and to retreat deeper into his shell, which then provokes more of a threat and more drama from the hailstorm. The process does not cease, leaving the hailstorm wondering why her husband is so cold and unavailable and the turtle wondering why his wife is so mean and critical.

Once we understand what is happening in this interchange, we can adjust our approach.

“My wife isn’t out to get me; she is actually feeling unsafe, and does not intend to harm me.”

“My husband is not trying to avoid me; he is actually feeling threatened and does not intend to hurt me.”

This consciousness awakens within us compassion and curiosity to find out what is making our spouse unsafe, instead of our previous feelings of threat and fear. We no longer have to dramatize or run away when we experience this behavior; we can break the cycle by engaging in a safe Imago dialogue. The more safety we bring into our relationship, the less need for us to revert to our old patterns.

The following checklist is designed to help you learn more about yourself and how you typically get safe. The purpose is to foster a greater awareness so that you can act and communicate from a more conscious place. Place a plus or a minus by the behavior that applies to you most often.

Minimizing Communication Style (Turtles)

When someone with minimizing communication style gets upset they tend to…

  • feel tight inside and do not verbalize emotions.
  • adopt an “I’ll take care of myself/I don’t need anyone” attitude.
  • not be able to tell their partner why they’re upset.
  • express very few if any needs.
  • exclude others from their personal space.
  • withhold feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.
  • figure things out by themselves.
  • feel safer alone or in situations that are not intense.

Maximizing Communication Style (Hailstorm)

When a person with maximizing communication style gets upset they tend to…

  • express feelings with a lot of energy.
  • turn to others and talk to them about what they are going through.
  • tell their partner all about their upset.
  • need others around when they are upset and are very open with my feelings.
  • express their needs verbally and try to get their partner to hear and to respond.
  • feel responsible for making the relationship work and getting their partner to open up and talk.
  • be excessively generous.
  • get others’ input about what they should be doing to handle the situation.

Now, complete this sentence: “When I get upset, I tend to become like a (Turtle) (Hailstorm) (depending on which got more plus marks in the above chart) to hide my fear of/that…”

Write what fear you think your habitual response is hiding. (The fear may not be apparent.) For example, you could write: “being unimportant,” “that you don’t love me,” “that you will leave me,” “that you will control me,” “that you will smother me,” “that you will reject me.” ( * Turtles and Hailstorm story and chart © by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D.)

Consciousness is a prerequisite to engaging in healthy interpersonal relationships in general and in a healthy marriage, in particular.

May our heightened awareness of our energy and that of our spouse enable us to complement each other by bringing us closer instead of distancing us.

If you’d like to avoid the typical communication problems in marriage and prevent them from taking over your marriage for the worse, talk with us today about our 2 Day Marriage Restoration Retreat. It’s the best way to fix communication problems and worse.

A Turtle & Hailstorm Story to Explain Communication Problems

Once upon a time, a hailstorm and a turtle fell in love. “I can’t live without you!” thought the hailstorm. “I feel so complete with you!” exclaimed the turtle. The turtle didn’t notice the hailstorm’s hail, and the hailstorm didn’t see the turtle’s shell because they were both blissfully happy.

But one day the turtle got angry and withdrew into its shell. This made the hailstorm explode in fury. Another day, the hailstorm first exploded in fury, which pushed the turtle into its shell.

Over time, the hailstorm hailed and the turtle “turtled” on a regular basis. There were fewer days when the two got along and felt connected, and more days when they found themselves isolated in their roles. This angered and disappointed both. And the space between them became empty and silent. Each thought that the other was at fault and that the other should change.*

* * *

Does this story about communication sound familiar? Whether you are entering marriage or have been married for 30 years, this fable usually proves to be eye-opening. It enables couples to view their spouse from an entirely different perspective: that the behavior that drives us so crazy is really their attempt to make themselves safe.

Verbal Abuse

Following these communication tips will “Detox Your Marriage”. Not only does detoxing your marriage help remove the poison from your relationship, it will make your spouse much more amenable to meeting your needs.

Detoxing your marriage will also help to eradicate verbal abuse.

Not sure how to start?

You’ll want to get a copy of our book, The 5 Step Action Plan to a Happy & Healthy Marriage.

1. In Step 4 of our book, we talk about entering the world of the other.

One of the painful realizations that married people discover is that “my spouse is not me.”

In order to make room for the other, it is critical to learn how to acknowledge that your spouse may see the world very differently than you.

2. Get into the habit of asking, “Is now a good time?”

Get into the habit of asking, “Is now a good time?” instead of dumping a verbal assault. If the goal is to connect, make sure your spouse is mentally and emotionally available to connect.

Once you’ve agreed upon a time to speak, try to enter the other’s world by listening and understanding without responding or interjecting. Although in your world things may look entirely different, be curious and interested in what your partner is saying. You may be surprised what you discover.

Couples are so often caught up in their own world that it is hard to make sense of the other’s experience. In successful relationships, both partners are allowed to express their own feelings safely and can work together to bridge the gap between their worlds. The best way to achieve that is in our 2 Day Marriage Restoration Retreat. Talk with us today about scheduling your own private retreat experience!

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