How to Deal with the Root of Unhappiness in Your Relationship After 60
Poor communication is often the source of unhappiness in a relationship. However, many couples in their 60s and over, who have been together for years, even decades, may not be aware that they even have a communication problem.
This is often due to over-familiarity and losing touch with the true person of your partner. The way to go forward is by discovering why your relationship may not be as good as it could be, and taking some steps in the right direction.
Why do so many long-term relationships and marriages fail? Some of the most common reasons include cheating, deception, and over-involvement with work, the children and grandchildren. But poor communication is often at the heart of all these issues.
Here is some advice to help you tackle your communication problems.
Make Time to Talk
When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it can be easy to take each other for granted. You may think you know your partner well and thus assume you don’t need to put too much effort to say much.
Never fall into the trap of believing you can drop the ball when it comes to communication. Make sure you take time out of your day to talk to your partner.
Whether it’s a simple comment to ask how their day is going, or a long conversation, they’ll appreciate it. If you get a one-word response like, “Fine,” bring up something that is of interest to them or something important that has recently happened.
Your attention will make them feel valued and let them know you’ve been listening.
Eliminate Distractions and Interruptions
Sitting next to each other watching TV isn’t communication. It’s more like being alone while you’re together. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. In fact, being able to do this comfortably is a sign of a good relationship. However, you can’t let such activities take over your communication.
Distractions can be used as a tool to avoid each other, especially when you’re having a conflict. Eliminate any kind of distraction you can. This will give you the freedom to talk to each other without any interruptions.
If you are used to watching TV at a certain time each day, postpone it for 10 minutes or so and just sit with one another.
It’s important that you make sure you don’t interrupt. If you have a habit of butting in and taking over the conversation, take a step back. Always let them finish what they have to say before answering.
Are you really listening to what they’re saying, or are you just thinking about what you’re going to say as soon as they’ve finished? It’s something to keep in mind.
Don’t Bottle Things Up
When something’s bothering you, it can be tempting to keep it inside instead of talking to your partner about it. This might be because you shy away from confrontation to avoid upsetting your partner or creating a fuss.
You may even assume your long-term partner should know you well enough to sense something is wrong and ask you about it. That’s simply being stubborn.
If that is your strategy, you could be waiting forever. All the while, you’ll be getting more annoyed and nothing will get resolved. Remember, it is your responsibility to speak up about what’s troubling you, not theirs to second-guess and fix.
Making a habit of bottling things up can cause serious communication issues for your relationship, and they can end up snowballing into something bigger, or coming back to bite you in another conflict later down the line.
However uncomfortable, it’s best to raise an issue when it first starts to bother you.
State the Obvious
You might think that your partner knows you love and appreciate them, especially if you’ve been together for many years. Still, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tell them from time to time. This is often something that your spouse wants you to do but won’t tell you.
A relationship needs to be nurtured constantly. Tell your partner every now and then how wonderful you think they are, and what you love about them.
Don’t Be Passive Aggressive
Giving your partner the silent treatment when they do something to upset you won’t solve anything. It will only fuel further conflict, causing the gap between you to widen. This is passive aggression and it can be incredibly damaging.
Be direct about your wants and needs in a relationship. Otherwise, how can you expect them to be met?
Simply listening to your partner isn’t enough. You have to respond with empathy.
That means being attentive to their feelings and needs by trying to put yourself in their shoes. Consider how they might be feeling, and you’ll have a better perspective on how to solve your communication issues together as a team.
If you are not sure how to be empathic, you could try and express in words to them how the same situation might make you feel and ask them if this is the same for them. This shows you are trying to relate to what they are going through and also helps make a conversation flow.
Know When to Soften Your Words
Good communication means being honest and truthful with one another. However, there are times when you need to take care in the way you speak so as not to hurt your partner’s feelings. You can often soften blows in general conversation by changing “you” to “I.”
If you’re always saying things like, “You hurt my feelings,” or “You shouldn’t have done that,” you’re constantly directing blame and responsibility towards your partner.
This is an easy way to make them feel resentful or defensive, and it could shut communication down altogether. Instead, try to use phrases such as “I feel that…” more often. You’re likely to get a better response and have a more open conversation.
Be Happier Together and Rekindle the Romance
If you follow the above rules, you’re bound to have fewer communication problems in your relationship, and you are on the way to experiencing an enjoyable companionship within your relationship.
And if you are looking for further advice on how to rekindle that old flame, you can read more here.
What things do you do to create strong positive communication in your relationships? What things do you do to rekindle the romance in your love life? Please share what strategies worked in your relationship. Let’s have a chat!
Dr. Carissa Coulston is a clinical psychologist who specialises in the research and treatment of adult mental health problems including depression, mood swings, anxiety, worry, trauma, etc. She conducts therapy with individuals as well as couples to promote better mental health, relationships and quality of life.