Every day several messages flow into my inbox from people who want me to write about their product, help them promote their product, buy their product, tell other people about their product and more. I have about 250 different inbox rules set up to flag such messages and move then directly into my trash bin.
Some of the spam still manages to get through, though. A particularly egregious email came this morning. It got me thinking about how marital communication is a lot like marketing. Do it right and you end up having a deep conversation, getting what you both want, and feeling good about it all. Do it wrong and one of you ends up in the other’s emotional spam filter.
Here are 7 ways to communicate yourself into a spam filter.
You don’t reference one another by name. I’ve set my email rules to delete all messages that start with any of the following: Dear email owner, dear blogger, dear writer, and dear beloved. I figure if someone isn’t going to take the time to figure out what my name is, I’m not going to take the time to read that person’s email.
Now think about how you communicate with your spouse. Have you ever just stomped up to your spouse and stood and stared? Then you launched into a verbal spam assault? It’s not very effective, is it? Everyone likes a greeting and everyone likes to be acknowledged, including your spouse.
You make it all about you. You’ve gotten this type of spam, I’m sure. It’s usually from a shameless networker who has never met you before, but who nevertheless wants you to do him or her a huge favor. The networker tells you all about himself, how great he is, and how great his project is and what that project is going to do for him. These kinds of emails leave me feeling tired.
Here’s how this plays out in a marriage. She really wants the carpets to be steam cleaned and she wants him to do it. He couldn’t care less about the carpets. In fact, he doesn’t even realize that there are carpets or that the carpets are dirty. She says, “I really need you to steam clean the carpets. I can’t stand being in a house with a dirty carpet.” He puts it off. There’s nothing in it for him. On the other hand, had she put it like this, I’m pretty sure she’d get a clean carpet, “When the carpets are really clean, all I want to do is have sex on top of them. How about you?”
You don’t take the time to get to know your audience. I get emails all the time from people who want me to write about or link to their dating websites. I know these people have never visited or read my blog because, well, duh. A little market research would go a long way, you know?
This happens in a marriage when you don’t try to understand your spouse’s motives. For instance, let’s say he wants to watch football on Monday nights. Every Monday night, it’s the same. She’s on his case about how much TV he watches and how lazy he is and he’s on her case for being such a nag. Neither spouse is taking a moment to understand the other. He doesn’t understand, for instance, that she’s overwhelmed and really could use his participation in the household management. She doesn’t understand that he’s not lazy, but rather just doing something that he loves. If they did take a moment to truly listen and get one another’s perspective, they could probably compromise, with him getting most of the household stuff done on Sunday and her agreeing to let him watch football in silence.
You set an artificial timeline. I mostly get these from authors who are attempting to pull off an Amazon bestseller campaign. They tell me about their book and they ask me to write about it on a specific day and sometimes even at a specific time. I always say the same. It’s this, “No.” That’s because, like most bloggers, I write posts in my spare time. My spare time isn’t predicable. Sometimes I have more of it than others. If I’m going to do someone a favor and read and review their book, I’m going to do it on my timeline, not theirs.
In marriage, we do this all the time with threats like, “I want the trash out of this kitchen right now” and “I know you are going to cut the grass this weekend if you know what’s good for you.” What we don’t realize is that our spouses might be perfectly willing to do these tasks but on a different timeline.
You sign your spouse up without asking. Frequently people subscribe me to their email newsletters. I can only assume that they think their content is so compelling that I’m actually going to read the newsletter and feel touched that they signed me up for it without my knowledge or blessing.
In marriage this happens when you buy two tickets to anything without getting your spouse’s permission. Just because you love something doesn’t mean your spouse will love it, too.
You refuse to accept defeat. I can’t tell you how many times a certain sender has tried to get me to buy Windows 7 software. Dude, I’m on a Mac! Get over it! Similarly, another sender continually bombards me with ads for a drug that is designed to perk up a body part that I do not possess. It’s annoying because these people never give up.
In marriage, this happens when you ask for something over and over again even though your spouse has already said, “No.”
You don’t nurture the relationship. I do answer emails from marketers who I have established relationships with. These are people who know me by name, who have read this blog, and who interact with me even when they are not trying to get me to do something for them.
Think of your relationship as a bank account. Make more deposits than withdrawals. Do more favors than you ask for. Listen as much as you talk. Seek to understand just as much as you ask to be understood. Compromise just as often as you stand your ground. Give permission and ask for it, too. Never assume. Or, as they say in marketing, “Give, give, get.”
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.