Mixed Messages in a Marriage Crisis – Hurt and Confusion

Misunderstandings are common in marriage. One partner misinterprets the message that was intended. Typically these messages can easily be clarified by reflecting your confusion. Miscommunication is even more likely during a marital crisis. Mixed messages are a common source of miscommunication and can be more difficult to clarify.

Mixed messages result from your mate giving messages that conflict. For instance, your spouse expresses concern for your well-being then says something hurtful. You are drawn to the warmth and then are stung by the coldness in your mate’s voice. Like a purring cat that suddenly bites your hand, you become distrustful of your partner’s messages.

Mixed messages often occur because what is said does not match with how it is said. For instance, your partner has a sad facial expression but denies anything is wrong. Another example is a wife who has spent much less time at home, but says, “I’m not avoiding you.” You receive a message through your partner’s expression that conflicts with what you are told.

The question, “Do you love me?” is answered (in a flat-toned voice), “You know I love you.” The words are words of love; but are they? The voice has no expression of love. Your spouse may proclaim love but there is no affection accompanying the words. You are kissed only when you ask for a kiss. The kiss communicates love, but the stiffness in your partner’s body communicates distance.

You try to clarify the message to determine which message is correct. This yields little clarification and more mixed messages. When you confront the inconsistencies in your mate’s messages, you are told that you are wrong or you are avoided.

The most hurtful mixed messages are those that define the relationship. These are painful because you need to understand the status of the relationship. The most common mixed message a distancing spouse gives is “I love you but I’m not in love with you.” Since “love” and “not in love” are opposing feelings, the message is unclear. You are left thinking, “What does this mean?” “I love you” sounds positive but “I’m not in love with you” sounds negative. It is apparent that there is something missing but what is it? Is there any hope embedded in the message? You feel confused and want more information, information that is not available.

Mixed messages can serve to indirectly express rejection, as though a mixed message will be less hurtful. That is one reason that clarification is unsuccessful. To clarify the position would force your partner to accept responsibility for distancing from you. However the most common reason for mixed messages is that your spouse wants distance but has not made a decision regarding whether or not to remain committed to the marriage. The mixed messages reflect the mixed feelings that lie within.

Mixed messages from your spouse are not difficult to interpret because you have failed to clarify the message. The mixed messages are difficult to understand because your spouse is in a state of inner turmoil. Naturally you are biased and want to believe any positive message that contains hope that the relationship may survive this crisis. You also want to ignore the rejection, hoping it is temporary. If you listen to the message, you will learn more about the inner turmoil of your spouse than about the relationship. You cannot get an accurate picture of your spouse’s view of the relationship until your spouse gains internal clarity.

  • Stop spending needless time clarifying your partner’s message(s).
  • Reflect acceptance that your partner is unclear about his or her feelings, thus offers unclear messages.
  • Detach from over analyzing everything your partner says, you will know where you stand when your partner has made that decision for him or herself.
  • Put your energy into self-care. Socialize with those who care about you. Nourish your body, mind, and spirit.