Communication always seems to be the answer people give when they are asked about how to have a great marriage. Do you ever get tired of hearing people say, “Communication is the key,” or “You just have to talk about it”? Do you ever find yourself thinking, “That sounds nice and all, but what does that really mean?”
Healthy communication skills don’t come naturally to most of us. Thankfully, these skills can be learned, practiced, and developed.
Here are 10 tips to promote healthy communication in your marriage.
- Think about what you want to say before you say it (and think about how it will come across).
THIS: “I feel frustrated when you buy things online without talking to me first.”
NOT THAT: “You are addicted to shopping. I hate that you are always buying stuff and spending all of our money! You seriously need to stop.”
2. Don’t give “the silent treatment” (sure, go cool off, but don’t ignore each other).
THIS: “Honey, I just need some time to think about this. I don’t want to get mad, or feel upset towards you. I’m going on a walk to clear my mind before we talk about this.”
NOT THAT: Leaving the room, slamming a door, driving off, or not responding to your spouse at all.
3. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective and acknowledge their feelings. Seek to understand. Help them feel validated.
THIS: “It makes sense to me that you are upset that I was late to your event. You probably feel like I don’t care, or that I didn’t realize how important this was to you.”
NOT THAT: “Back off. Seriously, I have a busy life, too. You can’t expect perfection from me! Why don’t you think about someone other than yourself for once!”
4. Sit next to your spouse while you talk; hold hands, or touch in some way. Don’t talk at each other across the room. Remember that body language can speak louder than words (your spouse willnotice your eye-rolling).
THIS: “Come here (put your arm around your spouse). Let’s talk about this and figure out something that both of us will feel good about.”
NOT THAT: “(Loud voice, arms folded, a room apart). You are a jerk! You never listen to me. You always make me feel bad about myself. I don’t even want to talk to you anymore!”
5. Don’t hold back. Be honest. Share openly and freely (but, politely). Be positive.
THIS: “Hey hunk, can you please try to chew more quietly?”
NOT THAT: “Stop chomping! You sound like a pig! Seriously, who taught you manners? You know that is my biggest pet peeve and you still do it all the time.”
- Be engaged in the conversation and set aside other distractions (aka, your phone). Look at your spouse when they are talking to you.
THIS: “(TV turned off; looking at spouse) Wow. It sounds like she has had a rough few days. How is she handling things?”
NOT THAT: “Who? (while watching TV) That stinks. Wait, what did you say? I’m listening. Hmm….Uh huh….Oh….”
- Listen. Listen. Listen.
THIS: “That is so cute…Yes, I know just what you are talking about…What happened next?….”
NOT THAT: “Sounds interesting… Did you pick up my stuff from the store today? Oh, and did I tell you about Steve’s mom?”
8. No name calling.
THIS: “I would have appreciated it if you would have told me first.”
NOT THAT: “I seriously hate that about you. Should I just start calling you, ‘Mr. Forgetful?’ I honestly can’t believe I married such a space-case!”
9. Decide on times where you and your spouse can counsel about important issues (don’t just spring a tough conversation on your unsuspecting spouse).
THIS: “(Grabbing your spouse by the elbow and leaning in a bit) Hey you, I’ve had something on my mind that we need to talk about. Can we talk tonight for a few minutes, after the kids are in bed?”
NOT THAT: “(While cleaning up dinner and trying to get the kids to bed) We are moving next month.”
10. Don’t raise your voice. Use a quiet, controlled, respectful voice and tone.
THIS: “(With a soft voice) Do you need any help?”
NOT THAT: “(Raising voice a bit) You have no clue how to be a good parent! You are spoiling the kids!”
Hopefully you saw yourself in some of those positive examples. You and your spouse are probably better communicators than you think. So, keep it up!
In order to keep improving your communication skills, pick one of these suggestions to try this week, and see how it begins to nurture healthy communication in your marriage. You’ve got this.