Communication is the key to a great marriage. However, many couples will say things such as “we don’t communicate well.” Communication is a skill that often needs fine tuning and ongoing practice. As your relationship grows, it is important that you continue to address problems in your communication. Improving your communication can make your relationship skyrocket from a mediocre marriage to an excellent one.
1. Set Time Aside to Talk
Many people just don’t make the time to really talk to one another. Calling on your way home from work to say “Can you put dinner in the oven?” doesn’t count. The demands of life can sometimes interfere with taking the time to have a good conversation.
It’s important to make the time to communicate with one another. Unfortunately, many couples unwind at the end of the day by sitting down in front of the television or with other electronics. Turn off the electronics and focus on spending some time with each other. Make this part of your daily habit.
Make sure you have the opportunity to communicate in private. You won’t get much accomplished if every time you sit down to talk you get interrupted by kids, extended family, or even the phone ringing. Set aside a time when you can focus on one another.
2. Talk About Your Feelings
For people who aren’t used to talking about their feelings, it can seem like a foreign concept. It can also feel awkward and uncomfortable. But don’t worry, it gets easier with practice.
So instead of just saying “I had a bad day,” try to incorporate a few things about how you felt about your day. Were you tired? Frustrated by something your boss did? Angry that your co-worker didn’t do his share? Express your reaction to the day with a few feeling words to really explain the extent of your experience.
Discuss any feelings you have toward your spouse and your relationship as well. Practice saying things like, “I was really disappointed when you didn’t call to tell me you were running late.” This can keep feelings from building up until you eventually explode.
Also, make sure to express your positive feelings as well. For example, “I was so happy to see you come home early today.” This can have a positive result on your relationship and allows you an opportunity to show some gratitude.
3. Discuss Business
A marriage relationship involves a certain amount of “business” that must be discussed as well. These are the practical things that keep the household running. For example, it is important to talk about childcare needs, household responsibilities, finances, and coordinating schedules.
Learning how to communicate about the business aspect of the marriage can help prevent the “You never told me that!” accusations. So make sure to include some time to discuss who is going to get the car fixed, how much to spend on the household repair, your weekend plans, and the idea you came up with for next year’s vacation.
Some couples incorporate this into their daily communication. Other couples set aside an hour a week to focus just on the “business” aspect of the relationship. It’s a matter of personal preference based on whatever works best for your family.
4. Reflect What You’ve Heard
Listening is one of the biggest components of communication. This is why it is important to ensure that you have heard your partner correctly and that you understand what was said. Reflecting back what you’ve heard can make a big difference in communication.
Before responding to your spouse, say, “I think you mean…” or “I hear what you are saying is…” When you put what your spouse said in your own words, it can ensure that you truly understand what your spouse said. This can stop a lot of arguments before they even start as many disagreements and hurt feelings are a result of a misunderstanding.
5. Practice Being Direct
Once you have started practicing being able to clearly talk about your feelings and reflect back what you hear your spouse say, it is important to learn how to be direct in your communication. Direct communication means that you say what you really mean without beating around the bush.
Indirect communication is often out of fear. People sometimes don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings or they are afraid of the reaction they may get. It tends to cause a lot of problems.
For example, if your spouse asks you to go visit Great Aunt Sally on Saturday, be direct about how you feel about it. Direct communication means you respond with something like, “I don’t really want to go see Sally. I have had a busy week and I don’t think I have the patience needed to have a good visit.” Whereas indirect communication may mean you respond with something such as, “I’ll have to wait and see. I may have some things I need to get done,” when you really have no intention of going.
Direct communication can still be tactful and doesn’t have to be harsh or rude. It takes ownership for your thoughts and feelings and responsibility for your behaviors. It shows you have trust in your spouse and that the two of you can talk open and honestly with one another.