If you’ve been in a relationship or married for any length of time, chances are you’ve hit a bump or two and experienced what you might consider to be marriage problems. I would also put money on the fact that you’ve probably had an issue or two specifically related to communication in marriage. Guess what: You’re not alone. Communication in marriage can be hard. This doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed, it simply means you’re human. Communication is one of the most fundamental and critical components to any relationship and it’s so easy to get it wrong. Miscommunication in marriage is quite common and is something that can be improved on.
Communication seems like such a simple concept and is one we often take for granted because many of us communicate constantly. We assume we’re doing it well because it’s a normal part of our day-to-day (think email, texting, phone calls, face-to-face interactions). It’s not very often that most of us check in to consider how we’re communicating until it becomes an obvious issue.
Without realizing it, we may not be communicating as effectively as we could, especially in the relationships that are most important to us. Marriage problems can often stem from breakdowns in communication. Something so simple can easily become complex.
Communication is a two-way street. Communication is not only sending a message, but having the other person receive that message as you intended. This is where things get tricky. Consider this example: You told your husband that dinner needed to be ready at 7. You thought this communicated that he needed to have dinner ready at 7. He heard that he needed to be ready to eat at 7 and is expecting that you cooked. What happened? Miscommunication. Anything like this ever happen to you? Probably.
And probably what happened next is that you’re both upset with each other because you think you’re right and the other person is wrong. In reality, there were missed opportunities for effective communication on both sides of the conversation. And, since communication isn’t always face-to-face and may not be verbal (for example we often text), there is ample opportunity for miscommunication. Remember: communication goes both ways and for communication in marriage (or in any relationship) to happen smoothly, both parties are responsible. So how can you solve it?
WHY COMMUNICATE ?
Saves You Money
There’s no doubt about it, poor communications can be costly. Flowers, candy, gifts large and small are regularly offered by a spouse who said the “wrong thing’ or failed to say the “right thing.” When you look at costly mistakes in a marriage the majority of them are a result of poor communications. LOL ! But true.
“Yeah” “Sure” “Whatever” may seem like an efficient way of dealing with your husband or wife when they want to talk but it’s not. Sooner or later an unresolved issue must be discussed. So taking the time the first time your spouse wants to talk with you will ultimately prove to be a time saver. You won’t have to go back to the beginning and start again, because you communicated clearly and honestly the first time around.
Earns Points For The Future
Every time you and your spouse have a satisfying conversation you build credit toward future communication. Both of you know and expect that you will be able to share because you have a record of success.
It’s Good For Your Health
Good communications in marriage reduces stress for two reasons. First, it allows you to resolve the tension between you, and second, it allows you to “vent’ some of your anxieties from other areas of your life. Many couples report that their partner is the first person they could fully trust. “I can tell him anything”, one wife said recently. “I know he will listen and understand how I feel.”
Builds Up Your Relationship
Couples who don’t communicate are in danger of losing love and affection for one another. All relationships are nourished by communications. If you don’t communicate with parents, siblings, co-workers, children, or your partner, you lose touch with them and your relationship withers.
You Learn More About Yourself
Have you ever tried to explain your thoughts or feelings to someone else and during the conversation you end up in a different place from where you began? Putting your thoughts into words forces you to clarify them. Talking and listening also allows you to fine tune your ideas.
Be honest. Avoiding communications is as much work as communicating. So why not just talk, or do you like being pursued? Does being silent give you more control over the situation? While it may seem that way, ultimately you’ll have a spouse who will trust you less. Giving your partner the gift of your time to talk things through will make your life simpler in the long run.
You Might Learn Something New and it’s fun
The person you are married to is not the person you first met. Neither are you the same. Every day brings new experiences, thoughts, dreams, plans. It’s a guarantee that if you work at communicating you will discover new things about each other.
These new discoveries stretch out in two directions from where you are now. You will discover experiences from your spouse’s childhood that you never knew. You don’t know them because the person you love has them hidden away in their memory. They don’t remember until some new experience triggers a recollection..
HOW TO COMMUNICATE ?
There is a massive physiological difference between girls and boys. It’s not just different outside. If you want to have an outstanding marriage, you have to be an outstanding communicator with each other. So here are the top ways to improve marriage communication:
Model respectful listening: Top of the list – take responsibility. Don’t wait for your spouse to make the first move – step up and listen already. Good listeners tend to get listened to in return.
Choose to be genuinely interested in what your spouse has to say: Yes, it’s a choice. You say you love her? Then don’t tune her out when the conversation is not about sports. Make the effort to attend that event together – you might have something to talk about. Read that Jane Austen book she loves so much; watch her favorite program together; walk hand in hand around the art show; show some interest in her friends. Make the choice to be interested.
Schedule regular, media-free family mealtimes: This applies to both marital communication and the family dynamic. Meals can be communication opportunities par-excellence! They’re informal family meetings, clearing houses for information, and workshops where parents both teach manners and model as examples. Plus mealtimes are an awesome ongoing opportunity – with or without children – to keep communication flowing.
Make eye contact when you are talking: Also make good use of use touch, responsive and reflective feedback, and body language (smiles, gestures, head tilts, raised eyebrows, nods, etc.) to demonstrate that communication is actually occurring.
Do not answer your phone, text, or multi-task on any level while interacting with your spouse: Doing any of the above sends a clear message of priorities.
Avoid surface level or single word responses: When talking with your spouse, it’s too easy to brush off real communication, squash first-order interaction, and signal your spouse you are not really interested.
Designate a central location for all important notices, dates, reminders, messages etc.: Maybe a large calendar on the refrigerator – or a bulletin board in the kitchen – or a white-board by the front door.
Include your spouse as a Friend in all your social media lists: No one should get more of your time than your spouse. Include one another as primary contacts, keep one another “in the loop”, send one another messages every day, and act as if you are each other’s best friend. Chances are, you will be.
TIPS TO COMMUNICATE BETTER
Be intentional about spending time together talking. The average couple spends only 20 minutes a week talking with each other. Turn off the technology and make it a point to spend 20-30 minutes a day catching up with each other.
Use more “I” statements and less “You” statements. This decreases the chances of your spouse feeling like they need to defend themselves. For example, “I wish you would acknowledge more often how much work I do at home to take care of you and the children.”
Be specific. When issues arise, be specific. Broad generalizations like, “You do it all the time!” are not helpful.
Avoid mind reading. It is very frustrating when someone else acts like they know better than you what you were really thinking.
Express negative feelings constructively. There will be times when you feel bitterness, resentment, disappointment or disapproval. These feelings need to be communicated in order for change to occur. BUT – How you express these thoughts is critical. “I am really disappointed that you are working late again tonight,” is very different from, “You clearly do not care one whit about me or the kids. If you did, you would not work late every night.”
Listen without being defensive. For a marriage to succeed, both spouses must be able to hear each other’s complaints without getting defensive. This is much harder than learning how to express negative feelings effectively.
Freely express positive feelings. Most people are quicker to express negative feelings than positive ones. It is vital to the health of your marriage that you affirm your spouse. Positive feelings such as appreciation, affection, respect, admiration, approval, and warmth expressed to your spouse are like making deposits into your love account.
When you both own up to your own part of the miscommunication, you not only see where you can make changes moving forward, but you’re not longer fighting with each other. You’re looking at your own behavior. Yes, this is hard, but it helps avoid a larger blowup from miscommunication.
Don’t worry- when it comes to miscommunication, we’ve all been there and probably will be again. Communication in marriage is hard, and miscommunication is an easy trap to fall into. However, we can be avoid miscommunication more often than not when we remember that communication is a two-way street, work to be clear, and take responsibility for our role. The sender of the message improves the likelihood of effective communication when the message is clear and direct, but then improves it further by checking for understanding. The receiver or listener does her part with improving communication when she confirms what she heard. By doing your part on either side of the conversation, you limit the chance of miscommunication happening.
Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people. The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it. The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
Happy Communicating !