Relationship advice: Several tips and strategies for improving communication for a healthy marriage
Improving communication in your marriage
Things get difficult. Life throws married couples personal and joint challenges. In the beginning when everything is new and exciting, even the most difficult of situations is approached with much love, concern and care for the other person. Willing to overlook faults and to let things slide, this slippery slope leads to harboring true feelings deep inside. Therefore, we throw the little irritations and the big issues into our respective gunnysacks.
These are sacks carried around for all of the little things that do not seem worth making a big deal about, and for all of the big things that we just cannot face. For most people, it is a large sack, and it takes quite a long time to fill it up. However, eventually, something falls into the sack that tips it over. The contents spill on the floor in a dizzying array of raised voices and angry looks until the owner of the sack wishes that he could shove it all back inside, as if it never happened.
Nevertheless, it did.
There is no taking things back once said. Fortunately, even the most difficult situations can be approached calmly and with more than a little tact. All it takes is some awareness of the people involved and a commitment to being honest with each other.
Honesty. It cannot be stressed enough. In today’s world, the little lies are okay. They’re called fibs and truly, they don’t hurt anyone. But, is a lie always a lie? Yes. If it is not the truth, it’s a lie, there’s no sugarcoating that fact. Ask yourself why you feel the need to lie or sidestep a question. In addition, yes, omissions are lies. Conscious omissions to hide the truth are often signs that a person is not comfortable with himself or the secret actions he is taking. These have no place in a marriage. Wanting to spare someone’s feelings is admirable, but realizing that in the end when they find out the truth it will hurt much worse, will serve both parties better.
Tact. Having opinions is one thing, knowing how to present them is quite another. It’s not necessary to humiliate or condescend to your mate to get a point across. To the contrary, it’s likely to shut communication down before it has even started. Not only will your opinions not be heard, but also you will both walk away from the conversation with nothing resolved, feeling worse than before.
Use “I” messages. When a confrontational topic arises, it is so easy to fall into the habit of saying “You do this…!” It is natural to want to point out what is bothering you, and it’s obviously stemming from your partner and not you, but this is not the most conducive way to communicate. It sets a defense mechanism in motion that either promises a response in kind towards you, or will stop the communication altogether. Practice starting your conversations using “I” or “me”, such as “I feel angry when you do this.” In this case, you are speaking about your feelings and it will give your partner pause to listen instead of jumping immediately to the defensive.
Focus on the behavior, not the person. This is a common practice when parenting children, but it works well in any situation, especially within the confines of a marriage. You likely don’t hate the person you’re married to, but chances are you hate the behavior your spouse is exhibiting. Make that clear and you’re more likely to get to the heart of a problem with some effective communication.
Take a moment, or two, when necessary. Sometimes it’s not best to talk until both parties have had a chance to digest how they feel and what they wish to say. Arguments full of passion in the heat of the moment often have spouses trying to snatch words out of the air that they can never take back. Inform your spouse if you need some space, and respect those needs for each other.
Do not call names. This sounds like such a simple rule. It is. But, oh, how quickly even adults forget. Name-calling and explosive words will not enhance communication, but only break it down further. Exercise maturity, and after giving each other a bit of space to think, revisit the issue.
Talk. Never stop talking, about the workday, the family, all of the things you wish you could do and look forward to doing. Spouses that spend time talking about themselves and listening to each other are likely to understand each other better. Communication is not something that takes care of itself. It takes effort.
Relationships take active participants to keep them alive and healthy. Yes, life is hard, sometimes it is tremendously stressful. Instead of spouses seeing each other as the irritating enemy, they have a chance to unite forces against a world that may seem like it is falling apart. Creating solutions together through honest communication will ensure the longevity of a healthy and happy marriage.