How To Communicate In A Marriage: How To Communicate With Your Spouse

It seems that everywhere we turn we hear that all our marriage problems could be solved if we'd just "communicate." And that the "key" to every issue that could ever come up in marriage cowers at the very feet of communication.

One wonders how marriage counselors stay in business and how marriage help books continue to fill the shelves since the communication "secret" has apparently been let out of the bag.

The answer, based on our research and the research of others, is that "communication" is much too vague of a concept to be helpful unless properly understood and applied. And that when it's used without proper understanding it is often as productive as a shotgun in the hands of a toddler. A lot might be happening, but it's dangerous and little is being helped. You might also notice that it's awfully noisy.

I do happen to agree that communication is very important. But what you communicate, how you communicate and when you communicate is where the focus should be placed. Sometimes it's actually far better NOT to communicate. Silence, at certain times, can be golden in a relationship. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Examine with me some questions and answers that can help you successfully communicate in a way that will move your relationship forward and even make it stronger.

Who Is This Person?

If it's your spouse, you owe this person a lot more than just a few thrown together sentences. This person has vowed to stand by you through sickness and in health, for better or worse until death do you part. He/she has likely already weathered stomach flu, dirty diapers, taxes, bills, wrinkles and morning breath with you. Don't you think they deserve your best effort at communication without sloppy, unprepared rants?

Many of us are usually polite to strangers. In fact, we often let salespeople come into our homes or talk to us on the phone because we don't want to be rude or hurt their feelings. The person walking with us through life deserves that kind of courtesy and a lot more. So before we attempt any kind of communication we should remind ourselves of this person's place and value in our life.

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What You Communicate

So you want to communicate? Well what is communication in the first place? Would you agree that communication could be defined as simply sending a message to someone? If so, then we must first know what message we're trying to send. Thinking out loud, though understandable at times, should be prefaced and used only with extreme caution. You don't want to realize that what you're saying is selfish, insensitive, harsh, unreasonable or even incorrect after you've said them out loud to your spouse. Words are hard to take back and often leave hurt and doubt in the heart of your spouse even if you do.

So with sensitive topics, it would be wise of you to say your words out loud to yourself first instead of "trying them out" on your spouse. You might have some editing to do on some of the words that come out wrong.

By asking you to do some editing, it might sound like I'm asking you to do work or even like I'm suggesting you be careful with your words. You're right! You might even be thinking that when two people are emotionally intimate that such care need not be taken with words and that you should each be free to simply speak your mind. That idea might sound romantic and even poetic, but be in a relationship long enough and you'll likely find that much hurt and damage could be avoided if we actually did some preparation before we attempted to communicate.

Be kind and do your best to put yourself in the position of the listener. Give some thought to your words before you say them so that you aren't unintentionally harsh or unclear. This secret alone can be a relationship saver.

When You Communicate

When you're angry might be the time that you go to another room and listen to your words out loud before you say them to your spouse. And then it's likely best to wait until you calm down.

When we're angry, judgment and logic can be more difficult to exercise than when we're calm. If you're honest with yourself, you'd agree that you're much more reasonable and rational when you haven't lost control of your temper.

Many times I've suggested that couples call a "time out" during a discussion when one or both are losing their temper. Little if anything can be accomplished when the conversation deteriorates to a yelling match. In fact, those experiences can cause long term damage to relationships and, like a growing snowball, can cause larger problems in the future. It's best to call a time out and choose to spend some time doing other things individually or, if you feel you're able, together.

The key is to put yourself in the best position to reach a conclusion that is positive and helpful to each of you and to your relationship as a whole.

It's up to you to decide if the discussion has digressed to an argument. If that's the case, try to stop so you can collect yourself and resume a productive discussion. If you aren't in a correct emotional state of mind, it's not time to attempt communication.

It's also wise to avoid an intense discussion right after one or both of you arrive home from work, while driving or when it's date night. Plan the discussion so that you have privacy, focus and comfort. No one else deserves to listen in unless you're working with a qualified professional and have already planned for them to be present.

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Where You Communicate

Do you want to have a conversation with your spouse about a difficult topic or changes you want in your relationship? It's best not to attempt it in crowded restaurants, in front of the children, in stores, at your parents' house, your children's house or most public places. As you plan WHEN to communicate, you must consider the place (WHERE) that will allow you the most privacy, focus and comfort possible.

Why You Communicate

Are you having a bad day and looking for someone to hear you vent? That's perfectly acceptable, but admit that to yourself and your spouse first so that each of you know that your frustrations don't revolve around them. Maybe you had a bad day. Fine, but don't blame your spouse for your bad day or cause them to feel that's what you're doing. In fact, you might ask their permission first. Maybe you ask something like, "Could I vent to you?" or "I had a bad day, mind if I tell you about it?" Or maybe you just want to enjoy the silence. The bottom line is that they need to know that your frustration isn't about them at the moment.

Are you being selfish, picky, touchy or overly critical? Ask yourself why you want to communicate before you say anything else or even before you open your mouth in the first place. Know your motivation first and then you'll have a much better chance of effectively communicating.

How You Communicate

You likely know that communication is not just verbal. It can be with a touch of the hand, a hug, an expression or even through your posture.

So when you communicate, especially if the topic is difficult or there's risk it could come across in "the wrong way," be sure your nonverbal communication shows love, respect and simple manners.

Look at the other person so they know you're attentive to him/her and that he/she matters to you. If you're asking for change in the behavior of the other person, and sometimes that's necessary, you might touch his/her arm as you speak, so that you communicate your care and commitment in spite of what could sound like a complaint.

When you are responding to an idea offered by your spouse, don't be dismissive. If you're both trying to find a solution to a problem, neither of you deserve criticism or dismissal. Instead, be as supportive as you can and treat them like the teammate they are in your relationship. If you disagree with an idea from your spouse, you need to determine if the conversation and timing is right for disagreement. If it's not, you simply need to acknowledge their idea as a possibility or a contribution to the discussion and attempt to move on.

Be clear. Your spouse is not a mind reader. Don't make him/her guess and don't chastise if he/she doesn't immediately understand what you're saying or how you feel. Be patient and precise.

Whatever you do in word or with your body, remember the old and wise saying, "You get more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Conclusion

We haven't even scratched the surface of effective communication within marriage. There are many other factors such as personality traits, temperaments, stages of life, current struggles, current successes and other topics that contribute to how we communicate with each other and what we should do to maximize that communication.

But take to heart what has been mentioned in this article and you'll be in good shape. Next time you hear someone tell you that you need to communicate better to solve a problem within your marriage, start by asking yourself who, what, when, where, why and how.

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Somehow over time every relationship either dies quickly at this juncture or will survive and transform in to a different type of relationship. Struggles are inevitable during this time as each partner begins to uncover and perhaps rediscover possible foibles becoming more of a persistent concern.

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This is a pivotal point in relationships. For a relationship to survive each partner must make a conscious decision that the relationship and the chosen partner is worth pursuing for the future. If a couple hasn't been conditioned on how best to move through these times then too often the wrong things will be said or done. It may require some assistance to really answer the question how to help save my marriage.

Once this decision is made it must be done so with mutual admiration and acceptance. To enter a relationship with anything less is a disaster waiting to erupt. There can be no hope for changing a partner or clinging to the possibility of the partner changing for the relationship.

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If already had a lot of fights and conflicts with each other before your marriage, just imagine the conflicts married life could bring! Disagreeing is inevitable, especially when you get married. This is something that you should understand. Obviously, there is no such thing as "the perfect couple".

If you're newly married and living a fairytale life right now, don't be afraid of having some conflicts along the way. Also, if you have just had your very first argument as a married couple, do not lose hope. Do not let this incident make you pessimistic about your relationship in general.

Keep in mind that it's just the beginning of your new life and that both of you have to be strong to keep it running. Your fairytale life can still continue. This is not the end just yet!

What you must realize is that it doesn't really matter what kind of conflict you're having or what the reason is, what really matters is how both of you work it out to solve the problem.

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Dealing with conflict can be complex, especially if you're under the influence of anger. Letting yourselves become enraged with emotions just worsens the circumstances, especially if it happens on both sides. Thus, be sure that both of you are always in control of your emotions.

Try your best to master your emotions, especially when in public places. It's not nice if you pick a fight with your spouse where there are other people. It can be very embarrassing for both of you.

You both should learn how to communicate effectively to state your side of the argument. Do not talk at the same time. As we discussed in our chapter about communication, hear each other's side.

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It might even have gone as far that you are not even talking to each other. Both of you may feel lonely and secretly wish everything could go back to how it was before, but neither of you wants to break the silence and end the "cold war". You are both waiting for the other to make the first move to melt the icy atmosphere.

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The magic of a simple apology

A simple but sincere apology can do wonders if presented at the right moment. You don't have to admit something that isn´t true, but you can admit a mistake that you know you have made. Your partner may open up and admit mistakes she or he have made.

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Just listen

Listen and try to acknowledge and see your partner's point of view. By showing that you are at least listening, you can decrease tension and conflict. Try to put yourself in their position and you might understand why your partner is hurt or angry.

Accept responsibility

Accept the fact that you are partly responsible for the conflict. It´s almost never just one persons fault in a troubled marriage. You have probably both contributed with negative remarks and criticisms that have resulted in your current marriage problems. This fact is important to realize if you want to stop a divorce from coming true.

Find positive things

Try to focus on all the positive things that have happened in your marriage and use them as a way to move forward in your relationship. Try not to reference any negative experiences as they will only steer you into the wrong track.

Saying or doing the wrong thing can actually cause your spouse to feel even more distant from you. You can make your spouse fall back in love with you, all over again.

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