Any relationship is bound to have a few challenges here and there. This is to be expected when two imperfect people get together; it isn’t smooth sailing all the time. However, it’s possible to deal with these challenges in a healthy way that leaves both parties feeling respected, cherished, and whole.The key to navigating tough times is having good communication. Good communication creates and maintains a connection, and it can form a bridge that takes you from discord toward harmony, or from confusion to clarity, as Nat Turner once said.
In conversation with someone, there are words and physical expressions that people use to communicate their thoughts and feelings, but there are also the things that are not said or expressed. If you are a good communicator, you can hear not only what is being said, but you’re also alert to what is left unsaid, and often that is where conflict flows from.
Good communication in marriage is vital. It’s the lifeblood of any good relationship. So, if your communication in the marriage is poor, it makes sense that your marriage will suffer for it.
Common Mistakes to Avoid to Maintain Good Communication in Marriage
Below are a few common mistakes you can avoid to ensure that you maintain good communication in your marriage.
1. Letting life run you
The first mistake you can make that hinders good communication is letting life run you. Americans are some of the most overworked people in the developed world, according to a recent study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Given that in many households, both spouses are working, the work and family life balance takes a huge hit.
Work, long commute times, spending time as a family, leisure time taken alone, or with friends, often leaves little time to spend with your spouse and talk. Often, when spouses do talk, it’s mostly functional and focused on their joint schedule to ensure tasks are completed for life and at home.
While many couples might talk about picking up groceries or taking the kids to their little league games, they don’t talk about how they’re doing and how life is going. In this way, couples easily miss one another.If you don’t deliberately create space to talk with your spouse, life will run you and you won’t know how to talk to each other properly because you don’t have an idea what’s going on with the other person. You can make room every day or carve out a chunk of time once a week to have a proper conversation that delves deeper into how you’re both doing.
2. Coming in hot
In any conversation, how you’re feeling has a huge impact on what you say and how you say it. Emotions can be either good or bad, so you must be careful how you express your emotions and how they color your conversation. You are responsible for your emotions, as well as for your actions.
If you enter a conversation while being led by anger, for example, you can say things you will regret. When your mind is clouded by anger it is difficult to listen to what your spouse is saying. Another example is when you come into a conversation already feeling disengaged or disinterested in what your spouse has to say, you are primed to not pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues.
Being disengaged will blind you to when your spouse is feeling hurt or sad, opening the door to inappropriate responses or insensitivity to their needs and concerns.
Lastly, you can “come in hot” into a conversation by having your conclusions and your mind already made up. This will guarantee that you won’t listen well. If your mind is already made up about something, it takes a huge amount of effort to disabuse yourself of what you believe. If your spouse is trying to persuade you of something or to help you see their perspective on an issue, it will be harder for them to be heard.
3. Holding on to hurt
Marriage is a complex relationship in which there is a lot to forgive and to be forgiven for. Two individuals in a relationship will likely offend each other in various ways, whether it’s through thoughtlessness, selfishness, and so on. One of the keys to maintaining a healthy relationship is to forgive one another.Forgiveness is necessary to prevent resentment from setting in, and it will help a couple reset after going through a turbulent time. When someone hurts you and you hold onto that hurt, it frames your relationship and conversations in a certain light.
Have you ever been in a room with someone who has offended you, and you hear them speaking? Not only does it trigger an emotional response, but it affects how you perceive their words even if they aren’t speaking to you. Resentment can easily poison your relationship, and even overtures of kindness can be read in an unflattering light because of it.
Instead of holding onto any hurt you’ve suffered at the hands of your spouse, let it go and forgive them; it will allow you to hear them more clearly. Letting go of hurt and forgiving someone isn’t a way of letting them off the hook or pretending that what they’ve done wasn’t mean and unloving.
Rather, forgiving a person is about letting go of the negative feelings you hold toward them, releasing the poison that threatens to infect your own heart. If you hold onto past hurts, it’s a mistake that can hinder good communication profoundly.
4. Not practicing emotional intelligence and not listening well
Communication is about more than speaking clearly and making your words carry your meaning effectively. It’s also about being able to listen well and recognize what’s going on during the back-and-forth of a conversation.
Most of us aren’t good listeners – we prefer to be heard rather than to give others a hearing. The words from Romans 12:10 which say, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” strike most of us as foreign because we think of life as one giant competition in which we want to get ahead and win.
This mindset can permeate even our most intimate relationships, and when we experience conflict with our spouse, we want to win the conflict at all costs, even if the relationship suffers. We may be willing to use tactics that undermine our spouse just so that we win the argument and get our way.
Instead, we should seek to live in such a way that we delight in seeing others being blessed. And so, we take the words of wisdom from James 1:19-20 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Sometimes, we speak and listen without empathy. We are very aware of how we are feeling, or of how we feel when someone says hurtful, thoughtless, or dismissive things, but are not always mindful of how our own behaviors and comments influence others. By exercising empathy, we treat the welfare and wellbeing of the other person as important, helping us to listen well and express ourselves better.
One way to honor your spouse above yourself is to listen when they are speaking. Practicing effective and empathetic listening might mean putting down your phone or switching off the TV when you’re talking. Put the other person first by setting aside any distractions that might prevent you from gleaning all you can. Additionally, reminding ourselves that what we want to say in the moment can wait, which will increase our focus on what our spouse is expressing.
That way, not only do you hear what your spouse is saying, but your spouse also knows that you heard them. Failure to exercise empathy and practice effective listening skills is a problem that will affect communication in your marriage.
Good communication in a marriage is necessary. That is how a couple shares their needs, dreams, fears, joys, etc. It’s part of the glue that holds this intimate union together, and when a couple learns to use their words wisely, to build one another up instead of tearing each other down, they thrive not only as a couple but as individuals. By avoiding the mistakes outlined above, a couple can help their marriage to be a blessing to one another and the people around them.
“Date Night,” courtesy of Christin Hume, unsplash.com, CC0 License “Sunset”, Courtesy of Harli Marten, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sun and Clouds”, Courtesy of Tom Barrett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pieces of the Puzzle”, Courtesy of Vardan Papikyan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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