Dr. Vance Whippo
To be able to communicate well is a great asset in any relationship, but particularly in marriage because of the intimacy of the relationship. But however good an aspiration effective communication is, it is also demanding work and often does not come naturally to us. There are many reasons why a couple may be struggling with communication in marriage.We may have grown used to each other and become lazy in our relationship. We may believe our partner ought to know what we are thinking or feeling without telling them. We might think we can’t explain ourselves well enough.
We might not want to worry them about something that seems small or insignificant or think that they are not interested. We can be afraid they might get upset or think badly of us in some way, or we might fear their disappointment or anger if we need to confess wrongdoing.
Despite these hindrances, effective communication is crucial for stable, intimate, and happy marriages. If we cannot speak openly with each other, we will struggle to make decisions or deal with conflict. A lack of effective communication will also slowly erode the affection and trust within a marriage.
We will miss opportunities to love and encourage our partners and be loved and encouraged in turn. This will make it even harder over time for couples to interact well. The good news is that we can become better communicators. Below we will explore some ways in which we can improve how we communicate.
Effective communication in marriage is, of course, only one aspect of a healthy relationship. But if your marriage is struggling, learning to communicate effectively can be a step towards healing and renewal.
Fundamentals of effective communication in marriage
The two fundamentals required for effective communication in marriage are a willingness to speak lovingly and honestly to our spouse, and a willingness to listen graciously and carefully to what is being said. This is much easier said than done! But the rewards of pursuing effective communication are many.
If we are to communicate effectively with our marriage partner, we need to speak both lovingly and honestly. Both are important. If we speak honestly but without love, we can potentially be tactless and blunt, hurting or upsetting our partner with how we express ourselves.
This could make them defensive, and it can make it hard for them to truly listen to what we are trying to say. If we speak lovingly but without honesty, we obscure our true feelings and thoughts. It is difficult for our partners to respond appropriately if they are having to guess what we are feeling or thinking.
Tips for how to speak well to each other
The good news is that speaking well to our partners is something on which we can improve. Here are six suggestions to help us speak well to each other within our marriages:
1. The general atmosphere of a marriage can affect how we speak to each other and whether we are willing to engage meaningfully with each other. A marriage where there is distance, distraction, or indifference is not a fertile ground for effective communication.
Investing in our marriage partner by spending time together and showing affection to them creates an atmosphere that promotes communication. Doing something fun together not only builds affection but also provides opportunities for both of you to express yourselves verbally.
2. Get into the habit of regularly sharing what you are thinking and feeling. Setting aside the time is one way of getting better at speaking well to each other. Of course, these should not be moaning sessions where we point out each other’s shortcomings.
They don’t need to be long, heavy exchanges; they could be a check-in at the end of each day or a lunchtime phone call. It can even be while you are doing something fun together (see point 1). Sharing your everyday thoughts and feelings can help to build trust and security for when weightier issues need to be discussed. Our partner is far likelier to respond well if we are habitually forthcoming and willing to listen.
3. Some of us might struggle to express our thoughts and feelings clearly – in fact, some people struggle to even identify what it is that they are feeling. We need to be patient if this is something our partner struggles with and ask them to be patient with us if it is something we struggle with.If you are not good at expressing yourself or at identifying your emotions, spend some time beforehand trying to figure out what it is you are struggling with or need help with. You can also plan out what you’d like to say.
This may feel strange, but it gives what you’re saying direction and prevents you from speaking in circles or missing the main thing you wish to express. If you find this is an ongoing issue, professional help might be useful in helping you not only identify your emotions but also learn how to express them.
4. If you need to raise a sensitive or contentious topic, affirm your marriage partner before raising the issue. Otherwise, they may feel criticized and get defensive rather than focus on what you are saying.
5. It’s also a good idea to choose your time carefully, especially if you wish to speak about something important. When your wife walks in the door after work, or your husband is trying to complete a project at home, may not be the best time to regale them with your frustrations or raise an issue. Perhaps wait until they can give you their full attention, or even set up a specific time with them.
6. We also should not always expect an instant response. We need to allow our partners time to digest what we have said. You may also want to check that they have understood the main thing you are trying to express so that they can respond to the right issue.
Speaking is only half of effective communication. If we are to communicate well in our marriages, we also need to listen graciously and carefully. This means we seek to ensure that we have understood what they are saying.
By listening carefully and being able to express back to our partners what we understand them to have said, we can make them feel loved and valued. We also need to listen graciously. We need to give our partners the benefit of the doubt and listen to everything they have to say before we respond.
Tips for how to be a better listener
Just as with speaking, we can become better listeners over time. Here are some ways in which we can ensure we are listening well:
1. We should not interrupt our partners when they are speaking. Not only are these basic good manners, but it gives them a chance to explain themselves fully and allow us to respond to all of what they have said, not just the bit before the interruption.
2. We should also give them our full attention while they speak. It’s hard to believe someone is listening to us when they are doing something else while we talk. By giving our full attention we show our partners that we value what they have to say and that we want to hear it.
3. Although it is not always easy to be patient, we should not rush our partners while they speak. Otherwise, they may feel pressured to finish quickly and not explain themselves fully. If the time is inconvenient for a long interaction, reassure your partner of your willingness to listen and arrange a time when you can give them the time that they need.
4. Before responding to what your partner has said, try to say back to them what you have understood them to be saying. This helps to prevent misunderstanding and shows that you have been listening carefully. It is a practical demonstration of concern for their perspective and emotional wellbeing.
5. Don’t be quick to offer advice or solutions. Rather, ask them if they have any ideas on how to deal with the situation, or whether they need any help from you in dealing with it.
6. Lastly, check that they have said everything they would like to say. Sometimes we remember things we should or could have said after the main discussion.
Effective communication is a blessing to a marriage. Hopefully, these suggestions have encouraged you to keep working on effective communication in marriage. If you feel you need help, a counselor can be of great assistance in helping you both figure out where you are going wrong in how you communicate, as well as give you tools and strategies to improve your communication in marriage.
“Looking Into Each Other’s Eyes”, Courtesy of Ryan Jacobson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hug”, Courtesy of Kyle Bearden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Imam Muhaimin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Couple in the Park”, Courtesy of Harry Tran, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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