If you sift through our articles, you may notice a common theme throughout: Communication. Communication is the foundation that relationships are built on, and just like a house will collapse without a firm foundation, our relationships will too. Good communication is a valuable skill, and just like any skill it can take lots of practice to achieve. Are you aware of the kind of communication you and your spouse practice?
Think about the last time you felt misunderstood by your spouse. How did it make you feel? Usually, when the people closest to us do not understand us, it can make us feel unloved and unappreciated. In our marriage counseling practice, over 95% of the couples who come to us practice poor communication. As a result, neither spouse feels understood or loved.
If you suspect that your marriage is suffering from poor communication, you will recognize some of the bad communication habits listed below:
Inappropriate or offensive nonverbal communication (93% of all communication is non-verbal) – what does this mean in your communication?
Talking over the other person and not allowing them the opportunity to respond
The list goes on and on. The interesting part about poor communication in marriage is that for many of us there was a time when we communicated well. You may be able to think back to your days spent as newlyweds and realize that you don’t recall thinking, “Man, our communication sure is off,” or, “He just doesn’t get me.” One might argue that we were better communicators when we wanted to be better communicators.
Another thing to consider is that communication skills are not only necessary in our marriages, but we use them everyday at our jobs, our church, with friends, and with our children. So, maybe it isn’t our poor communication that is making us feel distanced from each other; perhaps the distance we feel has lead us to care more about what we’re trying to communicate than what our partner is trying to say to us.
What does this mean for your marriage? The situation is different for everyone. Some couples may need to relearn how to communicate with one another, and others will be learning to communicate for the first time. The good habits listed below are great ways for you to practice better communication, but in the best possible scenario, you will practice these methods because you are genuinely interested both in communicating better, and in your partner.
A few of these are:
Ask questions if you don’t understand. If you wrongly assume what your partner means, you’ll be headed in the wrong direction. Asking questions allows you to express interest while also clarifying to avoid misunderstanding.
Read your spouse’s body language. Take a mental note of signals about how your partner is feeling. Are they tense? Nervous? If so, what steps can you take to help them relax?
Be an active listener. This may mean nodding, asking questions that shows you have high interest in your spouse. Ask your partner to elaborate on certain things, or it may mean contributing to the conversation. Remember, that’s what we’re trying to do here: have a conversation. It’s important to give your spouse the opportunity to talk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute, as long as you’re predominately listening.
Be interested in what your spouse is saying. The idea is to actually be interested in what they are saying, though sometimes you may have to “fake it ‘till you make it.” At times when you’re struggling to do so, keep the feelings of your spouse forefront in your mind.
Try not to interrupt, unless it’s out of excitement and enthusiasm for what your partner is saying. Interrupting indicates that you were not listening because you were too busy thinking about what you wanted to say next.
If you and your spouse have gotten in the habit of communicating poorly with each other, it may not seem natural to put good habits into practice again. Using the tips above can help to forge a bridge back to good communication, but you may find that it helps your marriage to make an effort to just talk more. Set aside times to sit down without distractions, pick a topic, and discuss it. You may be surprised at what happens.