It’s no secret that communication can make or break any relationship, especially a romantic relationship. You can think of communication within a marriage like a life-giving river. When communication fails, a dam develops, which stops the flow of the water. When water stops flowing it becomes stagnant and life cannot thrive. The same applies to a marriage…it cannot thrive without open, flowing communication.
Why Is It So Important To Work On Your Relationship Communication Skills?
When communication between couples becomes strained or even nonexistent, the entire foundation of the relationship is affected. In fact, a high percentage of marriages end due to this issue alone. Both spouses may love each other dearly, but without proper communication, that love is not enough.
At this point, without the proper communication skills, many couples will simply end the relationship. This is a temporary end to the “pain and suffering” but ultimately the lack of proper communication skill will tend to resurface in future relationships.
7 Tips For Communicating More Effectively In Your Marriage
- Timing Matters
You could have the best of intentions, but if you bring up an important issue at the wrong time, what could have and should have been an opportunity for growth could backfire. Try to avoid having an important conversation if your spouse is hurried, stressed, distracted, etc. If it seems like this is always a factor, try to mutually schedule a time that works for you both.
- Be Aware Of Non-Verbal Communication
It is estimated that when awake, we spend approximately 70% our time communicating, 30% of which is talking. This means that over half of our communication is non-verbal. In other words, it’s not always “what” you say, but “how” you say it. For example, if you tell your partner that “everything is fine” but your body language says something else, the physical communication is what will be conveyed. So, be sure to give your partner full eye contact and attention. Consider moving closer to them or giving them a loving touch. Be conscious of putting up an emotional “wall” with your body language.
- Ultimately, It’s About Being Understood
We all want to be understood. We want to know that our spouse truly understands what we’re feeling. And, when we don’t feel understood we tend to react…whether that’s by lashing out with anger, detaching and becoming passive, or even withdrawing completely.This (nearly inevitable) negative reaction to not being understood simply feeds into the cycle of communication breakdown. Consider this, though: of all the times you focused on not being understood, how often have you tried to understand the other person? It doesn’t always occur to us in an argument our spouse is also just wanting to be understood.So, seek to understand before being understood. It’s a major step toward ending the negative cycle of communication breakdown.
- Understand The Right Kind Of Compromise
We’ve all heard that “relationships are compromise. Would it surprise you to know you’re probably compromising wrong? When compromise is discussed, people tend to think of meeting in the middle. And they tend to think of doing this on an issue by issue basis. so, that doesn’t work. Let’s use a simple example : If I want to have a relaxing dinner at home with just my husband this Friday night, but he wants to go out with a big group to a holiday party, what do we do?Lot’s of couples get that compromise is key — so they look for a way to go right down the middle of each issue or area where they disagree. So in my very simple example, that might be going to dinner with a small group and skipping the party (because that’s about in the middle of staying home the two of us, and going out to a big party with lots of friends). Except, neither of us is getting what we want with that kind of compromise.When compromising, try to understand why your partner wants what they want. What does that choice mean to them? Why do you want what you want? Can one of you give your partner what they want this time, if they seem to need it more? Or if it holds more meaning for them? And, get what you want another time?That means you will entirely give up on getting what you want sometimes. But, at least one of you will get what they need. And that somebody could be you…
- Practice Active Listening
One of the best ways to understand your partner…and in turn give your partner the feeling of being understood…is to practice what is called “active listening”.Most of us listen passively and subjectively. We take in the words and then filter those words through our own experiences. This personal “filter” can cause us to misconstrue what our spouse is truly meaning to say.Active listening, on the other hand, requires the listener to:First, focus attention on the speaker by maintaining good eye contact and receptive body language (lean forward, arms and legs uncrossed). Next, listen objectively, without implying meaning based on personal experience. Finally, rephrase the speaker’s words back to them for clarity and to show understanding. This is often done with an “I statement” such as “I understand you feel unhappy when…” or “I’m hearing you say that….”
- Temper Your Reactions
The practice of active listening (as mentioned above) tends to help in this regard, but clearly it’s important to take time to think and to compose yourself before speaking. Lashing out, interrupting, leaving the room, and shutting down are all unproductive reactions that will cut off communication instead of fostering it. Think about the consequences of what you’re about to say. Think about how to frame your words so that they are clear and honest, but not hurtful.
- Saying “Sorry” Goes A Long Way
So many times, simply taking responsibility and saying “I’m sorry” does the trick. It’s not about “winning” the argument. Remember, you and your spouse are on the same team.
- Deal With Communication Issues Before It’s Too Late
Communication problems are like ticking time bombs. You never know what will set things off and when it will be “the last straw” for either party involved.The sooner you address these communications problems, the better chance you have to save your marriage and the better chance you have to ultimately have a thriving marriage. Effective spousal communication is not something we are born with…it’s a learned skill.Counseling can help! I’m here if you need me, or find other professional help in your area.
My name is Amanda Itzkoff, MD. I am a New York City based Psychiatrist and Assistant Professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
For additional information about developing communication skills, or any other mental health issues, please feel free to email our office at Amanda.Itzkoff@gmail.com. To schedule an appointment, call our offices at 917-609-4990.