Marital communication is the foundation of a strong and thriving marriage.
Marriage is often tough. It is also what gives our lives meaning more often than not, but it can be very challenging, let’s be honest.
According to marriage counselors and therapists, which often makes it difficult is the partner’s inability to communicate well. Couples’ communication skills are the basic element, often missing in marriages that fail to succeed.
What is healthy marital communication in marriage?
In general, any communication that is indirect and manipulative can be considered unhealthy and unproductive.
When communication issues in marriage fester for long, it is indicative of a lack of respect, love, and trust in a relationship, eventually leading to a relationship meltdown.
The article sheds light on how to communicate with your spouse, reasons that lead to a lack of communication in marriage and ways to establish effective communication in marriage.
Marital communication 101
How we communicate and how we should communicate
To understand how to communicate effectively with your spouse, let’s take a look at this example that emphasizes communication do’s and don’ts and the need for improving communication in marriage.
Let’s say that a husband and a wife were talking to each other and she was rather aggressively pushing for her way to pack for a field trip that he doesn’t agree with, for instance.
There are two ways of responding to such a proposal (and a number of variances) – direct and honest, and indirect and harmful (whether passive or aggressive). Let us see how we usually communicate and why this is detrimental to our relationships.
In this example, the husband could turn to their son and say, in a seemingly joking tone: “Yep, your momma always knows it all.”
This is a typical pattern of indirect communication that is fairly common in marriages and often causes further discontent for both partners. In addition to being indirect, it provokes a triangulation as well (when the third family member is involved in an exchange between the spouses).
If we analyze this exchange, we can see that the husband was being passive-aggressive.
He expressed his disagreement in an entirely indirect way by pretending that he is talking to his son rather than his wife, and he also posed this as a joke.
So, if the wife reacts to this provocation directly, he would have the defense of just kidding and talking to their boy, while it is rather obvious what he was doing.
Now, you might say that this is not that bad, he was at least trying to avoid conflict.
But, let’s look at this exchange a bit deeper. The husband did not just communicate indirectly and wasn’t just passive-aggressive, he didn’t communicate his opinion at all.
He didn’t propose a better way of packing, in his opinion, and he didn’t express his feelings about his wife’s proposal (or the way she talks to him if that’s what’s bothering him).
She didn’t receive any message from him, which is a hallmark of bad marital communication.
How you should respond and not react
So, how to communicate with your partner without taking all of the air? To understand how to fix communication in a relationship in such situations, let’s see how he could have reacted in a better way.
This example highlights how to communicate better with your spouse.
We can assume that he was actually annoyed by his wife’s tone because he interpreted it as her way of pointing out his incompetence.
The appropriate way of responding would then be something like: “When you talk to me like that I feel emasculated and talked down to.
I lose the desire to participate in the preparations for the activity which I otherwise enjoy. I propose that we split the assignments instead – I will make the list of what needs to be taken with us, and you can pack it.
You can change three items on that list, and I can rearrange three things in the trunk. In that way, we will both do our parts, and there will be nothing to fight about. Would you agree with that?”
What the husband did in this way of responding is that he was being assertive – he expressed his feelings and his interpretation of his wife’s tone, and he explained what consequences such behavior has for him.
Notice that he didn’t use the accusatory “you” sentences, but kept to his experience.
He then proposed a solution, and finally asked her to get on board with him on that and gave her the opportunity to express her opinion on this proposition.
Such communication was sincere, direct, considerate and also productive, as it got them closer to solving a practical problem without making a mountain out of a molehill.
Tips on how to improve communication in marriage
You might think that being assertive in marriage is difficult, and perhaps even find it unnatural. And it is hard to get there, and to speak to our loved ones (who often annoy us so much) in a calm, assertive manner and not sound robotic at the same time.
Yet, only such a way of speaking to your spouse can yield results other than quarrel, resentment, and possible distancing.
By being assertive you respect their feelings and your relationship while expressing your own at the same time. And this is far from being robotic – you honor the person you love, and also yourself and your experience, and open ways for direct and loving marital communication while overcoming common communication problems in marriage.
To converse better with your spouse, on a day to day basis here are some excellent marriage communication exercises, that will help you communicate spontaneously and productively with your partner.
It would also be helpful to check out some powerful communication activities for couples that will help you both in fostering a happy and healthy marriage, besides nuancing marital communication.
Also, watch this video on how to communicate better with a spouse.
5 Do’s and Don’ts of Couple Communication
Marital communication should be spontaneous and honest, but there are do’s and don’ts of an open, healthy and a great relationship.
Take a look at these points on what to remember when you speak to each other.
Don’t reinforce your perceived negative thoughts in your conversation about what is missing in your conversations. This will only lead to an increased distance in your relationship.
Don’t be a chronic interrupter. Listen lovingly, and don’t talk over your spouse.
Dorespect each other’s availability of time to talk.
If you feel ill-equipped to turn around poor communication in marriage, do seek out professional help to break bad communication habits and reach your communication goals.
Do articulate your appreciation for your spouse’s tiniest of efforts, little victories and success together as a couple.
When your best-laid plans go awry, don’t be harsh on your spouse or yourself. Refrain from being judgy and inflexible. Remember, you choose to feel how you feel.
Do read some of the best books on marriage to learn about building a healthy marriage and effective communication together. Maybe on your next date night, you could cuddle up and read together to tune up your marriage.
Don’t overlook these do’s and don’ts of communication skills as they are the most essential steps to building and sustaining effective communication in marriage.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.