Effective communication in marriage is arguably the prerequisite for fostering any relationship. Communication is occurring all the time in marriage at some level, whether verbally or nonverbally.
The relationship starts with communication, and when there is a breakdown of communication, then the marriage is in serious trouble. It makes sense, therefore, to strive for effective communication in marriage if you want to have a healthy and robust relationship.
The following five dos and don’ts will outline some of the essential keys to effective communication in marriage.
1. Do listen lovingly – Don’t interrupt and assume
Listening is foundational to good communication in marriage. It can even be said that listening is an indication of how much you love your spouse.
Loving listening entails paying attention when your beloved is speaking, with the express purpose of getting to know him or her better, to understand his or her needs, and to discover how he or she feels and thinks about situations and life.
Making eye contact while speaking goes a long way to communicating your undivided attention, as well as responding empathetically and appropriately, with affirming words and actions.
If you continuously interrupt when your spouse is speaking, assuming you know what they would have said, you will very soon shut down any effective communication in marriage. It is also not helpful to wait until they stop talking so you can have your say.
Changing the subject abruptly gives a clear message that you are not listening, or you don’t care enough to hear your spouse out on whatever topic they were busy with.
This is inevitably one of the most important dos and don’ts of effective communication.
2. Do get on the same level – Don’t mix head and heart
A practical skill for good communication in marriage is learning to get on the same level as your spouse in any given conversation. Basically, there are two levels: the head level and the heart level.
On the head level, facts, ideas, and thoughts are discussed, while on the heart level, it is all about feelings and emotions, painful and joyful experiences.
Excellent communication and understanding take place when both parties are leveling together and can respond appropriately at the same level.
The contrary is true when one person is communicating on a heart level, for example, and the other answers on the head level. Imagine this scenario: the husband comes home to find his wife lying curled up on the bed with red, puffy eyes and the house in disarray.
He says: “What’s wrong, honey?” And she says, sniffing tearfully, “I’m so tired…” He throws up his arms and says, “You’ve been home all day; what have you got to be tired about, you could have at least swept the house!”
The appropriate response to a ‘heart’ level communication is empathy, understanding, and affection, while a ‘head’ level communication can be responded to with words of advice and possible solutions.
3. Do draw each other out – Don’t miss all the clues
Drawing each other out is undoubtedly one of the most effective communication strategies in a marriage. This requires responding to each other’s words in such a way that your spouse feels invited and encouraged to share more, and on a deeper level.
There should never be any pressure or coercion to share. Every one of us gives out clues regularly as to what we are experiencing on a heart level.
These can be non-verbal clues such as body language, tears, or tone and volume of voice. Just as smoke indicates a fire, these clues point important issues or experiences that one may wish to talk about.
By paying careful attention to these clues, some valuable communication can take place to deepen and strengthen your marriage.
In the scenario described above, an alert husband would have noticed his wife’s tears and realized that there was probably a lot more to her “tiredness.” After making her a cup of tea, he could sit down on the bed next to her and say, “Tell me how you are feeling and what is worrying you.”
Do not overlook these do’s and don’ts of communication skills as they are one of the critical aspects of effective communication in marriage.
4. Do choose your timing carefully – Don’t use bad timing
It’s not always possible to choose the perfect time for communication in a relationship that, too, in stressful situations when things suddenly go awry.
But generally, it is best to wait for an opportunity when there are fewer interruptions to talk through important issues. When one or both of you are highly upset and emotional, that is not usually a good time to try and communicate.
Wait a while until you have cooled down a bit, then sit down together and share your thoughts and feelings with each other until you can agree on a way forward.
If you have an essential matter to discuss, dinner time in front of the kids is probably not the best choice. Once you have the family settled for the night, then you and your spouse can have alone time for those kinds of conversations.
If one of you is a “morning” person and the other not, this should also be taken into consideration, not bringing up weighty matters late at night when it is bedtime, and you need to sleep.
These are the little intricacies of marriage communication or any relationship communication, that can help in improving communication skills significantly, which in turn will result in a happier and healthier relationship.
5. Do talk straight and simple – Don’t talk in circles
Too much brooding over how to communicate effectively in a relationship can instead work against your noble intentions and deteriorate the existing relationship communication skills
Sometimes we can be so sensitive and afraid to offend our spouse that we end up talking in circles.
The best way is to say what you mean and mean what you say. In a secure and healthy relationship, where both partners know that they are loved and accepted, even if there are misunderstandings, you know they were not intentional or malicious.
A wise man once said to his spouse: “If I say something that possibly has two meanings, know that I meant the best one.” This one of the best examples of healthy communication skills for couples.
One of the essential communication exercises for couples for a long-lasting marriage is to practice not to expect your spouse to read your mind, and then become offended if he gets it wrong.
So, the takeaway for effective communication in marriage is that it is much better to state your needs simply and clearly – the answer is either yes or no. Then everyone knows where they stand and can move on accordingly.
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. By taking purposeful and a whole-hearted action, Sylvia feels that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one.