Let’s face it, life is hard. We will all go through things that will challenge our relationships and marriage, such as family issues, co-parenting, death of family members/friends, career changes, even buying a house. How much will it challenge your relationship? That’s up to you and your spouse. There will be times when stressors impact one person more than the other and this is when communication skills are crucial.
Here are some tips to help you through the tough times.
More often than not, when one is listening to another talk, we are thinking about what we are going to say next, unpacking the groceries or thinking about something else going on in our life. Active listening skills provide connection and ensure that we know what the other is talking about and that you genuinely care about what the other person is saying. These skills involve eye contact, not interrupting, nodding your head, focusing on just the conversation, paying attention to non-verbals and asking questions. Active listening skills can help not only your marriage, but with your boss, co-workers, friends and other relationships. An example of a response would be, “What I hear you saying is …”.
Validate – Don’t try to problem solve
Watching your spouse in any kind of struggle can be distressing, whether it be stress related to the kids, employment issues, exhaustion, grief and loss, illness, or even issues with friends. It is normal to want the situation to be resolved and things to be better. Challenges arise when one partner tries to solve the problem without validating the person in need. For example, one partner is having difficulties with their boss at work and fears they will lose their job. They may say, “Work is feeling unbearable. I don’t know how much longer I can handle this”. One might respond, “Work has always been an issue for you. You need to stay away from those people.” This leaves the partner feeling unheard to only shut down future communication. A validating response may be “Work has really been a lot for you lately. What do you think you need?”
Create space for their needs
Everyone copes differently. Period. This is often when we really learn about our partner. One may need physical space, while another may need increased affection and everything in between. By creating space for their needs, we are in turn not only helping them heal and grow, but also fostering a deeper level of respect and intimacy within the relationship.
The biggest challenge is utilizing these skills when you need them. Ideally, they can and should be practiced every day. By making these skills part of a communication routine, it will become habit and be there when you need it most to support others around you.