BY: Dr. Prince Oteng-Boateng
Communication is the single most important tool for a successful marriage. Couples that are unable to talk effectively find that they are often “in their own head” imagining arguments with their partner and worried that they are constantly walking on eggshells. Couples that are able to talk openly may still fight, but after those fights are over they are able to embrace each other again.Effective marital communication is a skill that you learn, and couples that have had problems with communication in the past will find that they have developed bad habits that need to be fixed before the two of you can truly talk. The following are five different tips for effective marital communication, to help you start the conversations again.
Marriage Communication Tips
1) Talk – Of course it all starts with the single most important factor in communication – talking. You cannot be afraid of a fight or afraid of the conversation because not talking is just as damaging. While it makes some sense to wait until emotions are high, as soon as you can you need to talk about what’s on your mind. There is no way around it.
2) Avoiding “Always” or “Never” – No one “always” or “never” does something, but couples that have been arguing a lot use those words often. As soon as you use any definitive words like that, you turn the conversation into a defensive one without a good conclusion. Make sure you avoid those terms as much as possible.
3) What YOU Can Do – The only person that you can truly change is yourself. While fights are usually about what the other person can do, you also need to always ask yourself what you can do in the process. For example, perhaps you want your partner to be more romantic. You can tell your partner that you would like more romance, but you also need to be aware that you can’t sit back and do nothing waiting for it. You need to be more loving and romantic yourself as well.
4) Hug and Kiss At Night – No matter how bad a fight is, couples will always communicate more effectively if after the fights are over they are still willing to show affection. It’s that extra feeling of safety that couples need to have in order to talk openly – avoiding the fear that any bad conversation can lead to a breakup or silence. Don’t sleep apart or avoid your partner’s touch. The more you are willing to connect put aside the arguments and still be affectionate, the more open you’ll be able to be in the future.
5) Apologize for What You Did Wrong – There is almost no such thing as a fight that is 100% someone’s fault. If you find that there is something you did do wrong, apologize and mean it. Often an apology is all that your partner is looking for. Avoid saying “I’m sorry, but…” because that implies that you didn’t mean the apology. But if you genuinely apologize you’ll get better results out of your arguments.
BONUS TIP: Write out all of your thoughts. It’s not a bad idea to write out all of the things you want to say to your partner before you do it. That doesn’t mean send it to them in an email or let them see an angry rant (always delete/throw away/shred any writing after you’ve done it) but sometimes the most important thing you can do is map out what you want to say. It helps let the emotions die down and ensures that you’re not still angry when it’s over because you forgot to say something that was important to you.
No matter what, communicating is crucial. It’s something you both need to do if you want your relationship to work, because the alternative to communication is letting the anger fester and creating imaginary fights in your mind. Couples that communicate last longer, even if those communications become fights, because they are taking their thoughts out of their head and trying to productively create a better relationship. You can learn more about improving communication in your relationship here.