Focus on Marriage, Part 2: Communication 101

Golden Wedding Ring  by Danilo Rizzuti courtesy of  FreeDigitalphotos

Communicating within marriage is a key tool for resilient relationships.  What is communicated?  How is the message shared and received?  As clergy, one of the key skills I review with couples in pre-marital counseling are tools for communication. Engaged couples can’t imagine this will ever be a problem.  Yet, we’ve all witnessed at restaurants the quiet couple at the table who seemingly have nothing to say to each other, eating silently and spending more time on their phones than in communication with each other. What happened?

Good communication, as with any skill, takes intentional practice. In busy lives, communication with a spouse can become shorter and more infrequent over time, especially when there are children. It is easy to let good communication skills slip.Some surveys indicate that couples can spend as little as 15 minutes a day in real communication with each other. Here are a few suggestions to help improve the quality and quantity of communication.

Communication 101

 Set aside time to talk. In busy schedules time for important conversations is easily lost.  By important, I don’t mean wills, and trusts, though they are important too.  Rather, what is important in your spouse’s life? What is important to you? What are your long term dreams as a couple? Try to set asaide 30-45 minutes a few times a week to talk.

 Have an attitude of gratitude. Express appreciation when your spouse does something considerate or helpful, like providing a sleep in day, washing dishes, filling the car with gas, and so forth. Simply saying thank you for the way each person fills the everyday roles in the relationship can help build up the marriage.

 Talk about the things that worry you.  Many parents hold on to grief, guilt, and anxiety about the future.  There can be a sense of embarrassment in sharing these feelings inside the marriage. “I wish I could say to my spouse that I am scared about….” Or “I have never said it out loud, but I feel our child has a disability because of me.”  Communication about these secretly held feelings can be very healing, releasing an emotional burden.

 Express your needs or wants clearly. Be specific when communicating with your spouse. Avoid thinking that he or she can read your mind. If you have a need or expectation, remove the guess work and let your spouse know.

 Model Respectful Listening. Avoid multi-tasking, especially when the topic is serious in nature. Reflective listening is also a good tool.  Repeat back in your own words what you hear your partner say.

 Monitor your mood. No one is in a good mood all the time. If in a bad mood, why is that? Hunger, fatigue, illness, time, expectations? Let your spouse know if you are having a bad day and why. It may help avoid an argument.

The rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:22-24 NRS)

Loving God, thank you for the gift of words and expression. Help us to use those gifts to build up our relationships. Amen

Lorna Bradley

“Golden Wedding Ring”  by Danilo Rizzuti courtesy of  FreeDigitalphotos.net

 

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3 thoughts on “Focus on Marriage, Part 2: Communication 101

  1. I look forward to chatting further about this in our group. How helpful your advice is typically. I do think one has to determine whether a spouse or significant other is open and/or ready to hear some of those feelings – especially those of desperation and hopelessness. My otherwise good marriage now is being tested big time because of my recent low points. Perhaps a spouse – who also is enduring the pain and anxiety – isn’t the best ear for those feelings….

    1. Hi Duncmom! Obviously each relationship is different and it is always a good plan to understand how and if your partner can hear what is weighing on your heart at that particular time. My thoughts I shared on communication come from two things that I have been thinking about for about a year. The first is a blog by Dana called “Uncommon Sencse.” You can read the specific entry here: http://niederfamily.blogspot.com/2010/10/amsterdam-international.html?m=1%20
      Here she writes a response to “Welcome to Holland” and charaterizes how the diagnosis of speical needs impacts the husband/wife relationship:

      “You sneak sideways glances at your travel companion, who also was ready for Italy. You have no idea how (s)he’s handling this massive change in plans, and can’t bring yourself to ask. You think “Please, please don’t leave me here. Stay with me. We can find the right things to say to each other, I think. Maybe we can have a good life here.” But the terror of a mutual breakdown, of admitting that you’re deep in a pit of raw misery, of saying it out loud and thereby making it reality, is too strong. So you say nothing.”

      The second is this. In one of my pilot groups a couple shared that as they both read through chapters I wrote on grief and guilt it opened a doorway for them to share with each other some really heavy feelings that each had kept to themselves. They too had gone the route of “say nothing.” They found tremendous solace and release by talking out what they were experiencing and afraid to share with each other. Breaking the rule of “just don’t talk about it” was a big blessing in their relationship.

      Of course each person needs to choose for themselves what they need to share, with whom, and when. Relationships are complicated and not all suggestions apply in each situation.

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